Love, Beads & Mardi Gras Chicken

Valentines Day and Fat Tuesday are once again closely aligned to allow for a show of bittersweet love songs and songs for a bittersweet Mardi Gras. And for good measure, a chicken named “Renard”tossed into the radio show pot.

Once again, the nomadic Easter, which moves around based on the proximity of the full moon to the spring equinox, has caused Mardi Gras to land close to Valentine’s Day. So I’ve mashed them together with an hour of love songs and hour of Mardi Gras tunes. Read on and listen on (player is above) for another mash up story.

Charlie Gabriel, vocalist and clarinetist, on “I Think I Love You.” (Photo – American Routes, WWNO Public Radio)

Love songs, like their subject, can have a sharp edge – as evidenced by my opening track from Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Clarinetist Charlie Gabriel sings the band’s original song “I Think I Love You” which at least starts off sounding like love is reciprocated. But then, the flowers die. Fortunately, Camile Baudoin, guitarist for the Radiators, follows up with the more optimistic “It’s You I Love.”

This Valentine show seemed like a good time for a rare Gumbo YaYa airing of Aaron Neville’s big hit “Tell It Like It Is” — the song that turned his career around and an anthem for those who no longer wish to have their heart stomped on. The theme carries on with Yvette Landry & the Jukes (“I Need Somebody Bad Tonight”), Ingrid Lucia (“My Honey’s Lovin’ Arms”), Shotgun Jazz Band (“I Love You So Much It Hurts”), Clarence “Frogman” Henry (“I Don’t Know Why But I Do”), and Donna Angelle’s crush song for Boozoo Chavis, “Old Man’s Sweetheart.” And somewhere in there, you’ll hear an excellent cover of Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” by Gal Holiday.

The turn toward Mardi Gras happens after Louis Armstong and Lil Hardin do “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue” – a love song despite the damage done by lyrics written over a decade after the recording that actually made “barbecue” barbecue.

Aaron’s brother Art was 16 when he sang with the Hawkettes on the classic “Mardi Gras Mambo” — the song that kicks off the second hour of the show. All the songs in that set are great but I want to draw attention to the less-often heard “Hey Mardi Gras, Here I Am” by Chuck Carbo who grew up in the Zion City part of New Orleans in 1930’s and sings about Mardi Gras in an R&B swinging style.

Another highlight is the voice of Davis Rogan who comes on at about 90 minutes into the show to introduce a song he wrote with his wife Stephanie, “Mardi Gras Chicken.” Rogan, who earlier in his musical career formed a band that blended hip hop with New Orleans brass and funk, checked another item off his mash-up bucket list with “Mardi Gras Chicken”– portraying the Cajun/Creole Mardi Gras tradition known as Courir de Mardi Gras or Grand Courir with a New Orleans Mardi Gras brass band sound — including a bass line originated by Tuba Fats and performed by fellow Fairview Baptist Church Marching Band alumn Kirk Joseph. The song follows the fortunes of “Renard” the chicken who is chased by Courir revelers led by “Louie.”

Davis Rogan as “Louie” and Stephanie Rogan as the wily “Renard” re-enacting their “Mardi Gras Chicken” song during last year’s Mardi Gras celebration. (Courtesy of the Rogans)

The show finishes with a few songs depicting and honoring the highly original cultural phenomenon that can be witnessed in New Orleans on Mardi Gras Day (If you’re lucky) – Black Masking Indians.

Happy Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras to you all. Thanks for tuning in. Let me know what you think of the show and consider subscribing using the widget in the right hand column. Cheers!

Carnival Music Rings in Mardi Gras

This week’s Mardi Gras starts with a bit of a mystery. “Dat’s Mardi Gras” is credited to someone named Jake the Snake who as best I can tell is not the professional wrestler that I read about when I googled the name. But the song is fun so get it started now.

There’s also a dive bar in New Orleans called “Snake and Jakes” but so far I’ve not been able to find the real name of the show starter. Identifying song credits get easier after that one though.

The Marching 100 – St. Augustine High School parading during Carnival Season.

A fortunate stop at a Thrift Store on St. Claude during my last NOLA visit scored me the next song in the show which details the adventures of Liese Dettmer in viewing the super Krewe parade Endymion. Beau Jocque keeps the groove rolling with his “Mardi Gras Blues.” That first set rolls on with Professor Longhair’s “Go to the Mardi Gras” — the version recorded in Cosimo Matassa’s studio in 1959 with Mac Rebennak on guitar. Later known as Dr. John, Mac later recalled how Professor Longhair got on the drums to demonstrate the beat he wanted for this iconic recording. That rhythm rolls on through a series of Mardi Gras Indian numbers by Cha Wa and Bo Dollis and Monk Beaudreaux. Oh, and let’s not forget one of the earliest Mardi Gras Indian crossover hits to the R&B charts – James “Sugar Boy” Crawford’s “Jockomo” which inspired the Dixie Cups “Iko Iko” cover.

Two birthdays are recognized. Leroy Jones turned 62 on the day of the show so we celebrate with three songs featuring his fine jazz trumpet. Sam Williams turn 39 which gave me an excuse to play songs by Big Sam’s Funky Nation, including a lengthy jam by this trombonist/bandleader from the 2010 Jazzfest.

You’ll hear more Mardi Gras songs throughout the show as well as a wonderfully unique version of The Saints by The Wild Magnolias. I hope you enjoy. Please consider subscribing to my blog so you can get information about future shows. Cheers.

2019 Mardi Gras show makes the music still feel fresh

Today’s show finds that magic balance between delivering the classic Mardi Gras feel while still being fresh. Get it started and you’ll see what I mean. (you can click the arrow in the box below and still read on)

Even if you are tired of hearing Professor Longhair’s “Go to the Mardi Gras” you can’t help but appreciate how much rhythm and action he packs into less than three minutes. The version that starts the show is the 1959 New Orleans recording featuring Mac Rebennack (before his Dr. John days) on guitar.

The first full set features Los Hombres Calientes (Irvin Mayfield and Bill Summers group) doing “Mardi Gras Bayou” followed by Kermit Ruffin’s “Do the Fat Tuesday” and Chuck Carbo’s rarely played “Hey Mardi Gras (Here I Am).”

Krewe of Muses Parade

The musical Nine Lives has a scathing critique of the Rex Parade crowd with the song “King of Mardi Gras” which opens the next set followed by Louie Ludwig’s “The Things You’ve Done On Mardi Gras Day” — just released this carnival season. The set finishes with Lena Prima’s original song “Muses Shoeses” inspired by the Krewe of Muses parade.

Al Hirt provides some fast paced transition to Mardi Gras Indian songs, starting with the “in the streets” recording of Monk Boudreaux and the Golden Eagles followed by some fancied up numbers by Bo Dollis (with some help on the last number by Galactic).

We take a trip out to the swamps for some cajun style Mardi Gras before returning to New Orleans and pulling from Lil Queenie’s new album which features a spoken word opening to her classic “My Darlin’ New Orleans.”

Some dance numbers, a few more Mardi Gras tunes and we finish with a different version of Professor Longhair performing “Mardi Gras in New Orleans.”

Thanks for tuning in. Stay listening by subscribing to this blog. Cheers.

It’s looking a lot like Mardi Gras

A walk around Uptown and Central City New Orleans today left no doubt that Mardi Gras season is upon us.

IMG_2016Officially, the carnival season begins the 12th night after Christmas (the Epiphany), creating a seamless flow from Winter Holiday to Mardi Gras parties.

The season starts cautiously but gradually works up to the crescendo that is Mardi Gras Day or what some call Fat Tuesday–the last day before the faithful must endure the rigors of Lent.

We’re at the penultimate weekend of Mardi Gras when over a dozen parades will roll down St. Charles Avenue as well as through the French Quarter.

Women (Krewe of Cleopatra), wine-lovers (Krewe of Cork), alien fans (Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus) and those who prefer shoe-box sized parade floats (‘tit Rex) are just a few of the rolling shows happening this weekend.

But the Mardi Gras spirit is not limited to the parades. Doors are festooned with wreaths of purple, green and gold, along with banners, masks, signs, and, of course, braids and braids of beads. IMG_2008

And after school lets out, you can easily hear the drum beat of student musicians sharpening their band performance and building endurance for the marathon of parades to come.

I’m going to celebrate Mardi Gras in Olympia.  (Wouldn’t want to miss Artesian Rumble Arkestra’s annual pub crawl)  and I’ll be back in time for the world debut of Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa – Thursday edition. It will, of course, be a show featuring Mardi Gras music. Until then, let the good times roll.

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KIPP Central City Academy rehearsing for Mardi Gras.