2019 Mardi Gras show makes the music still feel fresh

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).”

Krewe of Muses Parade

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.”

Thanks for tuning in. Stay listening by subscribing to this blog. Cheers.

Earl King lives on and so does Chewbacchus

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.

Chewbacca in the Chewbacchus Parade

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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Vinyl Gumbo! Can you hear the difference

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.

hirt fountain vinylI 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.

New Orleans loaded with African-American musical history

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.

King Oliver
King Oliver’s Creole Band, featuring a young Louis Armstrong.

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.

dew drop inn
The Dew Drop in during its heyday.

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.

I hope you enjoy the show and consider subscribing to keep getting my latest shows.

Beads, Love and the Real DJ Davis

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.

IMG_2008

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.

New Orleans deserves more recognition for its funk

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

meters.jpgA 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.

New Orleans blues a mix of mystery and minstrel

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.

ProfessorLonghair
Professor Longhair apparently cited Kid Stormy Weather as an influence on his piano style

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.

lizziemiles
Lizzie Miles

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.

2015 created great opportunities to explore NOLA music

I use this blog as way to prepare for my radio show on the Olympia community radio station, KAOS. Here’s some of the things I learned this year.

New Orleans "Professor" Allen Toussaint
Allen Toussaint was a featured “professor” in my ongoing series of New Orleans piano players.

Fascinated by the role of the piano in New Orleans, I started a series on New Orleans piano players that now includes James BookerAllen Toussaint, Professor Longhair, Tuts Washington,  and Dr. John. (More to follow).

During the carnival season, I explored the traditions and music of Black Indians of Mardi Gras .  That story led me to write about the importance of African American musicans from New Orleans in creating rock n’ roll.  I followed that up with Fats Domino and the role his performances played in getting black and white audiences to dance to the same beat.

Speaking of Mardi Gras, I provided a personal reminiscence then added a new Mardi Gras experience of bar hopping with the local brass band, Artesian Rumble Arkestra.

All You Need Is Love
Artesian Rumble Arkestra brought a “Mardi Gras” vibe to downtown Olympia as part of bar tour on Fat Tuesday.

My entry on New Orleans women in music resulted in one of my favorite radio shows of the year and helped me grow my knowledge of New Orleans music and the many wonderful women who create it.

I chose my Valentines show to dive into the history of the often recorded “Careless Love.”  Later I looked into the history of another New Orleans standard,  L’il Liza Jane. I also tracked down  songs about “sugar” which, as you’ll find, really are not about sweet granules.  I  also explored the Afro-Cuban connection or what Jelly Roll Morton called the “Spanish Tinge.” (Last year, I wrote an entry on the classic and checkered history of St. James Infirmary.)

One of my more popular entries was about the Galactic tour of 2015 when it played Bellingham, Seattle and Portland. Interestingly, the funk band is playing Seattle and Portland about the same time in February of 2016.

IMG_1454As you might expect, I have several entries on New Orleans institutions, including the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Preservation Hall, the jazz funeral,  the Freret Street Festival, French Quarter Festival, and the end of smoking in New Orleans nightclubs.

Drawing on my April trip to New Orleans, I wrote about the magnetic pull of New Orleans to young musicians of all genres. I  also shared my experience of touring the currently closed Dew Drop Inn with the grandson of its founder.

The 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina inspired a couple of entries, including this one that chronicled the activities of some of New Orleans better known musicians. This entry also has links to my two radio shows honoring that anniversary with music and excerpts from Spike Lee’s documentary.

And I finished off the year, as I did last year, with a short catalog of the 2015 New Orleans music releases featured on my show.  Part 1.  Part 2.

I hope you enjoyed the music and the little bit of information I learn and share. I know I do. Subscribe if you’d like to follow what I learn in 2016. Happy New Year.

 

Dr. John turns 75

Dr. John turns 75 this Saturday (November 21, 2015).  Still active as a performer (nine shows last month) and recording artist (releasing Ske-Dat-De-Dat last year), Malcolm John “Mac” Rebennack’s career goes back to the late 1950’s when as a guitarist he worked with Earl King, James Booker, Professor Longhair and other denizens of the J& M studio.

Like Earl Palmer who laid down the beats to the New Orleans R&B sound before migrating to Los Angeles to become part of the fabled “Wrecking Crew,”  Rebennak was a well regarded studio musician both in New Orleans (before having to leave the state) and California.

However, unlike Palmer, Rebennak stepped out in front of a band when he created the spiritually-infused persona, Dr.  John Creaux the Night Tripper, based on a New Orleans hoodoo practitioner.  This new character debuted on the “Gris Gris” album released in 1968.nite tripper

To hear Harold Battiste tell the story, the whole thing was just a lark. Another New Orleans musician who migrated to California, Battiste was a record producer and Sonny and Cher’s musical director in the 60’s. He approached Rebennak who had played on tour with Sonny and Cher to see if he had any concepts for a new album.

“Mac told me that he had been reading up on this character called Dr. John from the New Orleans voodoo tradition and wanted to work something around that.”  Actually, the character was a “hoodoo” practitioner which I understand is different than voodoo — kind of like a competitive alternative to voodoo.

“This was not to be a proper production with music arrangements and everything by the numbers. We would have to create a vibe in the studio where the spirit led the way,” wrote Battiste in his autobiography “Unfinished Blues: Memoirs of a New Orleans Music Man.”

Rebennak had created the concept for singer Ronnie Barron but according to Battiste, Barron’s agent nixed it. So Mac took the role. Battiste wrote that he envisioned the “the whole concept as a tongue-in-cheek thing.”

The album included a cast of New Orleans musicians working in southern California such as John Boudreaux, Ronnie Barron on keyboards, Jessie Hill and Shirley Goodman.

dr.john“The studio was like a Mardi Gras reunion, everybody laughing and talking, telling stories all at the same time. But once we got settled, the vibe was there and the music just flowed.”

For the album cover, Mac needed an outfit and Battiste arranged for Cher’s seamstress to arrange “odd pieces of animal skins tacked onto colorful clothes. She made him a snakeskin crown, and he found various trinkets and accessories to validate his voodoo status.”

The album’s release was delayed by about a year while record company executives tried to figure out what to do with it. But it received strong reviews upon release, creating a new problem. Now Mac really had to become Dr. John and perform as him.

His first live performance as Dr. John was at the Filmore West with Thelonious Monk.  That’s right! Mac and Monk.  Almost three dozen albums later, “Dr. John” (Mac Rebennak) is still going strong.

You can catch Dr. John’s music and much more in my next show (recorded here).

Afro-Cuban rhythms make New Orleans music move

I often explain my radio show’s place in the KAOS world music line up as offering music from the most international cities in our country: New Orleans. And this week’s show provides lots of examples.

I’m not alone in my assessment of the city’s international flair. New Orleans is routinely described as the northernmost Caribbean city. I’ve also heard it described as the most African city in the U.S.

New Orleans affinity to the Caribbean dates back to the Haitian revolution in the early 1800’s which generated an influx of French-speaking whites and free people of color into the city along with their slaves.

As a southern port, New Orleans experienced daily inbound traffic from all over the world, but particularly the Caribbean and Central America. The New Orleans Cuban connection was fueled twice daily by ferry departures and arrivals from Havana.

JFerdinand Joseph LaMothe, Jelly Roll Morton, first coined the term
JFerdinand Joseph LaMothe, Jelly Roll Morton, first coined the term “Spanish Tinge” which he described as an essential ingredient in jazz.

Tresillo and habanero rhythms are apparent in the jazz and brass band music of New Orleans, notably second line parade songs. Jelly Roll Morton referred to this as the “Spanish tinge” which can be heard in his “New Orleans Blues.”  However, I think he would have been more accurate to have called it the Afro-Cuban Tinge.

In Professor Longhair’s “Mardi Gras in New Orleans,” you can hear the Cuban Clave rhythm in his piano playing. Henry Byrd (Longhair) described his style as incorporating rumba, mambo and Calypso.

And while its relatively easy to find Caribbean influences in New Orleans rhythm and blues, its not as well known that the cultural exchange went both ways.  Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis and other New Orleans R&B artists were routinely played in Jamaican street parties influencing the development of Ska.

And the free trade of rhythm continues in the post-Katrina era with an active Brazilian community contributing Samba, Forro’ and other beats to the ever evolving gumbo that is New Orleans music.

In this show. you’ll be hearing those rhythms, including Brazilian-New Orleans music. I also will be honoring the anniversary of Jelly Roll Morton’s birthday. (Show originally broadcast live on October 19.  2015.) Listen to the latest show.