Ain’t Dere No More But the Memory Lives On

If you ever get sentimental about favorite stores that have closed or been bought out, or people you no longer see or experiences that are long gone, well this week’s show might be for you. Click the arrow in the box below to start the show and then read on.

John Boutte sings the opening number “Never Turn Back” which is a caution we will not follow for most of the first part of the show. However, first we warm up with a couple of classic New Orleans piano players (Professor Longhair and Dr. John) and one contemporary one destined to be a classic (Josh Paxton).

Given its multi-national history, New Orleans is home to a variety of accents. One in particular “is hard to distinguish from the accent of Hoboken, Jersey City, and Astoria, Long Island” according to A.J. Liebling author of “The Earl of Louisiana.” a Hear’s more on how New Orleanians talk.

Long gone but much missed, you can find T-Shirts with this hometown drugstore logo for sale in New Orleans

I mention this to provide some understanding of why “Ain’t Dere No More” became a catch phrase in New Orleans made famous by a song of the same name by Benny Grunch and the Bunch. In a town with businesses such as Schwegmann’s, a 19th century grocery store that pioneered the concept of “supermarket,” and K&B, a purple-famed ubiquitous drugstore that stood for Katz and Besthoff, their buyouts and closures are still mourned decades later.

The song may seem silly but in my home of Olympia, I still miss going to the Rainbow Tavern and drinking dark Olympia beer (both are gone). And maybe you remember some place or things you used to do that you also miss. In the case of Alex McMurray its an old bar he can’t go back to. For Davis Rogan and his brass, hip hop band, All That, its the end of live music performances in a Treme neighborhood restaurant “Little People’s Place.” For Alex Duhon, its the passing of a generation that knew how to fix things and make them last.

I carry on with this theme for a few sets ending with a wonderful rendition by Allen Toussaint of his hit song “Southern Nights” — a song that brought back memories of an Arkansas childhood for Glen Campbell who popularized the song. For songwriter Toussaint, “Southern Nights” is about going into the Louisiana back country to visit relatives who speak in a difficult to understand patois, drink from jars and make stories about the stars. Please stay with the show through at least that song.

And if you do, well I celebrate the birth anniversary of George Landry, big chief of the Wild Tchoupitoulas and uncle of the Nevilles. Listen to one of the songs that brought these four talented brothers together in the studio for the first time. Leyla McCalla’s new song “Settle Down” pairs well with the Mardi Gras Indian song. Much more beyond that. I’ll let it be a surprise. Thanks for tuning in and please subscribe.

New Orleans songs set up the new year – 2019

Nothing like putting up a new calendar to feel the passage of time. Was 2018 a good year? What about 2019? Welcome to my musical reflection of this new year (first show of 2019) with amazing music from New Orleans. You can play it now while you finish reading

No matter how good my life is, it all seems hollow with our growing unhoused population, a gridlock country and a world that requires solutions built from collaboration rather than conflict. These thoughts guided my selections of songs.

Earl King kicks off the show with his “Make a Better World” followed by Lee Dorsey singing “Why Wait Until Tomorrow.” Later, Colin Lake performs his original song “The World Alive” followed by Tom Hambone’s “Faith” from his NOLA Sessions’ recording

The Radiators exhort us to “Never Let Your Fire Go Out” aided by The Neville Brothers “Wake Up” and Galactic’s “Action Speaks Louder than Words.”

“Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further” written and sung by Allen Toussaint with help from Elvis Costello seemed to fit right in at this point, along with “Street Symphony” by the Subdudes and an encore by Toussaint with “We’re All Connected.”

Carlo Ditto and Louie Ludwig songs take on complacency when it comes to war and Irma Thomas and James Booker close it off with “River is Waiting” and “Amen” respectively.

In between the above are appropriate songs by Dr. John, Helen Gillet, Paul Sanchez, the Iguanas, John Mooney, Mem Shannon, Marcia Ball and Ever More Nest.

I wish you a happy and fulfilling year. Stay engaged!

Tipitina’s keeps the legacy alive while contributing to the future

Professor Longhair may have memorialized the corner of Rampart and Dumaine in “Mardi Gras in New Orleans” but his memory and spirit live on at a different street corner, Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas, in a music venue that bears the name of another of his classics, “Tipitina.”

A bust of Professor Longhair (Henry Roeland Byrd) sculpted by Coco Robicheaux stands guard at the entrance of the New Orleans music venue that bears the name of his song Tipitina. – Photo by Alex Brandon / Times-Picayune archive

Rampart and Dumaine is the original location of J&M Studios, run by Cosimo Matassa. The location is recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a landmark site and it’s a laundromat – with mixed but generally positive Internet reviews.

Tipitina’s, on the other hand, is a great example of how cool stuff can happen out of love for music and doing the right thing. Just as Preservation Hall is dedicated to keeping New Orleans jazz alive, Tipitina’s was conceived with the notion of honoring the city’s early R&B and Rock ‘n Roll legacy.

When the venue opened in 1977, it’s goal was to provide a public performance space for aging and almost forgotten R&B and Blues artists like Fess (Henry Roeland Byrd), Jessie Hill, Snooks Eaglin, Earl King and others. Tips was born from an act of love by a group of investors who collectively and affectionately became known as the “fabulous fo’teen.”

Neville Brothers in front of the Longhair mural at Tipitina’s. Photo by Leon Morris from the WWOZ website.  WWOZ’s early years were spent located above Tip’s in the beer storage room.

The venue also provided a platform for other local musicians, such as the Radiators, Little Queenie and the Percolators, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Continental Drifters and the Neville Brothers.

Tipitina’s in those earlier years was quite a bit different than it is today.  Music author Jay Mazza described a summer show this way:  “Sometimes it was so humid in the place that the clouds of smoke seemed to be seeded with water.  The smoke hung low in the room. Both bands and patrons alike were soaked to the bone within minutes. A trick learned early on was to bring extra shirts for changing between sets. . . Still everyone loved the place . . there always has been an amazing vibe associated with Tipitina’s.”

While the venue provided many great musical moments in the late 70s and early 80s, it struggled financially and eventually shuttered for about a year and a half. When it reopened in 1986, a major renovation made it far more attractive for musicians and their patrons. The warehouse-like building was opened up, creating a balcony level with higher ceilings, better circulation, improved bathrooms, and air conditioning.

Tacoma band Girl Trouble performing at the Capitol Theater this month. Like Tipitina's the theater has a history of providing local groups a platform to perform.
Tacoma band Girl Trouble performing at the Capitol Theater this month. Like Tipitina’s the theater has a history of providing local groups a platform to perform.

This is a nice example of how some key changes could make an Olympia venue more attractive.

Tipitina’s also kicked up their bookings, continuing to stage local artists but adding national and international acts to the mix, building a worldwide reputation.

To get an idea of the artists who have performed at Tipitina’s, check out its index of musicians, some of whom are honored with additional recognition on the sidewalk outside: the New Orleans Walk of Fame.

Tipitina’s honors New Orleans musical legacy inside and outside with its Walk of Fame.

Another cool feature of Tipitina’s is its Foundation. It’s not every place where you can rock out to amazing music, with the understanding that profits go to support the very music scene you’re enjoying.  The Foundation purchases instruments for Louisiana schools, provides ongoing youth music workshops, offers an after school jazz and digital recording program under the artistic direction of Donald Harrison, Jr. and provides a a statewide network of workforce development and job skills training centers for musicians, filmmakers and other media professionals.

Jazz artist Donald Harrison, Jr. heads up the Tipitina’s internship program.

And you never know what you’ll find at Tips. An Olympia friend told me about how she and her partner on a NOLA visit wandered into the uptown bar on a late Sunday afternoon, ordered a beer and found themselves drawn into a Cajun Fais Do Do.

So next trip to NOLA, put Tips on your list. Until then, you can catch many of the musicians who perform there on Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa, every Monday from 10 a.m. to noon on your community radio station, KAOS.