All-Female Gumbo YaYa for 2020

It’s another all-female show this week featuring some new artists as well as, for me at least, some newly rediscovered. You can listen to it now or whenever you wish from the player below. (Show airs in Olympia Thursday mornings and Bellingham Friday evenings)

New artists on this show for me include Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band, Topsy Chapman, Elizabeth Joan Kelly, the Boswell Sisters, Sierra Green, Tiffany Pollack and Carsie Blanton. As usual, I include songs by Marva Wright, Lena Prima, Irma Thomas and the Original Pinettes Brass Band.

Shake ‘Em Up Jazz Band

Each year, doing the show gets a lot easier. In fact, in my initial music pull for this show, I had twice as much music as I needed. But the music industry, like most of our economy, is still tilted toward men. Things are improving but we’re not there yet. It’s a good year to vote.

How New Orleans shaped my view of Christmas

First memory of snow in New Orleans melds with this year’s Holiday music show.

My earliest memories of Christmas are from New Orleans. (Psst. You can start the show and still read the rest of this post.)

A popular New Orleans drugstore chain.

My Dad unsnarling lines of C-9 colored bulbs for draping on our second story porch railing on our Nashville Avenue home in uptown New Orleans. The scotch pine tree decorated in the downstairs den. Radio announcements of sightings of Santa Claus and his reindeer flying over the Falstaff Beer sign. Last minute shopping at the purple glowing Katz & Besthoff. Cruising St. Charles to see the mansions and their holiday displays and lights. And the ever present wish for snow in a climate where 50 degrees Fahrenheit seems cold.

Nostalgia is as much a part of my Christmas as mistletoe and Amazon boxes. I suppose its a longing for that period of innocence when I believed possible a boisterous, jovial superhero could disperse presents to all the good children in the world.

This year’s holiday show includes a wistful set on snow in New Orleans, starting with the Radiators, particularly their keyboardist and songwriter Ed Volker, singing about their first experience with this rare occurrence in the subtropics. “Who can forget that feeling. . . the snow gently falling.” If you have lived in New Orleans when it snowed, it is not something you tend to forget.

For me, my first snow meant a rare sighting of my Dad during the daytime. My father grew up in New York City and Newark, got his doctorate in Cambridge at M.I.T. But he had lived in the south most of his professional life. As a Tulane administrator in the 60’s, my Dad was doing the Don Draper thing, working long hours in an office setting where smoking and drinking were the norm. But that afternoon when the snow fell, he came screaming home in our Rambler station wagon, the thin accumulated snow muffling the crunch of the oyster shells on our backyard driveway.

Early 1958. I don’t remember this pitiful New Orleans snow. I’m in the stroller.

He brusquely told me to grab gloves and get in the car while he collected a few items including a shovel, carrot and old fishing hat. He drove us to Audubon Park — home of Monkey Hill referenced in Allen Toussaint’s song “The Day It Snows on Christmas.” There we attempted to create a snow man. It was a pitiful sculpture, melting pretty much as we were making it. He apologized for the quality of the snow. But you’ll have to excuse me if I get just a bit choked up thinking about my father standing with melted snow wicking up his nice trousers, full of good intentions, most likely carrying his own early snow memories and having just exerted himself more than he had since he hung those damn porch lights during the holidays. Writing this reminds me that part of why I do this show is because of him.

I wasn’t living in New Orleans when I started building Christmas memories like the one Aaron Neville sings about in “Such a Night.” Those involve my partner of over 40 years, who I share the life-changing adventure of moving, right after graduation, from the South to the Northwest and making our home cozy using cinder block shelves, reclaimed furniture and homemade tree ornaments. Yes, we reversed my Dad’s life direction moving to where the winter nights are long and cold, and snuggling feels so good.

John Boutte’s “Holding You This Christmas” and Marva Wright’s “Stocking Full of Love” drive that loving feeling home for me. That set finishes with the very special song by Kelcy Mae, written in the year that same sex marriages became the law of our country. However, her song is universal for any couple who has had to split their holiday time with extended family. Watching this song’s music video that includes crowd sourced marriage pictures from that year is a new holiday tradition for me.

Today’s show has a few traditional holiday songs done in classic New Orleans fashion and, as you might expect, some not-so traditional songs done in contemporary New Orleans fashion. I hope it holds your interest and perhaps triggers a memory or two. My best to you during this season of long winter nights. Hold someone you love close and keep the radio turned on. Cheers.

Katrina 13 year anniversary – What the hell!

Thirteen years since Hurricane Katrina destroyed the lives of over a thousand New Orleans residents, scattering survivors throughout the country.  And yet, based on our abysmal response to the damage wrought by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, we’ve learned little.  Get this year’s annual Katrina recognition dedicated to Puerto Rico started.

katrina3Shamarr Allen creates the intensity of a hurricane with the opening track of this show “Katrina and the Flood.”  It’s become almost a tradition to play that song as well as Marva Wright’s heart-wrenching “The Levee is Breaking Down” which comes off her post-Katrina album, After the Levees Broke.

This year’s show features the KAOS premiere of “You and Me” a song written to dramatize the story of Tim Bruneau, a New Orleans police officer who was working when the levees broke. Bruneau found the body of 23-year-old Marie Latino after the hurricane had passed but before the city had started to flood.  After several attempts to have the body picked up, he put her in the back seat of his car.  But after failing to find a  hospital to take the body, he was ordered to “undo” what he did.  He placed Latino’s body in a body bag and returned it to where he found, where it floated on flood waters until it was picked up a few days later.  The song is poignant and haunting.  An autopsy later revealed that she had been shot instead of killed by the storm as originally believed.

Sonny Landreth song “Blue Tarp Blues” references President George Bush’s famous looking out from Air Force One and Marcia Ball sings Randy Newman’s ode to the 1927 Louisiana flood. I finish the show with Dee-1 and Shamarr Allen singing about the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico titled “Sorry Ain’t Enough No More.”

New Orleans vocalists have great back up

Click the arrow in the box to this week’s edited show started and then read about what you will hear

New Orleans vocalists have such a deep musician’s bench to pull from for their recordings that its no surprise they’re great to listen to.  But there’s no question who the star is in the songs I played today. . .starting with “Sweet Home New Orleans” by Dr. John. It’s the voice!

Alexandra Scott follows with her haunting “Something Altogether New.” I played a rare major label song with Harry Connick Jr. doingdownload “Wish I Were Him” and Antoine Diel does a duet with Arsene Delay singing “Bless You (For the Good That is in You).

Later sets include Marva Wright, Linnzi Zaorski, Lena Prima, Aaron Neville, Johnny Adams, Percy Mayfield, Ingrid Lucia, and Debbie Davis.  Sarah Quintana, Miss Sophie Lee and Theryl Declouet (Houseman) keep the focus on the voice. Though in every case, there is excellent support.

I realize I could easily do another show of vocalists without repeating. Afterall, this show does not include Irma Thomas, Ernie K-Doe, Fats Domino, John Boutte to name a few.  Instead, I finish twith a tribute to my alma mater, a trio of songs on Georgia to honor the University of Georgia marching band getting to perform in the Rose Bowl and now the NCAA championship. Go dawgs!

A dozen years after Katrina

The 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans has been marked by deadly flood waters around the planet–from Houston to Bangladesh. Today’s show, originally aired on KAOS and presented in edited form below, is dedicated to all flood victims.  As weather intensifies in the future, we all run the risk of being weather victims.

This week’s show starts with wetland preservation advocate Tab Benoit, singing “Shelter Me.”  Clarence “Gatemouth” “Brown follows with his seminal song “Hurricane.”  Mr. Brown died of cancer on September 10, 2005 after having to evacuate his Katrina-damaged home in Slidell (near New Orleans) two weeks earlier. Marva Wright re-enacts the ground level experience in New Orleans during the flooding in “The Levee Is Breaking Down” and the Free Agents Brass Band perform their song of survival “We Made It Through the Water.” Here’s the complete playlist.

Here’s where I archive all my recorded shows. 

More women are taking the music stage in New Orleans

The obvious struggle by Republican candidates in their most recent debate to think of an American woman deserving to be on the $10 bill once again illustrated the dearth of awareness of women’s role in our history.

This issue is brought home to me almost every time I map out music for my New Orleans show. Perhaps because my knowledge and music library is not as extensive as I would like, I struggle to bring gender balance to my shows, particularly when  I play early jazz, R&B, funk and brass bands. But I also sense that New Orleans is no different than the broader music world where female musicians have struggled to get into the spotlight.

Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, was a pioneer in a male-dominated New Orleans R&B scene.
Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, was a pioneer in a male-dominated New Orleans R&B scene.

Finding music I can play that feature early New Orleans jazz women is pretty much impossible.  I only have a little more luck when I move into the New Orleans R&B era. Lots of great music recorded out of J&M Recording Studio heyday, but with the huge exception of Irma Thomas, and also Shirley Goodman, its mostly guys.

With the help of Jeff Hannusch’s book “The Soul of New Orleans – A Legacy of Rhythm and Blues,” I have learned about Jean Knight (Mr. Big Stuff), Martha Carter,  Mathilda Jones, and Barbara George.  And, of course, the Dixie Cups.

If you don’t recognize some of those names, you’re not alone. Finding their music to play on the radio takes work.

Similarly you might recognize Marva Wright and Charmaine Neville but what about Leigh Harris (Little Queenie) or jazz singer Germaine Bazzle? Many excellent female musicians  worked in New Orleans during the 20th Century but their recordings are sparse and scarce.

Fortunately, change is happening.  While it still doesn’t feel balanced, there is an increasing number of New Orleans-based women musicians who are getting recognized in our new century.  Helen Gillet, Aurora Nealand, Kelcy Mae, and Ingrid Lucia are carving a living out of the NOLA music landscape. Perhaps the most well-known in recent years is Alynda Lee Segarra who is the driving force behind Hurray for the Riff Raff.

And there’s growing recognition.  New Orleans Women In Music, founded in 2007, promotes the careers of women musicians through information, network and other support.

Debbie Davis is a member of the New Orleans Nightingale collective which has help put a spotlight on New Orleans female musicians.
Debbie Davis is a member of the New Orleans Nightingale collective which has help put a spotlight on New Orleans female musicians.

The New Orleans Nightingales is a marketing collective with whom Ingrid Lucia has produced a compilation featuring 19 female musicians.  Here’s the website description: “Steeped in the musical traditions of early American music, the ladies of the New Orleans Nightingales bring new life to this hundred year art form through new compositions, vibrant live performances and a commitment to the idea that traditional jazz and folk music is still evolving.”

I’m going to tip the gender balance scale of my next radio show, leaning heavily on the double X chromosome for my tunes.   Here’s the edited version of the show on Mixcloud.