December 7th is most recognized in the United States as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day but its also the birthday of two very important New Orleans musicians: Louis Prima and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux. Get the show started and then read on about their music and other features of this episode of Sweeney’s Gumbo YaYa.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was 31 years off when Louis Prima was born in 1910. He grew up listening to the nascent jazz of New Orleans, including Louis Armstrong. He formed a jazz band when he was a teenager, moved into swing during the 30’s, led a big band in the 40’s and was part of jump blues scene before settling down in the Las Vegas scene in the 1950’s. Like Satchmo, Prima played the trumpet but it was his singing that made him famous.
My first real encounter of him was his singing “I Wanna Be Like You” in the Disney animation “Jungle Book.” Later, he claimed that voicing the swinging orangutan King Louie in the film was a highlight of his career. You’ll hear that song on this show along with one of his Italian songs. His daughter, Lena Prima, also sings a song in his set.
Bombs were dropping on Pearl Harbor when Big Chief Monk Boudreaux was born in 1941. Of course, he wasn’t the chief of the Golden Eagles then. As a Black Indian of Mardi Gras Chief, Boudreaux was highly regarded. But when he paired with his buddy Big Chief Bo Dollis and formed the Wild Magnolias, the recording put the unusual cultural art form of Mardi Gras Indians on an international stage. Tootie Montana may be the Chief of All Chiefs but Boudreaux is the Chief of all recording chiefs. I could almost fill a whole show of his performances without ever violating the federal streaming rule that prohibits playing more than three songs from one artist name. Boudreaux performs with a wide range of artists, including Tab Benoit and Anders Osborne (songs featured in this show.)
There’s lots more to the show but why don’t you just let it flow over you. Hang in there to near the end and you’ll get an encore performance of Chief Boudreaux performing with his grandson J’wan Boudreaux, the spy boy for the Golden Eagles who fronts his own band, Cha Wa. Thanks for tuning in and consider subscribing. Thank you.