Kicking off Mardi Gras season with my sister Kate

As I’ve mentioned before on my radio show, I wouldn’t be doing a program on New Orleans program if my sister hadn’t helped me reconnect with my birthplace over a dozen years ago. So it was fun to finally do a show with her in the radio studio. Get it started before reading on.

Me and my sister Kate in our home in New Orleans as kids. My ears were big for their age.

My big sister Katie was the one who taught me to take the bus from our house on Nashville Avenue in Uptown New Orleans down Freret Street to our school on Napoleon. We referred to the ride as the “Freret Jet.” Our family moved away from New Orleans before we could finish school but our hearts stayed there.

Later as adults, when Kate moved back to New Orleans, I visited her and reconnected with the music of New Orleans. So it was really cool to have her hang out with me in the KAOS studio for this show as we celebrated the start of the 2019 Mardi Gras season with songs like The Hawkettte’s “Mardi Gras Mambo” and the New Orleans Suspects “Carnivale.”

Morgus in his laboratory

In the 1960’s, Kate and I and our older brothers would huddle around our teeny black & white television set and watch the Saturday night late movie on WWL TV — not for the movie but to watch the antics of the nutty guy who introduced the show “Morgus the Magnificent.” Last week marked the 60th anniversary of the debut of this New Orleans cultural icon. You can read my earlier blog post that gets deeper into his story. For today, we listened to Dr. John’s “Morgus the Magnificent” and Galactic’s “Friends of Science” in honor of the occasion.

New Orleans songwriter Andrew Duhon called in for a brief interview to promote his Olympia performance this week. Duhon has three albums under his belt and we played two songs from his latest. It was quite a delight to hear him talk about how the Freret Street Fair had inspired his song “Street Fair.” I also played his nostalgic song “They Don’t Make ’em.” His interview starts about an hour in and lasts about 10 minutes.

Because the New Orleans Saints are headed into the playoffs with a big game with the Philadelphia Eagles, you’ll hear a set of Black and Gold spirit by the Brassaholics and other Saints related songs by Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes and the Pinstripe Brass Band.

You’ll also hear Chuck Carbo and Eddie Bo (off a vinyl record) and other surprises as well. Thanks for tuning in.

New Orleans funk band plays the I-5 tour this week

Galactic, an ever evolving New Orleans band that tours nationally, will be on the wet side of the Cascades this coming week.

On Thursday February 26, Galactic will take the stage at Bellingham’s Wild Buffalo before rolling down to Seattle’s Showbox on Friday and finishing its tour of Interstate-5 at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland on Saturday.

(From Left) Jeff Mercurio, Ben Ellman, Dan Vogel, Jeff Raines and Stanton Moore.
(From Left) Robert Mercurio, Ben Ellman, Rich Vogel, Jeff Raines and Stanton Moore.

The band formed in 1994 and was inspired by The Meters and other funk bands playing in Benny’s Bar, a long-gone uptown establishment located not more than a football field from where the Nevilles used to live. The band’s original name Galactic Prophylactic was quickly shortened while it led a second wave of New Orleans funk bands.

The first decade, Galactic was powered by the vocals of journeyman R&B and soul singer Theryl “Houseman” DeClouet.  With its jam band tendencies, the group developed a loyal following for its live shows.

While the band has gone through a number of personnel changes over the years, the core of the group includes founding members Jeff Raines (guitar), Robert Mercurio (bass), Stanton Moore (drums) and Rich Vogel (keyboards). Also, saxophonist Ben Ellman, who produced Trombone Shorty’s first two albums, has been a long-time mainstay of the band.

After the departure of DeClouet in 2004, the band got into producing its own music using loops and samples and invited a wide range of mostly New Orleans talent into the studio with them. Ya-ka-may, probably my favorite Galactic album, includes Irma Thomas, Trombone Shorty, John Boutte, Katey Red, Big Freedia, and Big Chief Bo Dollis. The first song also includes a sample from the fright night show Morgus the Magnificent.

Robert Mercurio on bass for Galactic
Robert Mercurio on bass for Galactic

According to reviews of this tour, the band is reaching back to its roots, while still keeping it contemporary. Check out recent releases “Higher and Higher” featuring JJ Grey and “Dolla Diva” with a duet by Maggie Koerner and David Shaw of The Revivalists. For this tour, Erica Falls is handling the vocals — an excellent choice of a New Orleans singer whose talent far exceeds her current public recognition. But perhaps not for long. Here’s an article that got her on the cover of Offbeat.

Erica Falls, a talented New Orleans singer who has performed with Irma Thomas, John Fogerty and Sting, is the lead singer for Galactic on its current tour.

Individually, Galactic band members are highly active musicians and music producers involved in a wide range of other projects, including some with Seattle saxophonist Skerik (who will be in Portland Maine on Saturday). This week’s I-5 tour is an excellent chance to catch them live. But if you can’t do that, I’ll be playing my favorite Galactic numbers on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa on Monday.   (Sneak tip:  I will have tickets to the Portland show to give away.)

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