Monday, March 3, 2014


New Orleans is awash in cultural history. When you are inside its walls, it swallows you whole and you are immediately aware of it. It’s right in your face - the food, the music, the beads and the booze. But you have to go a few times (and get the hell off Bourbon Street) before it all sinks in and you fully understand the power of this great American city.

And once you leave and sober up, it’s easy to forget that it’s the birthplace of two uniquely American art forms - jazz and blues music. I will even make the argument that without the vibrant music scene of the 1920’s and 30’s in New Orleans, we would all be listening to hillbilly mountain music or dancing the minuet. No big band, no swing, no blues and certainly no rock and roll.

So, that means without New Orleans - specifically, Buddy Bolden, W.C. Handy and Jelly Roll Morton – there would be no popular music. Yep, the world would be without Beebs and Miley, if you can even wrap your head around that idea.

For the uninitiated, here’s a brief introduction to some of the music of New Orleans and it’s environs. Please use this as a starting point only. There’s no way to include everything. Just go digging. It all flows from New Orleans. All of it.

The Meters - Fiyo on the Bayou
The Meters are legendary funk masters. George Porter Jr., Zigaboo Modileste, Leo Nocentelli, and Art Neville were the baddest cats around. This song is a doorway into the heart of New Orleans Funk and the Meters were the house band for all of it.

Louis Armstrong – Do You know what it means
Louis Armstrong used to sign his letters with the following closing: “Red Beans and Ricely Yours.” We dig that.

Irma Thomas– I’d Rather Be Blind:
Etta James may be more famous for her version of this song, but Irma is the First Lady of New Orleans. And man, that voice….

Professor Longhair – Tipitina
James Booker – Junko Partner
Professor Longhair and James Booker rewrote the book on how to play piano. Otherworldly and completely original.

Tab Benoit – I Got Loaded
Tab is a Cajun from Baton Rouge who can really rip it up on the Telecaster. This song is a great example of a syncopated Cajun rhythm with a stout blues backbone. Otherwise known as 'Swampy.'

Marva Wright – St. James Infirmary
Sweet and soulful version of this achingly sad and beautiful (and originally Celtic) tune covered by many New Orleans artists. Marva had the blues, all right. Just listen.

Beau Jocque – Cisco Kid
Beau Jocque was a zydeco monster and we lost him too early. This is a very tight and groovy version of the War classic, ‘Cisco Kid’.

Dr. John – Gumbo
a/k/a The Night Tripper…Dr. John freaked everyone out early on (His 1968 record ‘Gris-Gris’ is awesomely terrifying) but he has emerged, along with the great Alan Touissant, as the grand elder statesman of New Orleans music. This 1972 classic album ‘Gumbo’ is much more accessible. A classic. Also check out his 2012 collab with the Black Keys Dan Auerbach, ‘Locked Down’.(

Marcia Ball – That’s Enough of that Stuff
Marcia Ball is a New Orleans piano staple mixed with a little Texas ‘tude.

Fats Domino – I hear you Knockin’
Fats Domino is how rock and roll began. You can’t tell me otherwise. “The Fat Man” was released in 1950 and he had a total of 37 top 40 hits. In the 80’s, he decided to stay home in New Orleans and stop touring because he couldn’t get good food on the road. This is a bad, bad man.

The Radiators – Long Hard Journey Home
The ‘Rads’ are a musician’s band. Virtuoso players in an ensemble cast and they toured constantly. Their live shows were incendiary and they were always chosen to be the closing act for the New Orleans Jazz Fest before they broke up in 2013. That’s called R-E-S-P-E-C-T. This is a clip from their appearance on Treme, the excellent HBO series about a post-Katrina New Orleans.(

Fats Domino

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