Letting It Snow and Ho Ho Ho the New Orleans Way

As I write this and prepare for this week’s show, the forecast for New Orleans is a mostly sunny day with a high of 79 degrees. But close your eyes and start my show and we’ll conjure up this winter’s celebration with music by New Orleans musicians.

The 2021 Steve Martin Banjo Prize Winner Don Vappie kicks us off the show with a swinging “Please Come Home for Christmas.” Kenny Neal drives home that point with his “I’ll be Home for Christmas.” Whether you celebrate Christmas or Solstice or some other winter holiday or nothing at all, most of the messages of the songs I play on this week’s show are universal. And capturing one of my more hipper ideals is Kermit Ruffins with his “Crazy Cool Christmas.” But don’t worry, the show gets un-hip pretty quickly with an airing of the “12 Yats of Christmas.” A little about New Orleans accents in one of my earliest posts.

As a kid in New Orleans, a White Christmas was only a dream. I recall one snow day as a child and it was pretty wimpy. The Radiators sing about their first snow while Allen Toussant delivers is classic “The Day It Snows in New Orleans.” Here’s a previous Christmas week post that goes a bit more into memories of snow in New Orleans.

Next set goes into the struggles of holidays when its may be missing something or someone. Ted Hefko introduces “It’s Cold in Here” with how his partner had to always be away during the Christmas season cause of work while Kelcy Mae sings about the struggles couples have when they have competing family interests to satisfy during the holiday — a song that become even more poignant when it turns into a celebration of legal same sex marriage. Marva Wright drives home the relevant point with her powerful “Stocking Full of Love.”

At this point in the show, just over halfway, Santa makes an appearance with Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington’s “Jingle Bells,” Earl King’s “Santa, Don’t Let Me Down,” Frankie Ford’s “Santa Won the Lottery,” Bo Dollis & Wild Magnolias with Bonerama give us “Shakana Santa Shake,” and two songs about Rudolph by Fats Domino and Debbie Davis and Matt Perriine.

If you made it through the show this far you will be rewarded by a great new Christmas single by Bon Bon Vivant “The Old Christmas Song” and some other treats — don’t want to ruin the surprise. And I always love to hear Smoky Greenwell’s rhythmic Frosty the Snowman. Check it out.

Y’all have a wonderful winter holiday whether its Christmas, Kwanzaa or just yelling at the radio . . .as long as you’re listening. Cheers.

How New Orleans shaped my view of Christmas

First memory of snow in New Orleans melds with this year’s Holiday music show.

My earliest memories of Christmas are from New Orleans. (Psst. You can start the show and still read the rest of this post.)

A popular New Orleans drugstore chain.

My Dad unsnarling lines of C-9 colored bulbs for draping on our second story porch railing on our Nashville Avenue home in uptown New Orleans. The scotch pine tree decorated in the downstairs den. Radio announcements of sightings of Santa Claus and his reindeer flying over the Falstaff Beer sign. Last minute shopping at the purple glowing Katz & Besthoff. Cruising St. Charles to see the mansions and their holiday displays and lights. And the ever present wish for snow in a climate where 50 degrees Fahrenheit seems cold.

Nostalgia is as much a part of my Christmas as mistletoe and Amazon boxes. I suppose its a longing for that period of innocence when I believed possible a boisterous, jovial superhero could disperse presents to all the good children in the world.

This year’s holiday show includes a wistful set on snow in New Orleans, starting with the Radiators, particularly their keyboardist and songwriter Ed Volker, singing about their first experience with this rare occurrence in the subtropics. “Who can forget that feeling. . . the snow gently falling.” If you have lived in New Orleans when it snowed, it is not something you tend to forget.

For me, my first snow meant a rare sighting of my Dad during the daytime. My father grew up in New York City and Newark, got his doctorate in Cambridge at M.I.T. But he had lived in the south most of his professional life. As a Tulane administrator in the 60’s, my Dad was doing the Don Draper thing, working long hours in an office setting where smoking and drinking were the norm. But that afternoon when the snow fell, he came screaming home in our Rambler station wagon, the thin accumulated snow muffling the crunch of the oyster shells on our backyard driveway.

Early 1958. I don’t remember this pitiful New Orleans snow. I’m in the stroller.

He brusquely told me to grab gloves and get in the car while he collected a few items including a shovel, carrot and old fishing hat. He drove us to Audubon Park — home of Monkey Hill referenced in Allen Toussaint’s song “The Day It Snows on Christmas.” There we attempted to create a snow man. It was a pitiful sculpture, melting pretty much as we were making it. He apologized for the quality of the snow. But you’ll have to excuse me if I get just a bit choked up thinking about my father standing with melted snow wicking up his nice trousers, full of good intentions, most likely carrying his own early snow memories and having just exerted himself more than he had since he hung those damn porch lights during the holidays. Writing this reminds me that part of why I do this show is because of him.

I wasn’t living in New Orleans when I started building Christmas memories like the one Aaron Neville sings about in “Such a Night.” Those involve my partner of over 40 years, who I share the life-changing adventure of moving, right after graduation, from the South to the Northwest and making our home cozy using cinder block shelves, reclaimed furniture and homemade tree ornaments. Yes, we reversed my Dad’s life direction moving to where the winter nights are long and cold, and snuggling feels so good.

John Boutte’s “Holding You This Christmas” and Marva Wright’s “Stocking Full of Love” drive that loving feeling home for me. That set finishes with the very special song by Kelcy Mae, written in the year that same sex marriages became the law of our country. However, her song is universal for any couple who has had to split their holiday time with extended family. Watching this song’s music video that includes crowd sourced marriage pictures from that year is a new holiday tradition for me.

Today’s show has a few traditional holiday songs done in classic New Orleans fashion and, as you might expect, some not-so traditional songs done in contemporary New Orleans fashion. I hope it holds your interest and perhaps triggers a memory or two. My best to you during this season of long winter nights. Hold someone you love close and keep the radio turned on. Cheers.

Rolling Stones Replaced By the Real Thing

The Rolling Stones might not be playing this year’s 50th Annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival as originally planned but you can hear many of the New Orleans songs they covered in today’s show (click this link to hear the show if you don’t see the player below).

Mick Jagger’s health issues cancelled the Stone’s North American tour so I thought this week’s show, aired right as the gates were opening at the race track where Jazz Fest is held, should feature the great New Orleans songs covered by this great rock n roll band over its lengthy career. I started with “Fortune Teller”, using the snaky version by The Iguanas. Dale Hawkins takes it from there with “Suzie Q,” followed by Irma Thomas’ “Time Is On My Side,” Larry Williams’ “She Said Yea” and Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips.” He comes back later to sing “I’m a King Bee.”

I also feature a cover by Erica Falls of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” because apparently that band was arranged as a fill in for the Stone but bailed when Stevie Nicks had health issues. Damn, we’re getting old.

Perhaps my favorite pairing of songs in the show is Maria Muldaur’s rendition of Danny Barker’s “Now You’re Down in the Alley” followed by Antoine Diel’s robust “Hallelujah, I Love You So.”

Stay with me to the end to hear the Radiator’s Jazz Fest performance of “7 Devils”. This live recording was captured in 2006 at the first festival after Hurricane Katrina. I was lucky enough to catch that performance. What I can’t recreate was the amazing healing vibe that was going on throughout the field as New Orleanians who just gone through a lot of pain, swayed to their favorite hometown jam band. I could sense their return to home.

Thanks for tuning in.

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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Gumbo YaYa asks “What Do You Want?”

Back in the 80’s, I think I played the grooves off my Tubes album with the song “What Do You Want From Life.” The last line regarding a “baby’s arm holding an apple” never failed to crack me up. In this show, you’ll hear songs describing what New Orleans musicians want out of life. Go ahead, get it started . . .you might need to.

What do you want from life? If its Slim Harpo, its money, not alibis. But for Scott Ramminger, its without a doubt a new body. (I can relate). Fats Domino is content if you’ll just let him walk you home. But John Mooney feels like hollerin’ instead. Dr. John would like to make sure New Orleans can mourn properly in a post-Katrina song.

Lots of musicians need loved. Don’t we all. Johnny Adams needs a lot of loving while Yvette Landry needs somebody bad (since she just lost somebody good). Carol Fran would be happy just to be “be’d with”. Chubby Carrier channels Bad Company with “Feel Like Making Love.”

Some needs are a bit hard to explain, like the Radiators “I Want to Go Where the Green Arrow Goes” while others are relatively clear (sort of) such as Marcia Ball’s need for “The Right Tool for the Job.”

Rebirth Brass Band makes it clear they feel like “Busting Loose” while Charmaine Neville is happy with a good song and Albanie Falletta seeks “Someone to Dance With.”

My hope is that what YOU want out of life is to at least listen to more New Orleans music which can be satisfied by listening to this show. Cheers.

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!

Thanksgiving holiday show is about being home

To me, the Thanksgiving holiday is about being at home with loved ones. And so this show is about getting home and being home. 

After Earl King sings about “Eating and Sleeping” (a succinct description of the typical Thanksgiving Day), I move on to this show’s theme with Seth Walker’s “Home Again.”  I switch genre with a rock steady number by New Orleans reggae group 007 and finish the set with Clifton Chenier doing “I Am Coming Home.”

The Radiators do “The Long Hard Journey Home” and Lloyd Price asks for a another chance with “Let Me Come Home Baby.”  Hoagy Carmichael’s early composition “My Home, New Orleans” gets a wonderful instrumental treatment by Al Hirt later in the show followed by Papa Grows Funk.  

Before performing “Home”, Paul Sanchez introduces horn players Craig Klein and Shamarr Allen with a story of how these musicians helped him restore his home after Hurricane Katrina destroyed it.  Stay with the show through to the end and you’ll hear Lena Prima’s song “Come On a My House” and Clarence Brown singing “On My Way Back Home.”

I hope the holidays find you in a place that you can call home. My best to you. Thanks for listening. 

Here’s a glimpse into New Orleans country music scene

Two June CD releases are burnishing the city’s country music reputation and you’ll hear tracks from both in today’s show. Start it rolling and then learn more about Shawn Williams and Gal Holiday.

shawn williamsShawn Williams’ second album Motel Livin’ is a gripping compendium of lyrical songs that leave me a bit unnerved but fully entertained.  Her voice haunts and I’m going to enjoy digging deeper into this new release.  I play “Best of Me” and later “Buried Alive.”

More upbeat and more battle worn is Gal Holiday and her Honky Tonk Revue with the new release Lost & Found. Almost a decade before The Deslondes formed, Gal Holiday (aka Vanessa Niemann) broke ground on the new wave of country in New Orleans. And true to her band’s name, you can dance to her music. I play “Found Myself Instead” and “Desert Disco.”

While Luke Winslow-King’s music has been difficult to describe, I’ve never thought of it as country until his latest release Blue Mesa. You can listen to his “After the Rain” and decide for yourself.

To keep the roots vibe rolling, I follow these sets up with The Big Dixie Swingers with “I Haven’t Got a Pot,” Eric Lindell with a live version of “Bayou Country” and The Radiators doing “Straight Eight.”  Also, an encore performance of Albanie Falletta who charmed the smart attendees of her concert at Traditions Cafe in Olympia Sunday night.

Jazz sets follow and if you’re patient enough I finish with Dash Rip Rock’s “Let’s Go Smoke Some Pot” in honor of the State of Oklahoma adopting a medical cannabis initiative this week.

Oh and I almost forgot, while digging through the KAOS studio’s vinyl vault I found Danny Barker’s 1988 release Save the Bones  and I played his version of “St. James Infirmary.” Struck by his riffing on the traditional lyrics description of his funeral, I thought about Fred Johnson’s  description of how Danny Barker’s traditional funeral came about that I recorded in October of 2017 in his office in New Orleans.  You’ll get to hear the story as well on this show.

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Three years of Gumbo YaYa

Hello.  Today’s show marked three full years of airing a show about New Orleans music in a town over 2200 miles away from the Crescent City.  My thanks to community radio station KAOS and its listeners and supporters for letting me do this show.

Inkedcb_bday_LIThe show kicks off with Theryl “Houseman” Declouet with his infamous introduction regarding the third world status of New Orleans at a Galactic concert and flows quickly into Shamarr Allen’s “Party All Night.”  Al Hirt takes a turn and so does patron saint of this website and the show, Ernie K-Doe, with his classic “A Certain Girl.”  Who is she? Can’t tell ya.  I have reggae and hornpipes, jazz and blues and an amazing live airing of the Radiator’s 7 Devils from the 2006 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.  It was that concert that cinched the deal for me that I would be coming back to New Orleans as often as I could.

Here’s the edited show from today (September 7, 2017) marking three years.  Thank you for listening.

A bag full of New Orleans music videos for the holidays

Are you ready to get in the holiday spirit New Orleans style? Here’s the edited radio archived show inspired by the season.

I’ve pulled together another collection of videos of NOLA musicians celebrating the season. Starting with Shamarr Allen and friends busting moves to “This Christmas.”

Spencer Bohren fronts an all-star New Orleans cast including his son Andre and Marc Paradis of Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, Camille Baudin and Reggie Scanlon of The Radiators and featuring the amazing saxophone of Aurora Nealand.  

Hannukkah has passed and this isn’t necessarily a seasonal song but its a fascinating video of the New Orleans Klezmer All Star Band.  Check out that violin.

Tom Day Wait and his group Pigpen is another excellent example of how many young excellent musicians shun Nashville for New Orleans to do real country. Here he is doing “I’m Trimming My Christmas Tree with Teardrops.”

When that country sound hits New Orleans swing, sometimes the music comes out like”Santa’s Going Back Home,” by Jenavieve Cook & the Royal St Winding Boys. 

Kelcy Mae used to have to spend her holidays  splitting  time between her family and her partner. This poignant video and her elegant song celebrate how the legal and social acceptance of same sex marriages (and the relationships that build toward that commitment) make it easier to stay together during Christmas.  

I’ll have some of these songs above and much more on Monday’s show. You all have a fine and relaxing holiday. Stay in touch by subscribing and tuning in.

This is my second year of offering holiday videos. Check out last year’s collection which features Kermit Ruffins, Bonerama, Aaron Neville, Luke Winslow-King, Benny Bunch, TBC Brass Band, Paul Sanchez, Funky Butt Brass Band, and Trombone Shorty.