Digging deep for October New Orleans music show

For this week’s show, I casually thumbed (digitally) through my collection of roughly 15,000 songs -almost all from Louisiana and mostly from New Orleans. I selected mostly songs that I haven’t played in awhile if at all, including breaking into a new release by a band I just got acquainted with The New Orleans Johnnys. You can start the show now which begins with Jon Cleary doing “Big Greasy.”

The Beatles hanging with Fats Domino

After Cleary sings and I get on to say “hi,” I play Paul McCartney’s version of “I Want To Walk You Home” from the two-disc Fats Domino tribute release. There’s no secret of the high affection McCartney has for Domino. And McCartney’s rendition of the song can best be described as loving. And there’s much more to love in that same set including Irma Thomas covering Nora Jones’ “Thinking About You” and Alex McMurray’s “The Get Go.”

The second set includes two great jams, one from a band not from New Orleans but is well regarded there. I pulled “Once You’re There” by Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe from a live recording featured on a WWOZ release. Charlie Wooton Project follows it with “Fulton Alley” — providing over 16 minutes of fine musicianship.

Because the COVID-19 restrictions are still keeping me from the KAOS studio, my shows are not broadcast live allowing me to do longer sets and fewer breaks. And this week, I did some deep dives for music by John “Papa” Gros, Herlin Riley, Little Sonny Jones, Lil Rascals Brass Band, Helen Gillet, and Theryl “Houseman” DeClouet.

Near the end of the show, I do two tracks by The New Orleans Johnnys which I believe used to perform under the moniker “N’awlins Johnnys.” If so, I appreciate the change. They’re not a gimmicky band for tourist. Thier new album “Outta Ya Mind” delivers original New Orleans funk rock songs. I look forward to hearing more from them. You’ll also hear another track from the latest record by the prolific octogenarian Bobby Rush.

Oh, I forgot to mention the reason for the moon picture on the Mixcloud bar. Miss Sophie Lee sings “Blue Moon.” Tonight is a full moon which means later in the month, we’ll get another one . . . a blue moon. Cheers. Drop me line and consider subscribing.

Toussaint infused New Orleans sound into pop music

New Orleans
Allen Toussaint plays the National Anthem at the Superdome. Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The French Quarter Festival, which showcases local music, could not have scored a better opening headliner this year than with the hometown artist whose creativity has nurtured the New Orleans sound for over a half century. (Listen to the show that complements this post.)

Allen Toussaint was a teenager when he first sat in on Earl King’s band and regularly scored gigs at the legendary Dew Drop Inn.

It wasn’t long before he found his way to the center of the known Rock n’ Roll universe at the time, Cosimo Matassa’s studio, where he laid down piano tracks on recordings by Fats Domino, Huey “Piano” Smith, and Aaron Neville. But it was when he joined Minit Records that his creativity became apparent to the world. Using his parent’s living room as rehearsal space and testing ground for new material, he assembled a parade of hit singles by Jessie Hill, Irma Thomas, Lee Dorsey and this blog’s patron saint, Ernie K-Doe.

Ernie K-Doe best recordings were aided by the songwriting, arranging and producing of Allen Toussaint.

As a keyboard savant, Toussaint could accurately reproduce and synthesize the city’s revered legacy of piano professors, especially the style of Professor Longhair. But as a songwriter and arranger, he was able to weave the full panoply of New Orleans rhythms, vocal traditions and spirit into a clean appealing style for the pop market. In fact, he, along with K-Doe, were responsible for the sole number 1 pop chart hit recorded in New Orleans,  “Mother-in-Law.” (A song written before Toussaint was married and had one.)

Later, he started his own record labels providing a platform for local and national musicians to access the New Orleans sound. With The Meters as his studio house band, Toussaint was a key force behind the New Orleans funk sound that developed in the 70’s. A prolific songwriter, his music has been performed by The Rolling Stones (“Ruler of My Heart”), The Who (“Fortune Teller”), Bonnie Raitt (“What Do You Want the Boy To Do”), Devo (“Working in the Coal Mine”),  Al Hirt (“Java”), The Doors (“Get Out of My Life Woman”),  Jerry Garcia (“I’ll Take a Melody”), Glen Campbell (“Southern Nights”), Robert Palmer (“Sneaky Sally through the Alley”), The Pointer Sisters (“Yes, We Can Can”) and many more.

Linda and Paul McCartney performing with Allen Toussaint in his New Orleans studio in 1975.
Linda and Paul McCartney performing with Allen Toussaint in his New Orleans studio in 1975.

In 1973, Toussaint had a big hand in producing and performing on Dr. John’s album “In The Right Place.” Two years later, Linda and Paul McCartney moved their entourage to New Orleans to collaborate with Toussaint in his New Orleans studio on their album “Venus and Mars.”

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2009, and the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011. If there’s any question of whether being a senior statesman of New Orleans music has diminished his chops, you need only look as far as his grammy-nominated, post-Katrina collaboration with Elvis Costello, “The River in Reverse,” for evidence that at 77, he still has it.

In addition to being a producer, bandleader, arranger and songwriter, Toussaint is an accomplished pianist and stands with the great New Orleans piano “professors.” Toussaint will take the stage at the French Quarter Festival on April 9 at 3:45 p.m. but you will be able to catch his music on my next show this Monday. (Here’s the recorded show)