This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
"I’m not sure, but I’m almost positive, that all music comes from New Orleans."
– Ernie K-Doe
JELLY-ROLL MORTON (or Ferdinand LaMothe to his mum and dad) was an early jazz pianist, band-leader and composer.
He had the very first published jazz tune (Jelly Roll's Blues) and he showed that the essentially improvised music could be notated without losing its verve and spirit.
He wasn't a shy, retiring type and claimed to have invented jazz much to the derision of others at the time (and since). This is one of his compositions, Dr Jazz.
From a jazz pianist to a blues piano player (or a barrel house player, as he terms himself in the song), CHAMPION JACK DUPREE.
He was orphaned at age two, and spent his early years in the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs which is also where Louis Armstrong called home a few years earlier.
While he was there, he taught himself to play piano. He later lived in Chicago and later still went to Europe where he spent the rest of his life. In spite of that, here's a paean to his hometown called Hometown New Orleans.
Yet another pianist - well, New Orleans turns them out by the truckload. This time it's JAMES BOOKER.
Even with all these great pianists, all the others think that James was the best of the lot. To quote Dr John, he was "the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced.”
To show us what he's made of, here's a medley of Tico Tico; Papa Was a Rascal; So Swell When You're Well.
The man with the voice of an angel, AARON NEVILLE, is next. Actually, I think the angels would be jealous of him.
Aaron's song Hercules was written and produced by Allen Toussaint (now that's a surprise) and the backing band is The Meters, Aaron's big brother Art's band.
With all that talent, there's no way they could produce a dud (and they didn't, of course).
To the man himself, ALLEN TOUSSAINT.
Allen was involved in one way or another with the majority of the music I've featured in this series. As I've already mentioned, he was a producer, songwriter and musician. He also made records himself. This is one of them, Solitude.
IRMA THOMAS is the "Soul Queen of New Orleans," an accolade bestowed upon her by the local officials.
Unfortunately, she's not as well known outside the city. Well, she should be. I'll try to do a small part in helping that along, starting with the song Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand) that's been used in several films and TV series. It's not her best song but it's not bad.
Some time ago, before Katrina, Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, and I were wandering along Bourbon Street and discovered a hole in the wall, about the size of my living room, that was a music club. It was owned by CLARENCE (THE FROGMAN) HENRY.
We were pretty excited about that as there was music coming from inside. Alas, it wasn't Clarence. Apparently he often performed there but not that day. Oh well.
Here's Clarence with one of his big hits, Ain't Got No Home. This is the song that inspired his nickname.
Lawdy Miss Clawdy was written by Lloyd Price who had a hit with it. After that, just about everyone else recorded the song, including LARRY WILLIAMS.
Larry wrote songs as well: Bony Moronie, Short Fat Fannie, Dizzy Miss Lizzy and many others. However, like Byron, he was mad, bad and dangerous to know.
I won't go into details but there's always the web for those who wish to investigate further.
SHIRLEY AND LEE were Shirley Goodman and Leonard Lee.
Shirley was a teenager when she was going to cut her first record and the producer thought another singer would be advantageous. He brought in Len who, as it turns out, had gone to school with Shirl.
The musical partnership clicked immediately and they recorded a number of songs that did well on the charts. This is one of them, Feel So Good.
We have come full circle. The first track in this series was by King Oliver. It's only fitting that we end with a tribute to him. The tributer (I just made up that word) is WYNTON MARSALIS.
The Marsalis family is full of musicians but Wynton is the best known to the general public. He not only plays jazz, he has performed and recorded classical works as well. Here is In The Court Of King Oliver.