Two more distinct African American music genre close out my month-long celebration of African American Music Appreciation Month. Be prepared to to hear some of the top Blues and Zydeco artists of Louisiana when you click the sideways arrow below.
“How long can New Orleans survive without live music? ” That’s the headline of a recent Slate article and it makes me wonder how we’re going to work through this in the long run. Cause, we’re gonna have to figure something out! This week’s Gumbo YaYa is dedicated to the venues and their operators around the country who are wondering if they will ever open again.
But first we take a trip to one of the more venerable of the New Orleans 130 plus music venues, Preservation Hall. Listener Sam Cagle shares his story of stumbling onto the place just off Bourbon Street just as it was getting established in the summer of 1961. Sam had just gotten out of training camp, preparing to a be an Air Force officer with six weeks to kill before he started his senior year in college. Taking a tip from a cadet who lived there, he decided to spend his last few free weeks in the August heat of New Orleans. His story is right after the first song and for mood setting, I throw in some Preservation Hall classics with George Lewis, Punch Miller, Sweet Emma, Percy Humphrey and others. By the way, I wrote up a longer piece on Preservation Hall a few years back.
The Slate article makes the point that New Orleans has a unique ecosystem for developing music artists and its large number of small music venues is an essential part of that biology. But the stickiness of COVID-19 is making it likely that many of the venue proprietors, who mostly do not earn much of a profit even when open, may not survive.
The same concerns hold for venues in my neck of the woods and anywhere else where COVID is keeping us mostly at home. I don’t have a solution other than we all should be thinking about how we can keep live music alive. And for inspiration, I play sets of music that were recorded live including songs by Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, Mem Shannon, Debbie Davis and Josh Paxton, Rebirth Brass Band, Marla Dixon and the Shotgun Jazz Band, Professor Longhair, Billy Iuso, Kermit Ruffins, Sonny Landreth, the Roamin’ Jasmine and others.
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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.
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.
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).”
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.”
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I’m a little late in posting last Thursday’s show but I’m hoping its worth the wait, featuring music written by and in some cases performed by Earl Silas Johnson – aka Earl King.
Born in the Irish Channel district of New Orleans on February 7, 1934, Earl Silas Johnson is behind one of the more covered Mardi Gras standards, “Big Chief.” So in today’s show (which you should have playing by now – click the arrow above) I dive into Earl King’s music as well as other Mardi Gras numbers — including perhaps the most covered “Mardi Gras in New Orleans” song written by Professor Longhair.
This weekend, the 2019 Mardi Gras parade season ramped up with the quirky, Sci-Fi parade “Krewe of Chewbacchus.” The 900-member, self-described satirical space cult, walks, pedals, pushes but does not drive its contraptions down its parade route. Only three rules: No unicorns unless with rocket thrusters; no elves unless cyborgs; and no whinebots.
Earl King kicks the show off with one of my favorites: “No City Like New Orleans.” Later I play an early recording of his called “Til I Say Well Done” and an example of him funking it up with “Do the Grind.” Covers of King songs by The Roamin’ Jasmine and Dr. John round out my tribute to what would have been his 85th birthday if we hadn’t lost him in 2003. I finish the Earl King segment with The Radiator’s tribute song “King Earl.”
The fun continues though with new music by Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Lena Prima. Benny Turner, Big Al and the Heavyweights and Yvette Landry and the Jukes.
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If you long for LPs then this week’s show is for you. Over an hour of vinyl New Orleans music is waiting to be heard, just click the application below and get it spinning.
I still own the first CD player I bought for my stereo. And I love it. I love the ease of playing CDs. I love being able to quickly find the track I want to hear. I like being able to repeat tracks. I love how clean the sound is. I really don’t miss vinyl.
Yet, I still buy LPs. And you’ll hear some of them on this show, including Pete Fountain, Professor Longhair, Al Hirt, Willie Humphrey, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Beausoleil, Bunk Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Huey “Piano” Smith and John Mooney. Nothing like playing a continuous stream of LPs to appreciate the work of DJs before the digital era. It really is a lot more effort playing off of turntables.
But aside from the crackling of the needle contacting the surface, I really can’t tell the difference in the sound. Perhaps you will.
Also, on today’s show, I honor Eddie Bo’s birth anniversary. Noted perhaps mostly for his funk, Edwin Bocage was a piano player skilled in jazz and other music genre as well. He was also a talented builder, who even in his mid-70’s was active in rebuilding his home damaged by Hurricane Katrina. I play a couple of his lesser known numbers in today’s show along with a couple of new releases by Eric Lindell and Keith Stone along with a handful of contemporary female New Orleans artists to offer some gender balance wrapped in very fine music. Thanks for tuning in.
Today’s show honors African-American History Month (February) with a musical tour through jazz, R&B, funk, Mardi Gras Indian, hip hop and bounce music from New Orleans. Start the show by clicking the arrow below and then read the rest of my show notes.
New Orleans may have been founded by the French, rebuilt by the Spanish and bought by the U.S., but its the African ingredients that make the New Orleans cultural gumbo so rich.
The very short story is that the rhythms of Africa and the Caribbean blended with European instruments in New Orleans to create jazz. But it was African-Americans, many who were descendants of slaves, who made the music happen.
The show’s first set features Sidney Bechet who came from a musical middle-class family that lived in the Marigny neighborhood. I follow him up with a quick race to contemporary times with Dr. Michael White and Doreen Ketchens. It’s a strong set of clarinet solos.
The second set kicks off with Louis Armstrong and follows with two of his mentors King Oliver and Kid Ory. Jelly Roll Morton, who started playing the New Orleans brothels at 14, starts off my last set of jazz. Morton is followed by Kid Thomas who was faithful to the New Orleans jazz tradition throughout his career that spanned from the 1920’s to 1970. But 100+ year old Lionel Ferbos wins the longevity award and sings “Pretty Doll/Ugly Child.”
The show moves into R&B with a rollicking three-piano version of Boogie Woogie with Professor Longhair, Tuts Washington and Allen Toussaint. But its Deacon John’s “Jumpin’ in the Morning” that gets your ass shaking. Somewhere in there, I talk about the Dew Drop Inn and include an excerpt from an interview of Kenneth Jackson about his grandpa, Frank Pania who started the Dew Drop Inn and was part of a civil action that ended arrests for racial mixing.
Which made that a good time to play Fats Domino, whose concerts were the site of at least four major riots. Some blame the music, some blame the alcohol but Rick Coleman who wrote a biography of Fats Domino contends that the riots were at least in part incited by racial mixing in a time period when much of our country recognized and practiced “apartheid.”
The show rolls on with only African-American musicians and vocalists, including a set of Black Creole music of South Louisiana, which is often called “Zydeco.” And I closed the show with “Get Lucky” with bounce artist Big Freedia performing with the Soul Rebels.
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This week’s show is the last one before the 2018 Mardi Gras Day and Valentine’s Day so I mix Mardi Gras party music with love songs in this podcast. Go ahead and get it started and then read about the Davis Rogan interview
This is my fifth show during the 2018 Mardi Gras season and I’ve started each one with a different version of Professor Longhair’s Mardi Gras anthem – “Go to the Mardi Gras. ” For this, the last show before Fat Tuesday, I play ‘Fess himself. You have permission to whistle along.
I reach back into the heyday of New Orleans R&B for the Hawkettes’ “Mardi Gras Mambo” and, as is the tradition, Al “Carnival Time” Johnson performs the song that gave him his middle name. Cha Wa and The Wild Magnolias make appearances to represent Mardi Gras Indians, Louis Armstrong performs “Zulu King” and I play the rarely heard “King of the Mardi Gras” from the Nine Lives musical. The New Orleans Nightcrawlers, Papa Grows Funk and Galactic add a party-level amount of funk. Marcia Ball, the Radiators and Slim Harpo contribute love songs.
I play three songs by Davis Rogan, one from each of his albums, and then he calls in and we talk about his upcoming performance in Olympia, trade some stories about neighborhood schools, hear his idea for creating a Museum for Southern Racists and learn more about the connection between his music and his work on the HBO “Treme” show where he served as songwriter/technical consultant and the inspiration for one of the lead characters, D J Davis played by Steve Zahn. If you just want to hear Rogan’s music and interview instead of the whole show, here it is.
This week’s show is a funky one. Get the show started by clicking the Mixcloud arrow then read how Ohio scooped New Orleans on the funk
A recent NPR story about Dayton, Ohio having a Funk Hall of Fame took me a bit by surprise. It’s not that I have anything against Ohio though I resent the tendency of their vote for president seeming to count more than mine. And yes, there are some fine funk bands from Dayton (Ohio Players, Heatwave, Zapp, etc.).
Like many though, when I think of funk masters, I think James Brown, George Clinton and, well, The Meters. In the late 60’s, Art Neville (keyboards), George Porter, Jr. (bass), Leo Nocentelli (guitar) and Zigaboo Modeliste (drums) became the studio band for Allen Toussaint backing hits like “Everything I Do Gohn Be Funky,” sung by Lee Dorsey. And while they didn’t make it as big as some of the mid-70 funk bands, The Meters, along with James Brown, are widely considered to be the originators of the funk sound.
But its not that simple. The Meters were influenced by New Orleans parade rhythms, Professor Longhair, and Earl Palmer, who before moving to Los Angles to be part of the famed “Wrecking Crew,” was part of the Cosimo Matassa studio band that created many of the early R&B hits by Fats Domino and Little Richard. The same Little Richard sound that James Brown cited as being an influence on his funk sound.
So why isn’t the Funk Hall of Fame in New Orleans? Probably for the same reason there’s not a decent Jazz or R&B museum in New Orleans. Dayton made it happen and New Orleans didn’t. Well, least the music is good. Other acts on this show include Corey Henry, Galactic, Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, Dr. John, Eddie Bo, New Orleans Nightcrawlers, Jon Cleary, Papa Grows Funk and Walter “Wolfman” Washington.
If you’re a sucker for a good mystery like I am, then you might appreciate the story of Kid Stormy Weather. That is, what little of the story we know. (Here’s the podcast of my radio show that goes with this story or click the player below.)
We know that Edmond Joseph, recorded two songs on October 17, 1935 with Vocalion records, apparently at a mobile recording unit in Jackson Mississippi. Those two songs are the only tangible evidence of Kid Stormy Weather’s musical career. The rest is more legend than record.
Professor Longhair apparently cited the barrelhouse pianist as an influence. Henry Roeland Boyd was 17 years old in 1935, just the right impressionable age to be sneaking into the South Rampart honky-tonks that Kid Stormy Weather allegedly inhabited. But we just don’t know where the “Kid” came from, when he died or how he became an influence on the unique, fluid piano style of Professor Longhair.
In the two sides he recorded, “Short Hair Blues” and “Bread and Water Blues,” his quick hands are on display but its also apparent that the recording unit only captured a taste of his talent. Unless there is an oral history out there not available on the Internet, Edmond “Kid Stormy Weather” Joseph’s story may very well be lost to history.
We know more about other New Orleans blues artists though. Two that I’ll be focusing on with this week’s show (along with Kid Stormy Weather) are performers who performed early in their careers in minstrel shows.
While Lizzie Miles, born Elizabeth Mary Landreaux, didn’t think of herself as a blues singer, her early recordings were most definitely in that genre. Born in the Marigny neighborhood of New Orleans in 1895, she initially worked with jazz pioneers King Oliver, Kid Ory and Bunk Johnson before they had migrated to Chicago. She then toured with minstrel shows through the south eventually performing in Chicago, and Europe and recording with Jelly Roll Morton in New York. And like many New Orleans musicians, she found her way home near the end of her life, dying in 1963. I’ll be playing “I Hate a Man Like You” on this week’s show.
Creole George Guesnon played banjo and guitar and was prolific song writer. . He got his first big break playing with Celestin’s Original Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra. The next year, he replaced Danny Barker in Willie Pajaud’s orchestra. He performed with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and found his way to New York, recording with Decca and living briefly with Jelly Roll Morton. He served with the Merchant Marines during World War II and then returned to New Orleans performing with Kid Thomas and showing up regularly at the new performance space at the time, Preservation Hall. He died in 1968 and was buried in St. Louis Cemetery No. 2. I’ll be playing his “Graveyard Love Blues” on this week’s show. Hope you can join me.