I've always been a music collector whether it be Christmas music, songs by one hit wonders, Tom Waits rarities or various obscure tunes from a wide variety of genres.
One of my favorite music genres to collect is New Orleans Mardi Gras songs. Every year, I create a new Mardi Gras Playlist and along with some of the yearly staples (like Prof Longhair's Go To The Mardi Gras or Hey Pocky Way by The Meters), I usually seek out songs I haven't come across before.
The songs of the Carnival Season play an integral part of New Orleans' Mardi Gras cultural identity. Since the 1700's this music has enhanced the traditions of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Along with the costumes, the food and the parades, the music enhances the spirit of Mardi Gras!
Mardi Gras music is not so much a style of music as it is an aural milieu comprised of various forms. Among them: orchestral and big-band arrangements played at tableau balls; Mardi Gras-themed rhythm-and-blues numbers that pour out of jukeboxes, “cutting-loose” jazz tunes that drive revelers to shake booty and pump umbrellas in the air; Afro-Caribbean chants and percussive rhythms associated with Mardi Gras Indians; and parade-time beats from school bands marching between floats in parades.
The nexus between Carnival and music reflects the festive, let-the-good-times-roll culture of the Crescent City, where parading and dancing have long been obsessions…indeed, this spirit of joie de vivre — i.e., the Mardi Gras spirit — is almost a precondition of the sounds for which the Crescent City became famous. As Dr. John, arguably the foremost living interpreter of the city’s musical traditions stated ‘New Orleans music was not invented, it just kind of grew up naturally, joyously, just for fun.’
Being a musician in New Orleans is all about having fun with the music, and at no time is this more evident than during Carnival season. The same Mardi Gras spirit that prompts revelers to shed inhibitions and seek ritual transformation has a way of encouraging playfulness and spontaneity on the bandstand, as well as countless variations on old Carnival favorites such as Carnival Time, Hey Pocky Way, Second Line, Go to the Mardi Gras and Big Chief. And it seems that almost every year brings the release of new would-be anthems, as bands try to repeat the feat of the ReBirth Brass Band, whose infectious brass/funk number Do Watcha Wanna exploded during Carnival 1991. Thus, the Carnival songbook is continually expanded and reinvented, helping fuel a brisk business in releasing the Mardi Gras equivalent of Christmas-music anthologies. As long as there have been parades, dances and balls in New Orleans, there has been a steady demand for musicians.
Fats Domino was signed to the Imperial Records label in 1949 to be paid royalties based on sales instead of a fee for each song. Fats and producer Dave Bartholomew wrote The Fat Man, a toned down version of a song about drug addicts called Junker Blues; the record had sold a million copies by 1951. Domino released a series of hit songs with Bartholomew (also the co-writer of many of the songs), the saxophonists Herbert Hardesty and Alvin “Red” Tyler, the bassist Billy Diamond and later Frank Fields, and the drummers Earl Palmer and Smokey Johnson. Other notable and long-standing musicians in Domino's band were the saxophonists Reggie Houston, Lee Allen and Fred Kemp, Domino's trusted bandleader.
In 1946, the balladeer Danny Barker played guitar and sang four tracks for a short-lived New York label that constitute the first songs of Mardi Gras Indians – a term of no media currency back then. “Indian Red,” has had many reincarnations since.
Barker also sang a paean to Big Chief's woman killed in a crossfire, Corinne Died On The Battlefield, which Willie T. and Bo Dollis refitted as Corey Died On The Battlefield for the Wild Magnolias in 1973.
Another tune, Chocko Me Feendo Hey, was popularized in 1954 as Jockomo by Sugar Boy and the Cane Cutters and 10 years later as a refrain in Iko Iko by the Dixie Cups. Barker didn't create the lines but was the first to use them in studio with a long reach back to streets of his youth.
Tootie Ma Is A Fine Big Thing
Tootie Ma was a big fine thing
Ho Natay, swing that thing.
Tootie Ma was a big fine thing
Ho Natay, swing that thing
Tootie Ma says sure is fine
Ho Natay, swing that thing
Tootie Ma says sure is fine
Ho Natay, swing that thing
Finest gal you ever saw
Done some things against the law
Took my ma, broke my pa
I'm gonna knock on her door
It might not be one of the best Mardi Gras songs, but you’ve got to check out singer Benny Grunch for his honest appraisal of New Orleans’ sad luck of lavatory facilities during carnival season with his song!
The Soul Rebels started with an idea – to expand upon the pop music they loved on the radio and the New Orleans brass tradition they grew up on. They took that tradition and blended funk and soul with elements of hip hop, jazz and rock all within a brass band context. The band has built a career around an eclectic live show that harnesses the power of horns and drums in a deep pocket funk party-like atmosphere. The Soul Rebels continue to chart new territory as they feature in major films, tour globally, and combine topnotch musicianship with songs that celebrate dancing, life, funk and soul.
Hear ye! Hear Ye!
This wild live album by Rebirth Brass Band is
Live, Raucous, Raunchy, Feral, and Powerful!
The 24 minute Main Event transports the listener to a whole new world!
The Golden Eagles & Monk Boudreaux: Shoo Fly (Live)
One of the most unique aspects of Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans is the rituals of the Mardi Gras Indians. From the neworleans.com site: “Mardi Gras is full of secrets, and the Mardi Gras Indians are as much a part of that secrecy as any other carnival organization. Their parade dates, times and routes are never published in advance, although they do tend to gather in the same areas every year. The Mardi Gras Indians are comprised, in large part, of the African-American communities of New Orleans's inner city. While these Indians have paraded for well over a century, their parade is perhaps the least recognized Mardi Gras tradition.
The Mardi Gras Indian tradition goes back at least as far as Reconstruction, though it wasn’t until the 1950s that the sounds associated with that tradition began to be translated into popular music. Sugar Boy Crawford’s Jockomo, released on the Chess label in 1954, became a jukebox classic. And Huey Piano Smith used the Indian chant Oom bah way, tu way pocky way, in the very first line of his hit Don’t You Know, Yockomo.
IF YER LOOKING FOR SOME MARDI GRAS SOUNDS
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Lloyd Glenn : Rompin' Rhumba
Born in San Antonio, Texas, from the late 1920s, Glenn played with various jazz bands in the Dallas and San Antonio areas, first recording in 1936 with Don Albert's Orchestra. He moved to California in 1941, joining the Walter Johnson trio in 1944, and finding employment as a session musician and arranger. He accompanied T-Bone Walker on his 1947 hit Call It Stormy Monday, and later the same year made his own first solo records, billed as Lloyd Glenn and His Joymakers.
In 1949 he joined Swing Time Records as A&R man, and recorded a number of hits with Lowell Fulson, including Everyday I Have the Blues and the #1 R&B hit Blue Shadows. He also had major R&B hits of his own, with Chica Boo, which also made #1 on the R&B chart in June 1951. At the same time, he continued to perform as pianist in Kid Ory's Creole Jazz Band. Glenn left Ory in 1953, about the same time that he was contracted to Aladdin Records, where he both produced and played on, B.B. King's 1960 album, My Kind of Blues.
Floyd Dixon: Hey Bartender
Widely known as Mr. Magnificent, Dixon specialized in jump blues and sexualized songs like Wine Wine Wine, Too Much Jelly Roll and Hey Bartender. In 1993, Dixon was honored with the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1993.
John Mooney & The Soul Rebels Brass Band
Drink A Little Poison (4 U Die)
In 1976, Mooney moved to New Orleans, and soon he was playing with host of musicians in the New Orleans R&B circuit including Earl King, The Meters, Snooks Eaglin and Professor Longhair. In 1981, Mooney formed his own band, Bluesiana, with whom he has been recording and touring since. He has released albums from several different labels including Against the Wall on the House of Blues label in the U.S., and also others from the German labels CrossCut and Ruf. In 2000, he returned to Blind Pig to release Gone to Hell which featured Dr. John as a special guest. All I Want followed two years later on the label.
The Meters - Talkin' Bout New Orleans
The Meters, during their dozen or so years of existence (circa 1965 – 1977), helped develop the New Orleans R&B sound of that era along with influencing the musical style known as funk. In 1968, the band decided to work under the moniker, The Meters.
In 1969 they began working with producer Allen Toussaint and came up with such cool singles as Sophisticated Cissy, Cissy Strut, Look-Ka Py Py and Chicken Strut; all of which charted nationally. These Neville Brothers singles were all instrumentals that was influenced by the work of the Memphis-based group Booker T and the MGs. Over time, the Meters expanded their musical style to include material that featured vocals that honored the New Orleans’ second-line tradition.
In 1974, The Meters scored big with a song called Hey Pocky A-Way. Their use of Mardi Gras Indian material became a perennial New Orleans favorite. Around this time, The Meters added Art’s brother Cyril to take on the role of a lead vocalist and percussionist.
As time went on, The Meters continued to work with Allen Toussaint as he created hits for various artists such as Dr. John’s Right Place, Wrong Time (1973), LaBelle’s Lady Marmalade (1975); and Paul McCartney’s Listen To What The Man Said (1975).
Jon Cleary - The Crave (Jelly Roll Morton) @ Brooklyn Bowl
Jon Cleary is a British-born American funk and R&B musician who left the UK to live in New Orleans where, over the years, he absorbed the musical culture and life of New Orleans . Cleary is widely known for his excellent work as a pianist along with being a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and excellent songwriter.
At the present time, Cleary's current band is Jon Cleary & The Absolute Monster Gentlemen. Their album Go Go Juice won the Grammy Award for Best Regional Roots Music Album in the 58th Annual Grammy Awards.
Dr. John - Careless Love
At the very start of the 20th century. Careless Love was (and still is) one of the most widely known Carnival songs. It was initially part of the repertoire of the immortal Buddy Bolden band in New Orleans.
To this very day Careless Love has remained a Mardi Gras standard. Over the years, Careless Love has also been sung by Elvis Presley, Louis Armstrong, Lonnie Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller, Dave Van Ronk, Lead Belly, Odetta, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, Ray Charles, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Bill Monroe, Johnny Cash, Frankie Laine, Skip James, Snooks Eaglin and Harry Connick Jr.
Well that wraps up Part 2 of my 2004 Mardi Gras Playlist
Hope y'all enjoyed these tasty New Orleans sounds!
If you got a case of Mardi Gras Fever
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