Tag Archives: New Orleans

The 12 Yats of Christmas

Okay, so it’s a day or so late, but so what. This was sent to my by my cyber friend, Linda, who hosts The Task as Hand.

People who have followed my blog since its inception, or who have rummaged around in its archives, know that I grew up in the small Cape Cod town of Orleans, and though I lived for more than a third of my life in Broward County, Florida in and around Fort Lauderdale, my spiritual home is, and always will be New Orleans where I lived for nearly 10 years.

New Orleanians are often referred to as “Yats.” Most specifically those who come from the Gentilly area out by the Fairgrounds race track and home of one of the greatest musical events in the world, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and the people who live in the uptown area around Magazine Street known as the “Irish Channel.” They have a unique accent. It’s much like a Brooklyn, New York accent, and probably because the immigrant mix of Irish and Italians to New Orleans is similar to that of Brooklyn.

The reason they’re called “Yats” comes from the manner in which they greet each other. They don’t say, “Hello,” “Good Morning,” or anything like that. They say, “Where y’at?” The response to which is, “Fine,” “Okay,” etc.

Linda sent me the following video in the comments section of this blog, but I’ve put it “Up Front,” so to speak to share it with all my readers.

Looking at the YouTube comments some of the things mentioned no longer exist in New Orleans. The K&B pharmacies, Schwegmann’s supermarkets, and of course the Lower Ninth Ward which still hasn’t been rebuilt. I will never return to New Orleans. Katrina destroyed it. Much of it is still in ruins, and it would break my heart to see the place so near and dear to my heart in such distress.

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Filed under New Orleans, New Orleans Music

New Orleans Music Is World Music

As my regular readers know, I lived in New Orleans for nearly 10 years from the mid ’70s to mid ’80s and, of course, fell in love with the music. I mean who wouldn’t? In my travels since leaving the Big Sleazy, I mean Big Easy, I’ve run across New Orleans music many places.

When I was living on the French Riviera the Neville Brothers, who were once upon a time a $5 cover charge at Tipitina’s on a Saturday night, were featured at the Juan les Pins Jazz Festival. Unfortunately for the Nevilles an acapella group of young girls from London opened the show and blew the audience away. They were called the Mint Juleps and though I posted a couple of videos of the group before I’ll post one to either jog your memory or introduce you to them. This was the song they opened their set with…

Now you understand why the Nevilles didn’t stand a chance after the girls left the stage.

A few years later when I was on my single-handed trip through Mexico, Belize and up into the Rio Dulce in Guatemala, I pulled into the small town of Placencia, Belize. After getting anchored and securing everything on board I hopped into the dinghy and headed to a funky bar built out over the water, and who should be wafting out over the water from the juke box? One of my all-time favorites, Marcia Ball.

A few days later as I was walking down the sidewalk in Placencia (there was no road or streets in Placencia when I was there, just this half mile-long “sidewalk” down the center of town) I heard another New Orleans music legend coming out of someone’s house.  It stopped me dead in my tracks and I just had to stand there in the broiling afternoon sun until Johnny Adams, also known as the “Tan Canary,” finished singing this famous song…

I only saw Johnny Adams live once, but it was something I’ll never forget. Now, hearing Marcia Ball and Johnny Adams, each within a week, tells you that Placencia, Belize is one VERY cool little town.

Last Friday I was down the hill a little way helping a gringo friend saw up some lumber. David, who also lived in New Orleans for a while, streams music into his shop from some feed in the States and there was an “I can name that tune in three notes” moment when this famous piano pounder from the Ninth Ward started to drift over the sound of the circular saw.

I sort of give that one a pass since I know it was beamed in from north of the Rio Grande and shouldn’t count but it’s MY blog and I LOVE the good Doctor.

But this next selection DOES count. I got onto my bus at the terminal in downtown David to head back up the hill this morning. People like to get on it as soon as the bus pulls into its berth because the air conditioning is on in the bus and it’s HOT in David this time of the year at noon. The buses all play music, mostly the “Tipica” rhytms of Panama which I really love, but you could have knocked me over with a feather when the local “Tipica” station aired THIS song…

You can travel all over the world, but if I keep my ears open New Orleans music will creep up on me and say, “Hey, Richard, WHERE Y’AT?”

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Filed under cruising, New Orleans, Piano Players, sailing

2,541 Reasons to Mourn This Day

Five years ago today  Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast of the United States leaving 1,836 dead and another 705 missing. New Orleans, of course, was the hardest hit and garnered the lion’s share of publicity from the people trapped in the Superdome.

While the people of New Orleans were about to be imprinted on the world’s stage this was going on 150 miles to the east…

In Mobile, Alabama

Almost immediately after the skies had cleared and images of the people stranded in the Dome and on rooftops started to hit the airwaves “compassionate conservatives” started to criticize the people who were trapped. But how do you evacuate when you’re in an ICU unit in Charity Hospital or Touro Infirmary? How do you evacuate when you’re bed ridden in a nursing home? How do you evacuate if you’re a doctor or nurse caring for those people?  How do you evacuate when you’re poor and don’t own a car? How do you evacuate when you’re an infant and your parents are poor and don’t have transportation? How do you evacuate if your owners don’t take you?

And the people who DID evacuate? Their lives, too, were forever changed because they had nothing left to come back to.

And  NEVER forget this idiot and his pal.

I loved New Orleans. I haven’t been there since Katrina and I never will. There are still large areas that haven’t recovered and I couldn’t bear to see that. It would break my heart.

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Filed under New Orleans, Uncategorized

Isidore “Tuts” Washington

“Tuts” was another New Orleans Piano legend. Born January 24, 1907 in New Orleans he started to teach himself how to play piano at age 10 and then studied with New Orleans jazz pianist Joseph Louis “Red” Cayou. He played with many jazz and Dixieland groups through the 20s and 30s. Hos keyboard style blended elements of ragtime, jazz, blues and boogie-woogie.
After living and playing in Saint Louis for many years he returned to New Orleans and in his later years he became a staple at the lounge of the Pontchartrain Hotel on the corner of St. Charles and Jackson Avenues on the edge of the Garden District.

Although he avoided recording for most of his career, he released the solo piano album New Orleans Piano Professor on Rounder Records in 1983.

On August 5, 1984, Tuts was playing at the New Orleans World’s Fair. After his first number and his usual response to the applause, (“Thank you, music lovers.”) He said, “I’m really happy to be with you here today. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to do this. I’m getting pretty old, you know…” He then played a little riff and stopped for a moment. He started playing another bit of a song and paused again before playing a couple of bars of a different song and then he died. Right there at the piano! No collapse and rushed off to a hospital somewhere. Isidore “Tuts” Washington died doing what he spent his life doing…making a joyful noise unto the Lord. We should all be so lucky to end our days the same way.

(P.S. I know this to be true because I actually happened to be there when it happened. The show was being broadcast live on WWOZ radio and somewhere in a HUGE box of cassette tapes I have is a rebroadcast of the event.)

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Filed under Music, New Orleans

Professor Longhair The “Real King of Rock & Roll”

Okay, children, sit up and pay attention. It’s music history time.

There are many who claim the title of the “King of Rock & Roll.” Carl Perkins, Elvis, Little Richard, but for those who really know the score, the “Real King of Rock & Roll” was Henry Roeland Byrd, more universally known as “Professor Longhair.”

Born December 19, 1918 in Bogalusa, Louisiana. You can hear the Fess’s piano influence in such piano players as Fats Domino, Little Richard, Doctor John, James Booker, Ann Rabson (Saffire, the Uppity Blues Women) and, of course, Marcia Ball who you’ve seen here previously. When Paul McCartney had his 40th birthday party aboard the Queen Mary his musical entertainment for the evening was provided by Professor Longhair. When asked to do a documentary about the Fess and play with him Allen Toussaint, noted songwriter (Java, Southern Nights among many) and no mean ivory tickler in his own right said, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly do that…when the Fess plays the only thing I can do is listen.”

Albert Goldman, Elvis’s biographer, said that “Professor Longhair gave Elvis Presley his blue suede shoes voice and the arrangements gave producer Sam Phillips the sound.”

It was one of Fess’s songs that gave the world-famous music club located on the corner of Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas Streets its name…Tipitina’s.

I spent many nights there completely entranced by his music and always tried to stand as close to the stage as possible to watch his hands in action. A good friend of mine, Curtis Arsenault, aka Coco Robicheaux, who lived upstairs from me, was one of the doormen at Tip’s and would often let me slip in for free. On the night of January 29th, 1980, my girlfriend at the time and I were driving past the club. I said that Curtis was on the door and asked if she’d like to stop in and catch a set. “No,” she said, “I’m exhausted. Let’s just go home and go to bed.” That night after his gig Henry Roeland Byrd went home and on the morning of January 30th died in his sleep. He was given a New Orleans Jazz Funeral in February on what turned out to be the coldest day of 1980.

My friend Curtis told me he was going to do a bronze bust of the Fess in his honor. Curtis was a good artist and cartoonist, but I had no idea that he was capable of doing a bronze sculpture. He did as you can see below.

bust

There is a small park kitty-corner to Tip’s and the original plan was to rename the park after the Fess and mount the bust there, but doo-doo transpires, as they say, and it never happened, so for the next two years the Fess served as the door stop of Curtis’s apartment. Happily it now sits just inside the entrance of Tipitina’s.

Here, then, is the Fess, himself, playing his song, Tipitina…..




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Filed under Music, New Orleans

New Orleans Jazz Funeral

I have been wondering what I should post for my next music video. There are so many of my favorite New Orleans musicians I want you to see.

I lived in New Orleans for nearly 10 years and I LOVED it there. At one time I thought I’d never leave. I loved the cuisine. There’s a line in a song by the New Orleans Jazz Poetry group that sums that up with “the whole day slid down my throat like gravy. My fingers still smell like food.”

I loved the music. I loved the people and I loved the culture of New Orleans. It is, or was before Katrina, a unique place in the world. But Katrina changed everything. It will never be the same again. It will, I’m afraid, be just a parody of its former self, and that is so sad. I know I will never return. It would break my heart.

So much of what is shown in movies is cliche and one of those is the Jazz Funeral. But those are real. I only attended one while I lived in New Orleans. It was for Professor Longhair in 1980 on a bright February day…the coldest day of the year as it happened. Hundreds of his fans turned out to see him off. Most of them brought cameras. I did not. I went to honor the man, the musician and to honestly pay my respects to a man who gave me so many special nights at Tipitina’s. I couldn’t take pictures. In my mind it would been disrespectful.

Jazz funerals are special events for special people. Primarily for members of the local musical family, but not always. People who have played a special role in the community at large are often honored with a Jazz Funeral. These are not mournful events. They are paying tribute to the LIFE of the person, not his/her loss.

There are many Jazz Funeral videos on youtube but this one, I think is special. It was for James Kerwin, New Birth Brass Band tuba player. Some people might find the handling of the casket shocking and perhaps, even, disturbing, but it is spontaneous and done with love, not disrespect.

Love it, or hate it, this is a powerful video.

I am weak, but Thou art strong;
Jesus, keep me from all wrong;
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Precious Jesus, hear my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?
Who with me my burden shares?
None but Thee, dear Lord, none but Thee.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Precious Jesus, hear my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more;
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom shore, to Thy shore.

Just a closer walk with Thee,
Precious Jesus, hear my plea,
Daily walking close to Thee,
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.

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Filed under New Orleans