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Ole Oddlokken

Born in Lillihammer, Norway, Ole Oddlokken spent his winters as many children did in the area; outdoors, often skiing. During the summer months when the climate had warmed, you could find him participating in the local marching band. Unlike here, the marching bands there were, and still are, not directly affiliated with schools. But many children in Lillihammer volunteered and Ole would do the same. Originally, he took interest in the valve trombone, but this was a popular choice for many of the kids. So, the band leader suggested a saxophone. Sometimes it’s life that steers us in just the right direction. As this sax really resonated with ten-year-old Ole and is still his instrument of choice today. The first two songs he learned would be Frere Jaque and (ironically) When the Saints Go Marching In. Being an extra-curricular activity, a true desire was present amongst children in this program. They gave end of the year recitals and many would often go on to perform in the adult community orchestra. As an adult, Ole followed suit, performing with several orchestras and big bands in town. It was then that he was exposed to jazz music.

While playing in various bands, Ole studied fine art at a college in Olso, a town south of Lillihammer. There he would meet his future wife, Nonny, an exchange student originally from New Orleans, Louisiana. He and Nonny would go onto marry, eventually giving birth to a baby girl. In 1994, when their daughter was a year old, they moved to New Orleans and settled in as a family. His saxophone would rest in its case for the next eleven years, as life for Ole became less about the arts and more about family and a regular job. Hurricane Katrina spurred a desire for inspiration and creation in Ole. And luckily that saxophone survived the storm. Joining a small folk singer/ songwriter band quenched his thirst for the arts. They played shows around town and went on to put out an EP. But during this time, he had been doing photography work and there were concerns about making gigs and so forth. So, after a few years, Ole left the band. But moving forward, that sax wouldn’t see its case as often, as dipping his feet in musical waters was a path that once again reunited Ole with his passion. And, as he said, “from there, the rest is history”. 

This long span of time that encompassed his move and settlement into the U.S. left Ole without any musicality. It also cleansed his palette of the music styles and compositions of his homeland. Starting again in music for him might as well have been starting anew, as his new surroundings brought new roles and atmospheres. He traded sheet music and traditional styles for improvisation. Although this had been new and exciting territory for Ole, a rift would again soon form between him and his calling. Putting down the sax to concentrate on his photography gig once again left a void within him. And after a year he found his way back into music through a Craigslist ad, joining a funk band by the name of Noisewater. The new digs were a fun change of pace; not particularly deep, but a hit in the bar/ venue scene. Local shows at Café Negril on Frenchmen Street, Banks Street Bar, Tipitina’s and others close to home made managing a job, a family, and band performances possible. And by all accounts, the band did well. They were on tv and radio, and even put out an EP. Delving further into expression and farther away from theory, Ole would occasionally get together and play with Will Vance and the Kinfolk, as well as improvisational funk, hip hop band, Breaux Jackson. Ole recalls a crazy night playing with Breaux Jackson at One Eye’d Jacks, where Andy Dick showed up. The night resulted in a viral video you might have seen where Andy Dick got knocked out just outside the venue.

Through a booking contact in Lake Charles, Noisewater had the chance to play a few dates with The Shizz, headed up by classically trained singer Lilly Lewis. As time went on, Noisewater would play fewer and fewer gigs, and Ole would go on to play in Lilly’s following band, The Lilly Lewis Project. Several of Noisewater’s members would do the same. Chad Carlisle would bring contributions on keys, and Will Laird would come in on bass. Although at times a bit funky, the Lilly Lewis Project is something special. Introspective thoughts project outward as she discusses things like losing one’s self, or what freedom means to her. And this was yet another change of pace for Ole. He had long ago left sheet music for exploratory improv and funk. And now, for the past six years, he has been able to contribute to a more soulful mixture in Lilly’s band.

Not that long ago, Ole went back to Norway for a visit with family. Just after his return he was able to play one show with the Lilly Lewis Project at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation stage on Rampart. Then Covid hit, bringing live performances to a halt. But by this time, his love of the craft had cemented itself deep within him. Fortunately, his saxophone would not be relinquished to its case as in previous instances. Oddly enough, this deafening silence handed down to us all became yet another inspiration for him. And as he noted, he feels as though it made him a better sax player, among other things. He reacted by writing his own music and setting up a recording studio in his home office. “The label I worked for, put out this thing (on social media) just to get people to share music and such which was ‘tag five musicians and share a music video of you playing a song.’ So, I was like, ok I’ll join in on that. I had been writing some music so I recorded myself playing that and put that up. I continued writing music and making videos just to have some sort of creative outlet. Next thing you know, I was like, this looks like a full album at this point.” Ole would begin a journey that resulted in his first self-produced and recorded album, The Home Office Sessions.

Following the videos that inspired this, the project began with Ole writing and recording his parts. Once all of the parts were recorded, he began reaching out to former band mates to record their parts and add their style. Brandon Hotard and Hayden Winfried, both from Noisewater, contributed guitar work, as did guitarist and producer Britton Newton. Chad Carlisle, who we mentioned earlier from Noisewater, made contributions on keys. For drums, Ole tapped on Wayde Hymel of the Lilly Lewis Project, as well as Milton Mansfield, and James Clarke. To polish things off, he was able to procure a percussionist and a cellist from New England. Lyricist Da Prophecy came in for some features rapping and Nonny, his wife, did spoken word. Throughout the project, he encouraged the contributors to play what they felt, only occasionally requesting a swell here or a certain texture there.

On our website, neworleansmusicians.com, you will find a delightful new experience for Ole in the form a music video for one of the songs featured on The Home Office Sessions, Master Divider. The night we spoke of earlier where Andy Dick got knocked out at One Eye’d Jacks was when Ole first met lyrical contributor Da Prophecy. The two shared the stage that night, as Da Prophecy sat in on a few Breaux Jackson songs. This time, Da Prophecy contributed lyrics to Master Divider, a beautifully written jazz track with rap lyrics. Ole also made use of a website that generates visual pieces from which an artist can build a music video. The music video link, as well as a link to the video composition website will be included below. Diverging from his time with Noisewater and the bar-scene party hits, he wanted this album to say something. Though he does not doubt that his heritage and musical back ground may have snuck its way into this work, Ole feels as though being Norwegian didn’t really come out in his expressions on this album. In fact, one of the songs that didn’t make it to the album was a Norwegian folk standard. He felt as though it didn’t really fit. And honestly, he finds Norwegian music to be a bit melancholy, straying from the vibe of this album. At times, the guitar work gets a bit heavy in his opinion. As Ole explained, “instead of just being all melancholy and chill, I like the contrast of that guitar on a couple of songs where it gets heavy”. He did mention drawing inspiration from his love for a German label, ECM, whose catalog features euro jazz, classical, and rock albums. He also cited Christian Scott’s post-Katrina work, Anthem, as a source of inspiration.

As a body of work, The Home Office Sessions album spans genres and moods, definitely lending itself to crossover appeal. I believe there’s something in there for everyone. Though mostly an instrumental, the album enjoys lyrical guest appearances from both Da Prophecy and Ole’s wife Nonny. Being created solely as a response to an epidemic lockdown, this album effectively has not seen the light of day; sans the digital arena. Ole hopes to once again call on his musician friends and perform the album live. Exposing the album and getting in-person feedback will bring this project around full-circle. And it’s something we should all look out for. Until then you can find the video for Master Divider at the link below.

Author: David Trahan

neworleansmusicians.com

Master Divider – https://neworleansmusicians.com/video/180

Master Divider used Rotor Videos visual builder

https://rotorvideos.com/

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MJ Dardar

Eleven miles from the head of passes on the Mississippi River, Michael Dardar grew up in the small fishing community of Venice, Louisiana with one older sister always by his side. In his house could be heard a wide variety of sounds, as his mother was a Barbara Striesand and Frank Sanatra fan, while his father loved listening to The Eagles, The Allman Brothers, Boston, and Foghat. His first live musical experiences came from the local church, where his mother was a leader in the church choir. Gazing across such contrasting soundscapes, he would ultimately gravitate toward his father’s tastes. And around fifteen or sixteen years of age, he began to experiment with the idea of writing and making music along with a childhood friend. “You know the Fischer Price microphone things? We would go in there; we’d put these little cassette tapes in there and we’d put the scotch tape on top of them. And we would basically tape songs on a different stereo, whether it would be a Beatles tape or something like that. And we would overdub our own lyrics and melodies on top of the tapes.” Looking back, he laughs at the thought of his father popping in one of his favorite tapes only to find his own voice beaming from the speakers. Years of this would eventually culminate in his first album, Rust, recorded in April on 2021.

From his days of experimenting with recordings of his own, the allure of one day making the transition into live performances seeded deep within him. And it never left. And although he rounded up a talented bunch of musicians to pull off the album, his only experience performing it came as an acoustic set with friend and co-writer, Jerry Martin. The two would eventually translate the work into an all-inclusive performance, implementing more band members and instrumental elements to his act. Gradually, guys like Mark Kryvanick and Tim Belanger would join them on bass and drums respectively. And he would implement a rotating roster of guys like Tillis Verdin, Brett Guillory, Teddy Baudoin, and Travis Thibodeaux on keys. Larger shows would even see a horn section taking to the stage. Adding the horns to his live performances, MJ feels, really resonated with himself as well as the crowd. “Adding that horn section is kind of the big one. The last time we did it was an album release party which was early May, May 6th I believe. And every song on our last album had full horn sections. And so, to be able to perform them that way, with the actual horn lines as opposed to transposing keyboard parts and things like that… it’s so much better and is really able to translate what we recorded into the live performance.” These elements were a refreshing change from the previous acoustic performances which had eventually become stale in his eyes. As Jerry Martin points out, “There’s nights, as an acoustic gig, where you’re struggling to hear yourself (above the crowd).”

With Houma and Lafayette being mainstays for the MJ Dardar band, the Tasting Room and Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans have also played host. But Houma has always marked home base for MJ. Enlisting a full-time manager and maintaining a strong online presence has enabled him to broaden his reach, which he hopes will eventually lead to a venture outside of normal boundaries. Finding value in this, MJ has been sure to engage with fans and followers in the thousands across multiple platforms. I, for one, have enjoyed the personal aspect in videos where he sits down in front the camera, playing acoustic guitar and singing. This ability to connect with his audience was instrumental during the height of Covid back in April of 2020. Along with Jerry Martin and other band mates, he committed to remotely filming forty-one full request, multi-track videos in thirty days. It was through this personal challenge and the resulting encouragement of online audiences that the genesis of the Rust record took hold.

At their core, the songs on Rust feel good. The rhythm guitar strums, tambourines, and shakers keep you in the groove while story lines originate from the heart. And bringing in that brass section gives it a feint departure from your typical country sound. Hammond and reed organ contributions back MJ’s soulful vocals nicely. And he’s got just enough grit in his voice, like the perfect mix of sweet and savory. Track “Leaver” pulls us away from this rural soundscape completely, delivering a surprising R&B plunge. Softer rhodes and sustained piano take the edge off as MJ sings about the value of his family as a child. The overall quality of these recordings is unquestionable. And this is important to point out because it doesn’t take much to pull a listener outside of an enveloping experience due to a distractive distortion or overwhelming level. It’s a delicate balance that MJ and the band maintain very well. And their ability to cross over from country to R&B seems completely natural.

MJ recorded his debut album at Audiosmith Studio in Prairieville, Louisiana under the guidance of owner Robbie Smith, a long-time friend and associate of his band mate Jerry Martin. As luck would have it, this would give way to a host of opportunities for him. Not long after completing his album, Robbie would go on to help form Redstick Records, a label out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. And he asked if MJ would be interested in signing a recording contract with the label. Travis Thibodeaux, whom I mentioned earlier, would also do work for the studio on keys. Bringing his experience as the keyboard player and vocalist for Journey, and writing credits for “Take My Hand” recorded by Grammy winner Wayne Toups, Travis would prove a valuable asset. Through Redstick Records, MJ would have the pleasure of working with Brignac Lane Studios in Saint Amant, Louisiana while still reaping the benefits of Robbie’s production skills. He would also go onto be featured in several works by Jambon and Company, a band that had also recorded at Audiosmith Studio. Taylor Nauta, another artist on the Redstick roster, recorded guitar on MJ’s upcoming record “Caught Up In The Middle Of The Rain”. And Deanna Scott, MJ’s manager, would be taken on as Artist Management at Redstick Records. Being within this circle of musicians, recording studios, and labels has enabled MJ to implement things like strings into his work. The extension has also accommodated him in his quest to expand across country, blues, R&B, and pop genres. And being in the room with some of his personal heroes while soaking in the camaraderie and confidence of others has really inspired him to push the envelope.

With album number two, “The Reason Why”, nearly complete. And his third album taking shape, MJ am Jerry still intend to release stripped down, acoustic versions in the midst. The impact of growth through their journey, first with Robbie Smith of Audiosmith Studio, then Redstick Records and manager Deanna Scott continues to propel the two forward. Over 100 shows this past year and so much time logged in the studio is proof positive of their drive. I couldn’t be more delighted to have the privilege of sitting down with MJ and his team, and discussing how things took shape as well as where the band hopes to find themselves in the future. Below you will find relevant links to the players mentioned in this article. The full interview can be found on our podcast where MJ, Jerry, and myself go on to discuss navigating festivals and venues, chord structures and story lines of previous albums versus upcoming ones, and much more. Special thanks goes out to Kevin Sevin in Houma, Louisiana for the use of his beautiful home during the filming of this interview, which you will soon be able to see on our youtube channel by subscribing today.

https://mjdardarmusic.com

https://www.audiosmithstudio.com

https://redstickrecords.com

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

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Poisson Rouge

A sense of identity can be drawn from the music one chooses. And as children, a sense of our family’s identity is passed on to us in this manner. We’re not always lucky enough to have heritage tucked into that medium. But members of the band Poisson Rouge were. Now husband and wife, located in Erath, Louisiana, founding members Greg and Kylie Griffin were both steeped in Acadian culture as children. Some relatives in Kylie’s family spoke fluent French. And the sounds of zydeco artists like Rockin Sydney were frequently heard by Greg as a child. As awareness of their culture gradually took hold, they began to form bonds with the underlying meanings of these elements. Those like Greg and Kylie that are fortunate enough to learn about their heritage at an early age often feel a sense of pride within it and a duty to protect it. This sentiment is at the core of Poisson Rouge.

Perhaps a brief pause is in order to help clarify key components of the origins of this microcosm we call Louisiana. Acadian heritage is that of French ex-patriots that arrived in Nova Scotia seeking religious freedom. And in their quest were ultimately driven out of the province, some coming to settle in Louisiana. The Creole heritage draws from people indigenous to Louisiana as a colony and possesses French, West African, Spanish and Native American roots. Consequently, the Creole population is comprised of African, Caucasian, and multi-racial people. Cajun is a result of the melding of both Acadians and Creoles. Being that the groups are now so closely related and the origins of each date back hundreds of years amongst many continents, all of what I just said is debatable. And the terms have taken on different meanings over the years. But for the purposes of this article, it will help to at least explain the continuity amongst the influences of each.

Being a genre built upon and delivering messages of tradition, the realm of cajun, zydeco, and creole music can sometimes be tricky to navigate for musicians. Purist nay-sayers turn up occasionally, thumbing their nose at the infusion of styles such as R&B or funk that are outside of familiar landscapes. I suspect there is an inherent fear that things of this nature will eventually dilute an important element of these cultures. But while Poisson Rouge appreciates the importance of the preservation of traditional styles, they welcome inspiration from other genres too. For instance, their song La Louisiane contains more than one verse where Kylie actually raps. But the song is encased in familiar zydeco elements like a washboard, an accordion, and a French horn. As for the final result, how does it sound you might ask? Poisson Rouge books countless venues and festivals every year with attendances from hundreds to thousands.

Like many of us, Greg, Kylie, and other members of this band grew up listening to a multitude of different genres. And sometimes the influence of those alternative genres seep into and subsequently change the final result. As for the nay-sayers, Greg disagrees with the idea that music needs to be made to appeal to other people. And I second this notion because I believe pandering to appeal hinders creativity. Ironically, the free communication of and borrowing from different genres closely parallels the manner in which cajun, creole, and zydeco genres were formed over the years. Similarly, though trumpet and french horn were Kylie’s strong suit, she sought to change that upon returning to the University of Lafayette to pursue her master’s degree in music. Courses there with horns were centered around classical jazz. As she explained to the university, “I’m done with the band stuff. I don’t want to play french horn anymore because it doesn’t serve any purpose. I’m just teaching music, I’m not playing music in that genre, you know classical jazz.” Kylie went on to play accordion while pursuing her masters. Within the concept of influences shared amongst genres, I couldn’t help but think what effect years of french horn and trumpet in a classical jazz setting had on a musician that would ultimately play accordion in a zydeco band. I find these things both fascinating and convergent. The cross-over appeal between audiences that Poisson Rouge enjoys is achieved by their willingness to accept and include influences from other genres not native to their history. With tradition and progression lurking, Poisson Rouge as a body of work has never felt contrived for its members. There is a deep-rooted passion that underlies their resulting sound. Some of the band’s members are people who were music majors in college. Some of them are music teachers now. Some of their families’ members play music. And all of them got to see musicians on festival stages at an early age.

In Louisiana, there are more festivals per year than days in a year. We celebrate everything from culture and industry to wooden boats and food trucks. Yes, we actually have several food truck festivals. (The next one is in Slidell, Louisiana on October 29th, 2022, a week from this article’s posting.) Making the transition from the crowd to the stage, bassist Greg Griffin has taken notice of those in attendance at some of these festivals. Often times he can read what type of crowd he’s playing for by their style of dress. And even when the crowd hasn’t quite fit his band’s infused design, he’s still seen nods of approval. But singer/ accordion player Kylie expressed concern stating, “Playing in Alexandria has been the most eye opening. Because nobody really dances; very few. You will get some people that will dance. And you’re like woah, one couple danced. But down here, that (dancing) is the norm…. It goes to show you how fast our culture is just going away, especially in some areas of the state.” When Kylie was growing up, you couldn’t keep drinks on the tables in zydeco clubs due to the amount of people dancing on wooden floors.

Through twists and turns in the bayou, the trees begin to envelope you, gradually concealing a world beyond. Likewise, the further one strays off the beaten path in Louisiana, the more they become surrounded by unique characteristics indigenous to the region. These features contribute a sense of singularity to the land as well as its inhabitants. Losing these features can essentially begin to strip away the character of a region and a sense of one’s own identity. Long ago, our nation’s Constitution removed bilingualism and in time would include an article that restricted the judicial process to the English language. This reduced the status of the French in Louisiana. And the assimilation of Louisiana’s French population into a now English society would see children chastised and humiliated for speaking French in schools. Since the language of a people is at the core of their identity, this effectively began the removal of their existence. Kylie grew up on a crawfish farm in Pecan Island that was later claimed by Hurricane Rita, which ultimately resulted in its sale. Her children will never know that way of life, nor will their children. And it was her late grandmother that would speak French to her when she was a child, not her parents. With the extinguishment of these factors comes a cultural whitewashing. As time marches on and previous generations die, with them is buried little pieces of our heritage. Unearthing these pieces and placing them on display is essential to maintaining a people’s continuation. In Greg and Kylie’s capacity both as musicians and as school teachers, it has always been a focal point to keep their own culture at the forefront of their efforts. They have both participated in a French immersion program in Nova Scotia that works to embolden the use of French language amongst its participants. They have put on summer music camps for children in the past where the kids played guitar, fiddle and accordion, singing songs in French. The school where they both teach facilitates a crawfish pond and a rice patch, familiarizing its students with their local way of life. The song I had mentioned previously, La Louisiane, speaks about the causes and effects resulting in a disappearing culture. And in building upon traditional music styles and stories, and travelling to spread these messages, Poisson Rouge hopes to instill a sense of urgency in its audience as to the needs of a dying legacy. You can find out more about Poisson Rouge on their website poissonrougemusic.com. There you will find pictures, bio’s and links to more music.

Greg Griffin – Bass

Kylie Griffin – Vocals, accordion

Jude Pryor – Guitar

Bradley Gueho – washboard

Scott Domingue – Percussionist

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

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Elevation

Registration

Start by creating a profile on Neworleansmusicians.com. Be sure to fill in all the blanks and upload a song. With your registration, you can message other bands and businesses in the industry. You can also list on the show calendar and music classifieds. And any tracks you have on the 12 streaming platforms we are a member of will be added to our public playlists on those platforms. Your music presence online has just doubled!

Short Questionnaire

Because you uploaded at least one track, you are e-mailed a questionnaire. This contains questions about your band’s style, inspiration, and history. Once this is returned, you will be featured in our podcast. Instead of commercials half-way through every episode, we shout out our members. We draw our discussion from your questionnaire answers, and then play an example of your work for the audience to hear.

Upload a video

Once you are a member, you are able to upload videos. This would preferably be footage related to your band, and you do this from your profile. Your video is displayed on your profile, as well as our Videos page. And it will appear on our Youtube Channel as well. We will also began promoting your video on social media. You’re one of the family now. We’ve got you!

Inquire about an interview

Contact us via e-mail, social, or by phone and inquire about being interviewed. After we verify that you have a complete account with us, we confirm your eligibility and place you in the interview pool. We choose all our interviews from this group, making sure to cover every genre. Our interviews result in several Youtube videos, an article on our blog, and a podcast episode on our show.

Becoming a member of NOM means many things….

In becoming a member of our growing network of Louisiana musicians, you gain many advantages. This site is not like facebook and other social media sites. It exists strictly for networking purposes. We are onboarding Louisiana bands currently, and will move on to filling Vendor directories soon. These will include venues, sound & light companies, recording studios, and the like from all over the world. Our goal is to empower Louisiana’s talent with tools while remaining exclusive to bands from our state. This is why we only accept bands from Louisiana. Members can message other bands or vendors directly within the site at any time. I created this site and personally keep in touch with its members. Promotional material that our members create is shared constantly on our social. You will begin to see your show announcements shared by us. Promotional material that we create for our interviewees is shared repeatedly on social for months. Any leads on gigs that we generate are sent to members first. We have assisted in filling spots at venues, in movies, and on podcasts. Members’ song plays are tracked through our site and those with the most plays earn placement as Artist of the Month. There are three chosen per month. Those bands are given a spot at the top of our home page with a graphic and link. I look forward to getting to know your band and fulfilling your needs. And remember, I will NEVER ask you for money. I have created a line of merchandise and an account at BuyMeaCoffee to help support my efforts. With enough eyes and ears, I also hope to generate money from Youtube and podcast ads. Any money generated from this site goes right back into it, back into supporting Louisiana’s independent artists.

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

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The Indelible Robert Snow

Childhood memories are of such a profound permanence. Not only are they the antecedents of our future existence. But they play an integral part in shaping who we become in this world. Whether it be parallel of or contrary to, those closest to us in the beginning are the means from which we model ourselves. For Robert, growing up amongst musicians exposed him to the many sides of music at an early age. His father, Sidney Snow, was playing bass and guitar professionally in various bands since 1957. And both his cousin and uncle were musicians as well. Answering the house phone sometimes meant hearing the voice of someone like Eartha Kitt on the other end. And before Robert would go on to choose his own path in life, he witnessed his father successfully support a family performing with people like Dr. John and Teddy Riley. Celebrity may not quite register in the minds of children. But hearing his father play guitar on the radio most definitely did. And knowing his dad played the guitar in Angel Baby may not have struck a chord with a young Robert. But he knew who the Beatles were. And hearing John Lennon compliment the guitar piece in that very song by Rosie and the Originals certainly resonated with Robert.  

As fate would have it, by the time he was at Mcmain Magnet High School in New Orleans, he was playing second chair coronet. It was here that Robert spent some time picking up on music theory and a deeper appreciation for jazz. He would later make the move to Chalmette High where he was selected for all-state in the school band. For his exceptional talent, he was awarded several scholarships. But playing jazz in a school band wasn’t something that he took all too seriously. Many of us have a time in life that we can look back on where we chose desire over opportunity. For Robert, this would be one of those times. The transitional period from adolescence to manhood swayed Robert more toward his girlfriend and less toward the out-of-state scholarships. Combining this factor with the hold early eighties metal had taken on him, playing coronet away from home in a College jazz band just didn’t appeal to him. Still, the fact that playing music had become elemental in Robert’s landscape was clear, no matter the course.

As with many musicians coming out of high school, the need for cash landed him at various jobs and further away from any consideration of a career in music. A tinge of rebellion had seeded within him though. And it manifested itself in Robert trying out anything other than music as a profession. Life sent Robert through a myriad of jobs, from washing dishes to construction. And by the mid-eighties, he had moved on to casually playing bass in metal bands while making ends meet through a roofing job. While his metal roots took hold and felt right, his band practiced more than they gigged. Sweating atop a roof in Algiers one day, he stared at the skyline of downtown New Orleans across the Mississippi River. He recalls thinking, “my daddy’s over there making money man… playing music. I can play bass!” The thought became the catalyst for Robert quitting his job and vowing to make it in life as a career musician. Well, maybe not THE catalyst. We can’t leave out the persuasive impact he felt the time he fell off a roof while on the job (pun intended). Either way, his mind was made up. And he sought guidance from his father for his next steps.

“My old man helped me out to get some gigs. And it took me about four or five years to really get a repertoire of songs in my head”, Robert explained. And as he pointed out, most people don’t realize what it takes to ingrain such a sizable collection of songs in one’s memory. But through determination and repetition, he was able to build and retain a catalog in the hundreds over time. The first gig Robert’s father was able to book for him wasn’t for coronet. The music director had too many trumpet players already. And it wasn’t for the electric bass he had been playing in rock bands. Out of necessity, Robert was thrown in the bullpen clinging to an upright bass with a jazz band. Robert recalled, “Oh God that was painful. Because I was an electric bass player and I didn’t have the chops. It’s a different animal too. It is bass. But you got to know intonation ‘cause there’s no frets. So, there’s nothing to guide you. There’s no dots. So, it takes a little while. But after maybe four or five months of me doing it, I finally got to where I knew my intonation; where everything should be. I could here if I was out of tune. The cool thing about upright bass is you can slide into tune. You might hit the wrong ones but you can fudge it a little bit.”  One might say that the upright bass that landed in his lap basically outlined his life up until this point. He was slapping notes and making sounds. But he wasn’t quite in tune with where he should’ve been. Over time, he slid into his groove and true tones came ringing.

For decades Robert played in countless bands like King James & the Special Men, The New Orleans Jazz Vipers, The Abitals, and Three Piece Mix to name a few. He built his repertoire, sharpened his skills on the upright bass and electric bass. And he is still very much involved in music today. He currently occupies the roster with bands like The New Orleans Cotton Mouth Kings, The Melatauns, Little Freddie King, Franklin Avenue Overpass, and The Smokehouse Brown Trio. As he pointed out, this month (October), he’s got 32 gigs in 31 days. And I’m willing to bet he’s the only man in New Orleans that could pull off a two-fingered death punch with those well-earned callouses. Along the way, there have been certain times in life where he’s had to make decisions concerning his path in the performing arts. One can choose to go with the flow so-to-speak and feel or appear to be progressing. As long as your band keeps getting gigs, things are going as they should, right?

Ever present in the back of Robert’s mind existed this aversion. It was based on his antipathy for being confined to one genre. I’ll be the first one to tell you that stagnation is death. And I would imagine this rigor set in over time with him. For example, while playing with King James and the Special Men, all seemed fine. Things were better than fine as a matter of fact. That band became largely popular in the New Orleans area circa 2010-2020. And with them he enjoyed a ten-year run in front of packed houses. But that aversion started to set in, and through it he came to realize that the band had missed its mark. In his opinion, they should have peaked years before and made it big. And despite their successes and camaraderie, he felt it was time to move on. It was right about this time that Little Freddie King came calling. Freddie had parted ways with his bass player and was in search of fresh talent. He was acquainted with Robert through their mutual gig spot, BJ’s in the Bywater. And both Freddie and his drummer, Wacko Wade, knew Robert’s father Sidney. Now, at the time Robert received the call, he told Freddie that due to his current involvement in so many bands, he wasn’t sure he could commit. But the two agreed that Robert would play with King James and the Special Men that night and talk to Freddie the next day. So, Robert played with the band that night at their regular gig, The Saturn Bar on St. Claude. The next morning, before he spoke with Freddie, Jimmy from King James and the Special Men called him. He explained to Robert that he was moving in a different direction with the band and would be laying off Robert, along with a guitar player and a sax player. The parting was, and still is, looked back upon as amicable between the two. And Robert acknowledges that this experience truly helped him shed his skin. Not ten minutes later came the call from Freddie King. And to Robert’s confirmation that he was ready to make the move came Freddie’s quick response, “Ok great. We’ve got a gig in two days… Bayou Bugaloo.” Almost immediately, Robert had gone from packed houses to a three-day outdoor festival event that sees attendance in the tens of thousands. Making Little Freddie King his main gig, he’s stuck by Freddie’s side ever since. And he was even able to enjoy work through the pandemic because of this turn of events. And this is no surprise given Freddie’s prominence. Little Freddie King’s gut-bucket style blues has carried him through fourty-two years of appearances at The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, an induction into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, and the achievement of Blues Performer of the Year three times. He took home Best Blues Album at the 12th Annual Independent Music Awards for his 2012 album, Chasing tha Blues, and has appeared in countless publications. And he has fourteen albums on the books.  

Another band Robert plays with, his baby as he calls it, is The Melatauns. He’s published seven albums with this band, one that he founded with a buddy from high school, Pat Ricks. True to form, they’ve always written and recorded original songs. And you never know what genre they’re coming from next. Their first two albums were heavy metal. From there they moved to an all original album of latin and swing music. And the prefix to The Melatauns name would change with the tone. The first two albums being heavy metal found them as The Mighty Melatauns. For the next, they were The Swinging Melatauns. And so on. Their singer Pat has always been able to keep pace with Robert’s constant quest for the next genre, despite his modest beginnings in a church choir. Robert describes his tone as “blue-eyed soul”. And the keyboard player for The Melatauns can also play accordion. Which also contributes to their diversity amongst the genres. On their albums, Robert would use a rotating roster of about twenty different guys. And live, you could find five or six guys on stage covering guitar, drums, keys, and horns with Robert on bass.

A recent development in Robert’s life has been the formation of the Smokehouse Brown Trio. Smokehouse plays with the band Johnny Mastro and Mama’s Boys, a blues band based out of New Orleans that travels all over the world. And somewhere around April of ’22, Smoke called drummer Chris Davis, also known as “Cakewalk” to discuss Smoke’s interest in forming his own band. He was particularly hopeful in snagging a few of the guys from the old group King James and the Special Men. So, on Mardi Gras night, they all got together and opened for C.C. Adcock. “We were under the impression that we were gonna go into the Special Men kind of bag. And it wound up not being that. So, three of the Special Men quit and me and Chris stayed. So, we wound up being The Smokehouse Brown Trio.” They now perform every Monday night from 9 p.m. until 11 p.m. at BJ’s in the Bywater. And as Robert describes it, it’s really hardcore Chicago style blues with a rock and roll feel. You’ll see Robert on both upright and electric bass for this arrangement. And if you’re lucky, other musicians will sit in on the session as they sometimes do. Harmonica player Andy J. Forest is one of them. Bobby Lewis, also a harmonica player, from Little Freddie King is another. As for now, they are considered the house band at BJ’s. And the band isn’t sure if they’re going to start pushing their music out into other areas. But there is a possible album on the horizon. Robert couldn’t give up the name at the time. But a notable blues label out of Chicago is interested in the trio to re-record a record that was made in the 60’s. We went on to discuss his education in copyrighting and sync licensing, as well as his delving into writing scores for movies. And you’ll be able to hear about that on our Youtube Channel. If you click subscribe, you’ll be notified when this interview publishes. Or you can click your favorite streaming platform below and catch the podcast.

Not remaining in any single genre has been a common theme throughout Robert’s life. His innate desire in the beginning to explore the many facets of music and be a part of them all plotted his course to success later on in life. Through it, he’s met and worked with too many musicians to name. And he’s performed in so many places. He was even able to land a gig in Italy because of it, expanding his contact list while there. And there’s a bit of irony here in that, in the beginning, he didn’t want to entertain the idea of his father’s intentions for him as a musician. That adolescent, rebellious nature came calling as it does in so many of us. And during that time, Robert questioned the notion of ever becoming a professional musician at all. Nowadays, being well versed in so many styles of music, he frequently borrows from one genre to experiment with in other genres. And as he affirms, everything is related to the blues. “Rock and roll is related to the blues. I mean, listen to Led Zeppelin. Listen to any great rock band. They were all into the blues. Same thing in swing. They use blues progressions. Not all of ‘em. But a lot of ‘em, they use blues progressions. Listen to the Saints (When the Saints Go Marching In). It moves to a blues progression. So, I think a unifying genre that unifies all of them would be the blues. And it’s rooted in gospel.” In some ways, one might say that Robert became his father’s likeness, sliding into genres just as he would slide in tune on his upright bass. You can find Robert’s music under the many monikers above at Louisiana Music Factory on Frenchman Street, as well as Spotify and Neworleansmusicians.com.

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

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Picture Perfect

Charles Dye was always drawn to the creative arts, trying his hand at painting, drawing, and sculpting in college. But he would ultimately gravitate to photography, a hobby he picked up in high school. Back then, he lived on the Mississippi gulf coast. So, there were plenty of grand old houses and wildlife on which to focus. Elements of natural photography were appealing to him because his subjects were active and unaware. And like the old houses, their true beauty was revealed in the imperfect details. While he did snap the occasional photo of a venue for its visual appeal, the thought of capturing the performances within them had not crossed his mind. And the irony lies in that Charles was a big fan of music. Nearby had always been the Mississippi Gulf Coast Coliseum, a place where he frequented whenever there was a live show. 

Throughout college, Charles’ affinity for photography never left him. But as with any college exodus, it was time to get out and earn a living. He attempted to remain in the realm, serving for years as a photographer at weddings and other family functions. And although it did pay the bills, more and more he found it mundane. Settings and emotions felt contrived. All the posturing turned him away. He longed for the days of his youth when he would wander aimlessly, camera in hand, capturing the unexpected. To him, this felt more like art unrestrained.

Later in life, he made the move to Louisiana. And once COVID hit, weddings were no longer an option. Public functions came to a halt. And what once left something to be desired now left nothing. This became the catalyst for the merger of his two favorite things in life, music and photography. As Charles explained, “New Orleans’ musicians struggled. They had nowhere to play. They had no venues to go to. They had no outlet. So, in their downtime, I started contacting a few of them and said, ‘hey, would you be interested?’” Charles began meeting with musicians at small gigs and family get-togethers. And as word-of-mouth accelerated his demand, a new found craft reignited the passions he had as an adolescent.

With a camera always close by, Charles noticed how people were drawn to the lens. Random people would frequently ask him to take their picture. Common to this exchange, the resulting photo was theirs to keep. Being that this hobby brought him joy, he carried this ideal into the music photography world. While he realized that this would become, in effect, a business exchange. His “business” model remained something of an anomaly. Charles never charged for his work. And he still feels that what he captures belongs to the subject. Being that he now finds himself in a more professional world, he respects the ideal that these musicians are professionals. And they expect professional results. But his pursuit of the perfect shot as a hobby has made easy his transition into the professional world. And exceeding the standard has become effortless. Due to the nature of the art itself, photography provides a differing perspective simply because each photographer possesses a viewpoint that is solely their own. But the results of still photography in a moving landscape preserve the atmosphere unlike any other medium. And in doing so, provide the subject with a truly unique, singular moment in time. Being that so much occurs simultaneously during the chaotic endeavor of performing live, many voids in time are seemingly created. The ability to give that back to the musician is what’s at the core of Charles’ fixation on this art form. The results are indelible, unable to be recreated, and so, in his mind, priceless. His motives are sentimental and his work, evocative. And in my opinion, “professional” as a metric of quality, holds no court with emotion; never mind the standard. 

In fulfilling the visual desires of others, Charles has found himself opening one door after the next. He’s enjoyed the opportunity to work with many in the ranks of Louisiana’s music royalty. Members of Down and Crowbar, Rockin’ Dopsie, Grammy Nominated Corey Ledet, Papa Mali, Galactic, Jonathan “Boogie” Long, and Dash Rip Rock are a few in his catalog of talent. And he’s always made sure to extend the same courtesies to the lesser known up-and-comers in our state. Given his appreciation for multiple genres, Charles remains receptive to all prospective music experiences. Never quite finding his own musical talent has always seeded within him a deep respect for live performers. His own lively attire, as well as his intimate involvement with the experiences he captures makes him feel a part of the spotlight. And leaving behind the doldrums of matrimonial subject matter for this excitement makes him feel free.

Whether it be zydeco, heavy metal, or good ol’ southern rock, Charles finds himself drawn to it all. And you can bet his camera is right there with him. As long as its good music from a talented musician, he’s focused. With the variety of genres comes a variety in atmospheres. Some encounters entail low light, small bar settings. And others may occur at an outdoor festival, sunshine and all. Being from an era where people developed their own film and you weren’t sure exactly what you captured until that moment, the digital age has only increased his reach. When he began his hobby in photography, the highest ISO rating was approximately 1,600. This rating referred to the sensitivity or light gathering ability of the physical film. Fast forward to the digital age, and this ISO rating now refers to the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor. Which has increased exponentially to a whopping 52,000! It is these leaps in capability that have allowed him to navigate in a world of darkness and arrive at enough light to capture the moment. And as he pointed out, stage lighting technology has advanced equally as fast. The locations where high watt bulbs served as the maximum source of light on a stage now house packs of intensely colored LED’s. This has made for some incredibly striking imagery in his line of work. For all my techies out there, he ran down specifically what he uses to accomplish his goal. He really enjoys the Canon R Series gear. His go-to set ups consist of either the Canon R or R5, both of which are mirrorless DSLRs, coupled with one of the following lenses: Canon 70-200 2.8, 24-70 2.8, or an 80mm 1.8 (all Canon R mount). For software, he sticks with Adobe products, Photoshop and Lightroom. Which, as he explains, are industry standards. While Photoshop does have the ability to completely alter an image, one of the selling points of Lightroom is that it’s “non-destructive”. Which means it does not alter the original pixels in the image. This aligns perfectly with Charles’ efforts because although he may sharpen the image a bit or change colors for a band’s desired effect, he prefers to keep modifications to a minimum.

In closing, Charles left us with an instance he observed while at a live show following the height of COVID. “They finished their first set. Everybody stood up and started applauding. This woman started crying, just because of the sound of the applause after two years of not hearing anything. You know, and being there to capture that on film, or in pictures, that’s what turned me on to all this; just capturing that emotion that music can bring out in people. The reason we listen to music is it makes us feel a certain way. No matter what type of music you listen to… To be able to capture that for somebody to be able to look at later, that’s what I’m all about.”

N.O.M. provides free business pages for those that are of use to musicians, such as photographers like Charles. Should you be so inclined, you can find Charles Dye Photography on our website at https://neworleansmusicians.com/vendor/39.

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast can be found on these platforms.

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CRABS

We’re all adults here, true enough. But sometimes we don’t all act as such. And if there’s one concept in the local music scene that gets under my skin more than any other, it’s this mentality that is commonly referred to as “crabs in a bucket”. You see, our delicious crustaceans are all piled into a bucket, much like musicians in a parish. And sometimes one of those crabs gets close to toppling over the edge and escaping (a.k.a. “making it big”). And for some reason, a crab beneath him will reach up and pull that crab down. Now this crab beneath him doesn’t stand to gain any ground by doing this. In fact, if crabs had morals, one could probably hear the others sneering at this bizarre activity. But they just gargle and bubble, and keep on pulling each other down. I come to work here at NOM because I believe in the cause. I believe that if we all unite under one flagship, we could each become greater than the sum of our own individual parts. In other words, if your band joins and several hundred other bands join, we pool our resources and become this collective. And why not? We share the common goal of improving our skill set, broadening our reach, increasing our opportunities. Yet there are some knuckleheads out there that operate under the notion that “you’re either with me or against me”.

I’ll never forget the moment I fell in love. It was when I noticed there was such a thing as a comfortable silence that could be shared between two people. There was no need to engage or provoke. I opened her door when her hands were full. She popped open a beer and brought it to me. We shared the same space and contributed to one another’s existence. There was no competition. There was no pulling one another down or trying to get ahead of each other. Ah, to coexist.

This mentality needs to be spread amongst the local music community. And I’m not just saying that for the betterment of Neworleansmusicians.com. I’m saying it because IF this community is going to flourish, we are all going to have to come together. Some of us are alphas and we butt heads. Some of us have a competitive streak and are quick to react out of spite. But ultimately, we are all brothers and sisters of the groove. And if y’all want to keep this train running, we’ve all got to push in the same direction.

I recently spoke with a bassist that relayed a story to me about how he was kicked out of one band for behavior that was later embraced by another. I talked to a singer that pointed out how people began to question her new band’s talent simply because they were able to open up for somebody big their first show. I spoke to a guitarist that recalled when a guy from another band came to his show just to mess up his merch table. Mess up somebody’s merch table?? Come on man! Swallow your pride and revert back to the comfortable silence. With the same femme fatale by whom I once discovered love, I noticed this sort of super power I possessed. There were times when she would lash out. And everything in me wanted to push her away for it. One time, for a reason I can’t recall, I instead extended an olive branch. And it wasn’t in the context of a direct response to her lashing. It was just a, hey I’m still here. I’m still the same person regardless of your acting out. We’re still cool and I hold no malice. In fact, you seem like you’re in a bad place and please, let me know if I can help.

This was all an unspoken understanding or gesture between her and I. But if you were to get this dialogue rolling after some crabby situation took place, I think you’d be surprised at the outcome. Looking back, I can tell you my gesture toward that alleged femme fatale was disarming, and things de-escalated quickly. One last story before I call it a day. Years ago, two guys from the neighborhood got into it over who knows what. But they were both heated and it culminated in a fight right in the middle of the street. In the end, as with any fight, there was a winner and there was a loser. But in this particular situation, the winner extended his hand. He helped the loser up. The beef was squashed with that one simple gesture. It’s been well over a decade since that fight. And the two are friends to this day. In that one moment, when this disastrous apogee clearly became out of control, a helping hand was extended. And just like that, the bucket had vanished.

Author: Lingo Starr

lingo_starr@yahoo.com

Neworleansmusicians.com

Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast can be found on these platforms.

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1016

I caught back up with Levi Clark (Misled, Southern Brutality, 1016) after hearing about several new developments with his new band, 1016. You may remember him from our previous interview earlier this year. As it turns out, what I had been hearing was true. Things were falling apart, things were being rebuilt, and the promise of his long-awaited EP was back under the microscope. In this visit, we took apart the constructs, the destructs, and the changes in scope that occurred as a result. And I think you’ll find the new developments intriguing and the ongoing project showing more promise. 

Now, I know Levi personally. And if I had to name him in a nutshell, I’d say he’s a beautiful tragedy. “Tragedy” in the cinematic sense, where the viewer follows the main character through several hardships, some of them self-imposed. He’s the kind of person that will give you the shirt off his back, and doesn’t conceal his own flaws. Which makes him beautiful in my eyes. And though at times in valleys, he is persistent in his pursuit of the mountain top. During the first interview earlier this year, I got to hear a demo of an exciting new single, Gettysburg. This song was inspired by time Levi spent cleaning and reconstructing the tomb of a soldier from the Civil War. Happening upon a small booklet inside the structure, he was able to craft a song from words on the pages of this long-since forgotten soldier’s diary. On that demo, Tiger Agnelly sang vocals and Brian Ardoyne (Dang Bruh Y?, Blackwater Canal) was on drums. Since that time, both were now out of the picture. A fact for which Levi took blame. “By this time my friends probably think they are looking at my delusion. But it’s not my delusion. But I’m going to go a little bit back in time. I fucked up. I had two of the greatest musicians I ever could’ve had the chance of working with. Tiger Agnelly and Brian Ordoyne. Brian was our drummer. Still my brother, still my best friend. Tiger, incredible singer. But yours truly, I’m human, and I have a pattern of fucking up. It is what it is. And I apologize for it. So, the band all but dissolved.”

Next on the chopping block came their singer, Ms. Jennifer Leech. Though they were revealed reluctantly, creative differences became obvious between her and Levi. And in the end, she too was out. Last came Trey Heflin (Genocide). Through a series of… we’ll just call them “mishaps” that occurred on a short tour with Southern Brutality among other things, Trey found himself on the other side of the stage from what was left of 1016. Jamie Clouatre (13 Below, Cut Throat), the bassist for 1016, is still on board and aside from Levi is the only remaining original member. And as if I had to say it, that about does it for the “destruct” portion of the tour.

Now, onto a more positive aspect of this business called show! The “construct” began with vocals. Levi wouldn’t name the new singer outright. Apparently, she has a sibling that is an accomplished singer, musician, and performing artist and wishes to remain anonymous until 1016’s EP release performance. But this person has a background in opera. And to hear Levi tell it, during practice she pulled a vocal range out of her diaphragm which resembled that of Ella Fitzgerald and stopped the drummer mid-stroke. Often times, when a director writes a part in a movie, they write the part with a certain actor in mind. Likewise, recognizing the sharp contrast between his previous singer and the new one, Levi has gone back over some of his songs and rewritten them in order to showcase the new singer’s style and capability. “She and I would converse over the phone and she would ask me to give her a backstory about the songs; about the mood. I know where she’s at, and she knows where I’m at. Now we’re working. But she says she’s not much of a lyricist. So, I’m going to draft out lyrics of what the song should be saying. And she can put it in her own words. We’ll just take it from there. And that’s called collaboration.”

Hailing from Kennabra (Kenner, La. to those out the loop) William Shiver slid into place as the new drummer for 1016. His past bands include Execution, and Suture. And he also did a little bit of work in projects for bands Guilt Trip and Gutter Sludge. He’s spent most of his music career dwelling in heavy, technical death metal bands, with a little bit of doom and sludge metal peppered in between. And he feels as though 1016’s southern blues emphasis will be a nice change. One thing about him that will definitely not go unnoticed is his mammoth drum set. I couldn’t begin to aptly describe this thing… no one could. I had to include a picture of it below to stand in for my lack of descriptives. Personally, I can’t wait to see this fella bang something out on this monstrosity! And for it, 1016 will become an interesting dynamic. Because Levi is currently the drummer for another band he is in, Southern Brutality. We should be hearing this thing smash and crash soon, as their single is slated for August of this year (2022). And Levi is aiming for an EP release after Mardi Gras the following year.

And now for the third and final leg of our tour kiddies, the changes in scope! Now you might ask, huh? What’s left? We broke the whole thing apart and rebuilt it. Well, in the process, we brought in a drastically differing vocal element. While all of this was occurring, Levi was still writing. A change in singers further changed the direction of this process as we discussed earlier. But Levi also added other tools to his box. One of which was Martin Felix. Now we have all seen several different versions of the band supporter. Someone wears your T-shirt. Someone else might help you sell tickets for your next show. And so on. But Martin is a bit of a music scene anomaly. You see, Martin is a 65-year-old staunch local heavy metal music scene supporter. And in his capacity as both a scene supporter and a personal friend, he upped the studio cash to get Levi and 1016 further down the road to EP success. When asked about Levi and this generous contribution, he had this to say. “Brother… I’ve enjoyed seeing him on drums. I’ve enjoyed seeing him with Southern Brutality, Misled, Cain, and jamming with Twelve Years Driven. I’ve enjoyed seeing him learn the guitar and seeing him bust his ass for the desire of his dream.” For Levi, the arrival of good fortune has been accompanied by the rigors of a prescribed deadline. To squander such opportunity, in his own eyes, is to do the unthinkable. So, through disagreements, differences, and fall-outs, he has pressed on.

We’ve all had these experiences in life. So, I realize some, at this point, may wonder what is so notable about his struggles; notable enough to base an article on. And I’ll confidently say it’s the result that lies in waiting. I heard the unreleased demo for one of his singles, Gettysburg. And I can’t help but praise him for not only the body of work, but for the article from which the concept was born; a dead man’s lament before days of battle. Levi is no stranger to the sentiment of historical piety. To the contrary, it’s in his veins. When speaking on the blues and its heritage, he frequently draws attention to Robert Johnson. If you don’t know who that is, it’s ok. It’ll be our little secret. Just tuck this in your back pocket. Robert Johnson was one of the most influential songwriters and blues musicians to have ever strummed six strings. Back in the 30’s, he sat for two recording sessions, producing twenty-nine songs. With only that and three known photographs, this title of “most influential” has been affirmed by countless blues and rock gods over the past seven decades. So, yeah, now you know who Robert Johnson is.

Levi paired his love for Robert Johnson with his own strange twist on the song Hell Hound. When asked about this particular song, Levi had this to say. “So, Robert says, ‘You gotta keep movin on. You gotta keep movin on’, right? The dog will be like, ‘so you thought you could keep moving on.’ I’m writing from the hound’s perspective.” For this and other tracks included on the EP, Levi chose Last Exit Studios in Hollygrove. It’s owned by Eric Reed, drummer for Dead Machine Theory. Levi added, “I know Duane Simoneaux (OCD Recordings) is probably reading this saying ‘you should have come to me!’ But Duane and Eric are two different breeds. When I’m doing my drums, I have to go to Duane. I have to. Duane knows my drumming style. But Duane as a producer, he wreaks havoc on guitars. And I’m not that guy. We’re bluesed out. He is a guitarist. And as a guitarist Duane would intimidate me more.” (Neworleansmusicians.com actually did an interview on Duane and OCD recently. You can get a feel for what Levi’s talking about in that article on our blog page.) Levi also cites the studio’s location as an inspiration in itself. “It’s right where it needs to be. It’s in a home in Hollygrove, one of the roughest neighborhoods in the city. It’s in a neighborhood that just exudes the blues man’s energy. And that’s what I’m going for.” Ever the altruist, his quest to honor the forefathers of the blues has led him through some interesting doors. For one song, he implemented the use of what others might rightfully call junk. “It’s called 1016 the Blues Child. We set up the mics like cans; Like Robert Johnson singing through a can. And I literally went in there with a guitar with a cracked neck. You couldn’t tune it worth a shit. The strings were old. I drop tuned it and it just came out. It just had that guttural feel to it.” In knowing Levi, one could easily tell that he absolutely lives for music. Before being laid to rest in a pine box, Johnson’s final words were, “I pray that my redeemer will come and take me from my grave.” And though our old friend Martin Felix may not have changed the scope of this 1016 project, he may have changed Levi’s destination.

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

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Jimmy’s Music Club

Nearing the end of 1944 Roosevelt was in office. And the United States, fueled by a recent victory over the Nazi’s in north-western France, was still entrenched in World War II. Back home in New Orleans, though the city had struggled through a depression and rationing of resources, many locals enjoyed full-time employment at military bases and factories in the area. On the heels of a successful career in boxing, James Anselmo Sr. was there to serve these men and women. He ran The Little Blue Room on Bienville Street and The Jimmy King’s Mardi Gras Lounge on Bourbon Street. And on September 19th of that same year, ”he” became “we” when James and Mary gave birth to James (Jimmy) Anselmo Jr.

As a child Jimmy Jr. was always by his father’s side. One of Jimmy’s earliest memories with his father was at the Mardi Gras Lounge. At age five he can recall crawling up on the band stand to play with the drum sticks. His father would exclaim, “If that drummer sees you up there, he’ll kick your ass boy!” Entering his teenage years, Jimmy could still be found close by. He would work as a delivery boy at his father’s restaurant, The King’s Barbeque, also on Bourbon Street. This was a fun time for Jimmy because at the age of 14, he was able to walk inside places most kids could not. The classmates at his school would beg for a job with him upon hearing tales of what he saw delivering sandwiches to businesses like a local strip club. This would mark the first time Jimmy met Mac Rebbenack, a.k.a. Dr. John. But more on that later.

As did many kids of the time, Jimmy would attend dances at places like Sacred Heart and Germania Hall. Armed with a fake I.D., money from wages, and a car gifted to him by his father, Jimmy was able to see many live music acts at these places as well as local bars in New Orleans. With so much at his fingertips Jimmy was still able to remain a grounded, responsible young man. He joined the Navy Reserves when he was just a Junior in high school. And in following through with his commitment, found himself aboard the U.S.S. Saratoga directly after his graduation from Francis T. Nichols High School in 1963. Working the flight deck in and out of ports, this was his chance to see the world; France, Spain, Italy, Greece… making friends and memories along the way.

Following his time in the Navy Jimmy returned to New Orleans and began working for his brother-in-law Bobby Blanchard at a club called Papa Joes. He would bar tend during the jam sessions by a house band. Freddy Fender was on bass, Little Joe Lambert on drums, Joey Long on guitar, and Skip Esterland on the Hammond B-3. With good wages and great music, and the ability to now get his first apartment and a new car, Jimmy was at a good place in his life. It was at this time in 1967 Jimmy got married and bought his first club in Uptown New Orleans called Co-eds. With this night club he was able to get his feet wet as an independent business owner. And within five years, he was ready to expand. In 1972 Jimmy had his eye on an empty space just a block away and decided to build another night club, naming it Quasimodo’s.

Outside Quasimodo’s, 1973.

The next four years would treat Jimmy well. And although capacity at both locations was limited, both night clubs were successful in gaining quite a following. There was one customer in particular that would stop in Quasimodo’s from time to time, Al. He was the owner of Al Pelligrini’s Pool Hall over on Willow St. Uptown. The two would talk and the notion that Al was interested in selling would come up. As Jimmy explains, “I was successful there (at Co-eds and Quasimodo’s) but I wouldn’t have the success that I would have at Jimmy’s Music Club. I was limited in what I could do because capacity might be 100 at each place. So, I was getting anxious and I wanted to move on. I told myself; where are you gonna be in the next five years?” Between Jimmy’s current success and his ever-present ambition, he decided to seize this opportunity and take Al up on his offer. Al’s pool hall was somewhat of an ailing operation at the time. The building it was housed in was built circa 1915 and the business had become a local destination for run off from the methadone clinic nearby. But Jimmy had visions of turning things around and opening a music venue. So, in September of 1976 he bought Al Pelligrini’s Pool Hall, closing it down just two weeks later. 

At this point in time, he hadn’t even thought of a name for his new club. One possible name that stuck with him was The Depot, being that it was across the street from the street car station. But in pursuit of something greater, closing the pool hall would mark the start of an almost two-year renovation process. The sale of Co-eds and Quasimodo’s helped fund this enormous undertaking. In order to achieve the vision Jimmy had in mind, it was going to take more financing. He would approach three banks, being turned down each time, before finding hope through the Small Business Administration. Initially he was even turned down there. He was able to resubmit his original proposal at a lower cost, choosing to eliminate the kitchen from his plans. And luckily his mother, Mary, was able to secure a loan to show the SBA Jimmy had the necessary funds in his account. In the end, all of the effort paid off! Plumbers, electricians and carpenters were all put to work on this extensive project. And on April 8th 1978, Jimmy’s Music Club was opened for business. But not before his mother lent him the money to put in the registers. Things were that tight! His first act was Little Queenie and the Percolators. The following weekend, The Neville Brothers took the stage and would be no stranger to the budding venue in the future.

Throughout the years owning Jimmy’s Music Club, he didn’t always have success. For instance, the money he made from his first and second weekends with Little Queenie and The Neville Brothers was lost on his third weekend with a jazz act that flopped. Unless he knew for sure they could draw a large crowd, jazz acts wouldn’t be found at Jimmy’s too often due to this. But he learned a lot and pivoted when counted. At the outset he knew he couldn’t afford the up-front money national acts required. And although some local acts in New Orleans were of national quality in their own right, they were a necessity in order for this music club to survive. Looking back, the relationship Jimmy shared with his performers was both beautiful and mutualistic if you think about it. His first national act was Asleep at the Wheel who performed there on May 27th, 1978. Admittedly booking a national act this soon after opening was a big gamble for Jimmy. But it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. While the band was requesting the deposit, Jimmy was stalling for time. Yet they showed up on that night and rocked the crowd. Some other things he did to save money was to come in and bartend, not carry an extensive selection of liquors, and always negotiate a lower asking price for bands. He even put a trailer out back and lived in it at one time. Jimmy recalls a time in 1984 when he was approached by agents for Gregg Allman just before New Year’s. They were asking for $14,000 to do a show. But relying on leverage due to the recent closure of Tipitina’s, Jimmy’s main competitor, Jimmy stood tall and refused the offer, explaining he didn’t give guarantees (flat rates). Now mind you, this is Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers, the same Allman Brothers that had performed at the opening of the Superdome. And the agents would remind Jimmy of who he was dealing with throughout negotiations. As Gregg was, at this point in time, very much enjoying immense success with his solo career. The two negotiated back and forth until alas, on Friday December 30th of ’84, Gregg Allman performed for just a percentage of the door, still raking in more than his initial demand. Between Jimmy’s business savvy and his venue’s growing reputation, he was able to play host to many bands throughout the years on his own terms. Countless New Orleanians came to see bands like The Gaboans Gang featuring Ziggy “Zigaboo” Modeliste (founding member of The Meters), The Neville Brothers, The Sheiks, The Cold, Professor Longhair and his Scholars, James Booker, Rickie Lee Jones, Brad Orgeron, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Joan Baez, The Raffeys, Ernie K-Doe, Wayward Youth, The Red Rockers, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dr. John, Muddy Waters, Black Flag, The Psychedelic Furs, Huey Lewis and the News and the list went on.

The Wayward Youth, across the street from Jimmy’s at the street car depot. Photo credit Edward Kalil.

From the start Jimmy didn’t just open a music venue to expand commerce. True enough, the end result was a consolidation from two smaller clubs to one large club with greater capacity. And he couldn’t help but notice the opening of other music venues in New Orleans over the years. But he had a love of music and wanted to learn the business. This is why at his own club you could find him behind the bar, or behind a desk booking bands himself. You might find him running sound or moving tables and chairs out back along-side his employees. He implemented little things like an ATM as opposed to a credit card machine because, at the time, it slowed business down. And the tables and chairs went out back to fit more people. His aim was to be the quickest, most efficient venue in town. Over the years his passion for excellence and his ability to succeed gained him a reputation, such to where national acts came calling, as opposed to the other way around. His love of music also compelled him to form long lasting relationships with these artists. He would hire a car and driver to cart performers like Dr. John around town. He befriended their families. He employed people to cook southern style meals for them as a show of hospitality. Most people loved him for it. But surprisingly he added, David Allen Coe didn’t exactly take to that last gesture. The man spent so much time in jail he refused the New Orleans dishes, instead requesting some “prison food”. So, Jimmy took him down the street to a pharmacy where he bought David a frozen Salisbury Steak meal. If that’s not passion, I don’t know what is.

There was a scuffle in downtown New Orleans that made the paper back in July of 1940 in which James Anselmo Sr was involved along with two n’er-do-wells. When all was said and done, he was still standing. And at least one of the aggressors would not live to see another day. Like his father, for his country and in business Jimmy Anselmo Jr. had guts. He knew an opportunity when he saw one and he never let it get away. In being this, he not only preserved our precious New Orleans music culture; he gave it a place to grow.  

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast can be found on these platforms.

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Platform Status 10

I’m always looking for creative ways to help our members promote their music. And in making this a constant quest, one idea I’ve arrived at is what I’m here to tell you about today. Neworleansmusicians.com has established accounts on nine streaming platforms, each with public playlists searchable by the platform’s users. There are 16 playlists in all, on every account, to correspond with the 16 genres on our site. When you join NOM we search for your material on these platforms and add it to the playlists on our accounts. The plays, credits, and payments all forward back to you. You are, of course, free to set up your own accounts on these platforms. In fact, we encourage that. Our program works in congruence with your presence in these places. In other words, whatever streaming platform you’re on, we’ll find and add you when you sign up with us on Neworleansmusicians.com.

Domestic and foreign popular streaming platforms

Spotify – 365 million monthly users

Apple Music – 78 million subscribers

Youtube music – 50 million subscribers

Amazon – 48.1 million monthly users

Tidal – 3 million subscribers

Deezer – 16 million monthly users

Soundcloud – 175 million monthly users

Qobuz – 200,000 subscribers

Anghami – 70 million users

Gaana – 185 million monthly users

JioSaavn – 100 million monthly users

Boomplay – 60 million monthly users

So, what’s the “ten” in “Platform Status 10”? Well, in another article I mentioned Reverbnation as the type of place we differentiated ourselves from, being that unlike them we only serve Louisiana musicians. So, it may seem a bit ironic that I mention them now in this light. But any way that we can push our artists is game in my opinion. So, when you join our site and upload music to your profile, we can add it to our Reverbnation account playlist. This account is also searchable which will allow your work more plays.

That’s it kids! I can’t promise you the world. But with Neworleansmusicians.com I can promise you creative promotional tactics from a reputable resource and a trusted brand. As Louisiana bands, I hope to see you sign on with us and elevate your streaming platform status to ten!

Author: David Trahan

Neworleansmusicians.com

Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast can be found on these platforms.