Monday, September 22, 2008


Nappy Brown, highly influential singer and R&B pioneer, passed away peacefully in his sleep at 10:30 pm this past Saturday at Mercy Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina. The 78 year old performer had been hospitalized for several months.

Although Brown was a well-known star in the mid 1950s with a string of hits on the Savoy label, he had largely disappeared from public view a decade later. Few knew that he was such a great, ground-breaking vocalist back then who had an enormous influence on a lot of R&B singers, including a young Elvis Presley, who used to come out to see Nappy whenever he performed in Memphis.

Brown's career and legendary status were redeemed from obscurity with the release of Long Time Coming on Blind Pig Records in&nb sp;September of 2007. Critically acclaimed as a brilliant comeback album, the CD led to Brown's being re-discovered and heralded for his role as the forefather of rhythm & blues. He was invited to perform on Garrison Keillor's popular "Prairie Home Companion," was featured on the cover of Living Blues magazine, was honored by the State of South Carolina with a "Nappy Brown Day," and received two Blues Music Award nominations from the Blues Foundation. In one of his final performances, he brought down the house at the Blues Music Awards show in Mississippi in May.

Nappy reveled in the new found attention, both touched and thrilled to have his talent and place in history recognized. As he told his producer, Scott Cable, "I feel like I'm back on top!" Said Cable, "It was a blessing for Nappy that he was able to experience that adulation. He was at first incredulous about it and always felt very lucky to have a second chance in the spotlight. And he was always very demonstrative about how appreciative he was of all the media attention, the fan interest, and the help of the record label in reviving his career."

Blind Pig President Edward Chmelewski said, "It was so gratifying to be able to bring attention to such a deserving but unrecognized legend in American music and to see how happy it made him. We feel honored and grateful to have worked with and documented the art of one of the most outstanding and important musicians of the past fifty years."

Brown's performing career ended in June when he was hospitalized with a series of ailments. In his last conversation with his wife Ann, Nappy said that this last year was the best of his life and was brought to tears by reading all of the cards and letters from fans. He told her he never realized who he was and how many people cared.

Funeral services are being arranged for this Saturday, September 27, at St. Paul's Baptist Church in Charlotte. Both the Rhythm & Blues Foundation and MusicCares have announced that they will help defray funeral expenses.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bingo! show at Spiegelworld

Clint Maedgen's Bingo! show landed at lower Manhattan's Spiegelworld as if the revue had been tailor made for the tony cabaret that caters to well heeled New Yorkers. The crowd for this show was unusual for the place, peppered as it was with hardcore fans of Louisiana music who hooted knowingly at the references to the Ninth Ward and Mid City and howled in delight when Clint name checked the Hi Ho Lounge and a series of Bourbon Street strip clubs. The fans knew when to get up and dance, how to clap along in time and especially how to interact with the guerilla theater moves of Bingo's players. The music was as well choreographed as the players and the program, using an array of kitchen utensils and garage junk for percussion instruments and working bull horns, sirens and electronics expertly into a sonic mix based around a two keyboard acoustic quartet with Maedgen's saxophone as the main solo voice. Preservation Hall's Ben Jaffe was along for the ride, playing sousaphone at several points in the show. The video of "Complicated Life" and of course the Bingo game itself, which ended with the "winner" being knocked to the ground and beaten with a bouquet of flowers, worked seamlessly into the theatrical mix. In the evening's most moving moment, the crowd recognized John Brunious in the video and offered up a spontaneous ovation to the late Preservation Hall mainstay. What amazes me most about Maedgen's presentation is how it can transmit so much love for and understanding of traditional New Orleans music without ever pandering to the audience or resorting to the usual cliches that most New Orleans performers use to translate content. When asked, of course, they will provide the hokum. Expect much umbrella twirling and faux second lining when the Bingo! troupe joins the Preservation Hall band at Lincoln Center next week.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bongo Johnny to get free shirt

Bongo Johnny is heading for Monmouth Park to see his favorite horse, Big Brown, this Saturday, but this time he's not buying any souvenier tickets.
"They're giving away shirts!" Johnny exclaimed over a mug of Palookajuice at Smith's bar in Brooklyn. "Big Brown long sleeve shirts."
Monmouth Park landed a coup this summer by getting Big Brown to run there in the Haskell. Saturday's race was put together specifically for Big Brown, whose owners wanted him to run on the grass as his final prep for the Breeders' Cup Classic, where he may not (or maybe may) meet up with the reigning Breeders' Cup Classic champion, Curlin.
The inaugural running of the Monmouth Stakes at 1-1/8 miles on the turf should be easy picking for the Kentucky Derby/Preakness winner.
But go for the shirt, not the win bet.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Bruce Daigrepont's parents killed in Gustav evac

I know I'm not alone in saying some of my favorite musical moments over the last 20 years took place on Sunday early evenings at Tips hanging out at Bruce's weekly gigs. His parents were always visible in the audience at these events (especially his dad, who kept an eye on the door). They died in a car accident while evacuating Gustav. Read the Times Picayune story.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Jimmy Herring solo debut

The long-awaited solo debut album from guitarist Jimmy Herring, Lifeboat, is scheduled out this month on Abstract Logix Records. On the album Herring reunites with his monster partner from the great Aquarium Rescue Unit, bassist Oteil Burbridge. Oteil's brother Kofi is on keys along with Matt Slocum, with Jeff Sipe on drums and the outstanding Greg Osby on saxophones. Guitarist Derek Trucks sits in on two cuts. My friend Mark Berner, an excellent horse racing handicapper, has a future book bet that some version of this lineup might be hitting the boards after Jimmy takes time off from his current gig when Widespread Panic goes on hiatus in the new year.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

"Mother of all storms"

So C. Ray Nagin, borrowing a phrase from Saddam Hussein, calls Gustav "the mother of all storms" and claims it has a 900 mile footprint in order to get everybody out of town. All evacuees were entered into the government database and issued free yellow plastic bracelets, which will undoubtedly be a fashion must for some time in the future. Can't wait for the New York Times piece in the Styles section. Everybody is practicing heading off to camp, something which is likely to happen far more often in the futureworld of terror, disaster and instant news cycles, when interment camp will be FUN and people will want to go for all the cool bennies. Just like the 9/2 Zippy the Pinhead strip about the newest technological innovation, earring implants that connect you to the blogosphere, MSNBC and Fox News. Nice to see the self congratulatory reactions from everybody from C. Ray to the Army Corps after Gus passed a time. The levee system withstood the hurricane, they say gleefully. The hurricane that came in as a cat 2 rather than predicted cat 4 and basically missed New Orleans altogether. Yet everyone watched that water pour over the west wall of the industrial canal for hours. Will the west wall of the industrial canal last another week? Year? How long before the parts of New Orleans that didn't get flooded last time are added to the destruction? The pattern almost appears deliberate, even down to he incredible repetition of loose ships rolling free in the industrial canal. Turns out nobody is responsible for telling Southern Scrap to get their massive hulls out of there, hurricane or not. Crazy Eddie decided to skip the evacuation and spent his non curfew hours rescuing lost dogs and checking out the action at Johnny White's. "People are complaining about not being allowed back into town," he notes, "but there are trees and power lines down all over the place. It's not safe to come back yet." Listening to Coco Robicheaux's new disc and it's the perfect soundtrack for this ongoing disaster movie.