Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The untold Bill Haley story

In 1982 W.H. Allen published my biography of the first rock & roll star, Bill Haley. The one crucial interview I could not get for the book was with his third wife, Martha. Michael Hall has broken through this barrier and put together a compelling piece about Haley's last years in the current Texas Monthly. Well worth a read:


Monday, May 30, 2011

Camile Speaks

In honor of the Radiators final series of shows, The Last Watusi, I've been posting recent transcripts with members of the band. Coming up this week are three final shows in New York -- Wednesday and Thursday at Brooklyn Bowl and Friday at the Best Buy theater. The final three shows -- June 9-11 -- will take place at Tipitina's in New Orleans. Here's Camile's interview conducted last month for the piece in the Jazz Fest issue of OffBeat. I will post a transcript with drummer Frank Bua later this week.

John Swenson: This has to have been an extremely emotional time for you.
Camile Baudoin: As we go on the emotions get more and more intense, we're feeling the death and rebirth at the same time. You see people being sad about the end but feeling really great about the years. It's been a run... the last couple of nights I've run into half a dozen Tulane people at gigs, from when we used to play the Quad. So many of our friends are family and close friends. That's what makes it really, really hard. It's not as nonchalant as other bands might have it. If you get too popular you can't really have that close fit of knowing that many people. It's really been incredible. Sometimes you almost laugh because these big burly guys are just sobbing. It's been a hoot. The band's really feeling good.

J.S.: What is it about this bond between the band and its fans? It's completely unique.
C.B.: It's sincere and real. That's the first thing that comes to mind, would these people be my friends if it weren't for the band? Obviously I probably wouldn't have met them otherwise, but aside from that I'd be surprised if 85-90 per cent of the friends that I've made on the road wouldn't be friends anyway if I'd met them through other circumstances.

J.S.: Is this something to do with New Orleans magic or is it something bigger?
C.B.: (laughing) There's nothng bigger than New Orleans. The circle of friends is amazing. The band has brought together groups of people all across the United States. People are saying: 'What are we gonna do now? We don't know how to keep in touch without you all.' Well, you'll learn. People come up and say thank you all the time. I say thank you to you to because it takes all of us to make this special. Those people are special. I can't tell you exactly what it is but I can say it's gotta be real, it's gotta be true, it's gotta be genuine. Because it wouldn't be this real if it wasn't.

J.S.: It must be difficult ending your playing relationship with Ed after all these years.
C.B.: Ed is a dear friend and the person I've known longest on this earth. We went to kindergarten together. I've known the man over 55 years.

J.S.: Does that make it easier or harder that you know him that long?
C.B.: Yes (bursts into laughter).
We may play together again in some other configuration. I think like Ed, when we're through everybody wants to take a little breath and just kind of ponder everything. We've been nonstop for 33 1/3 years. We've been on longplay for a long time. We've been together so long everything around us has changed. When we started out you used to wear a suit to go on an airline. Now you've got to take all your clothes off to get through the goddam gate. The road wears. People age differently. I know Ed loves music. And he's a poet. I think he hit a physical and a mental wall. You can't make your body do something that it just can't do anymore. And it could get worse as well...

J.S: What's next for you aside from the solo album you're working on?
C.B.: I've always dabbled with side things like playing with the Mardi Gras Indians. If somebody calls me and I can do it that's great. Right now I'm just taking my time. I'm doing a CD from my early days it's either gonna be called Old Bayou Blues or Living Room Music. It's about my parend, my godfather, who taught me guitar when I was growing up... just going back to my roots. I figure it's a good place to start. Like the band I'm very eclectic, playing with the Radiators you can't help but be because you've got to go everywhere musically. It's just two guitars and a violin. I'm singing some simple country and western songs, I'm playing with David Doucet from Beasoliel and Harry Hardin the violin player with Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes. It started out as a recording in a club and it's turned into a studio project. It's taken a little longer... it feels good.

J.S.: There's talk of another version of the band emerging from all of this.
C.B.: I don't know where things are gonna go, but what I'd like to see happen is the four of us doing something with somebody else and developing a little thing, mostly Radiators songs and that kind of music, and just play a little bit, just to have something going on. We've been doing it for so long. But at the same time to allow everybody to do other projects that they want to do on the side. That would be perfect.

J.S.: There is the sense that you'd like to move forward and do something else.
C.B.: We'd have to shave something off that name. I'd feel a little uncomfortable calling it exactly that. We'll figure something out. I hope so and I think so as much as... I'm scared to death in some ways but at the same time I'm getting so much positive feedback from people. Look, doors close and doors open, it's really true. It's a turning point. This will definitely make me more creative, keep my spirit and energy going, after doing kind of the same thing for 33 years it will be good to just change it up a little bit.

J.S.: Do you have any personal goals?
C.B.: Somebody just asked me that and the first thing that came to mind is maybe I'll have a little bit of time to practice.

J.S.: How about unrealized ambitions?
C.B.: Just putting together some CDs, going through the different musical stages of my life. The next CD might be about some '60s music. All kinds of things are going through my head. We used to be Earl King's backup band. I thought about doing a record called Songs in the Key of Earl.

J.S.: You also played with Zigaboo Modeliste. You knew each other in high school, right?
C.B.: We go back a bit. We used to hear each other all the time but we never played together. A couple of years back we got a chance to do some gigs at Jazz Fest and Mardi Gras that were just a hoot. It's all serendipity. I dropped my car off at a place under the bridge to get a brake job, under the Crescent City Connection, and I know of a little breakfast place about three blocks from there. I guess it was about three months ago. I'm sitting there eating breakfast and in walks Ziggy and his wife Kathy and there they were at 7:30 in the morning at this litte breakfast place completely out of the way and there we were. I was just like really shattered at that point, burned out and wondering what was going to happen, and it was nice to be able to talk to an old friend like that. Zig went through a similar thing with the Meters. What a kind pair of ears and what a kind man...

J.S.: Have you gotten offers from other bands?
C.B.: I've had some offers and maybe if it was something I really wanted to do I'd do it but it would be kind of hard to jump onto something like that knowing that 4/5ths of the people I've enjoyed playing with for so long were waiting for me to play with them. That would be a true dilemma.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dave Speaks

Here's a transcript of an interview with Dave Malone conducted last year shortly after the Radiators announced that the band would close up shop.

John Swenson: I had the interesting assignment to go on the road with The Band in 1976 and write about their last tour. They were on the road honoring their commitments but

there was friction. Robbie Robertson seperated himself from the rest of the group but the others weren't ready to stop. This strikes me to some extent as a similar situation.

Dave Malone: I guess it should be made clear that the band did not decide to stop. A key and most people would argue the key guy decided that not only could he not take the

road anymore and believe me I totally get that because the road always wins and eventually ... we all have a hard time recovering. I'm 58 and I'm the youngest guy in the band.

In theory we could have kept playing around local stuff or hand picked gigs but he wants to just quit completely. He not only wrote most of the songs, he sings more of them

than I do and plays all the keyboards, he's also made every set list that we've played, of course we generally ignore them but they are guidelines. When somebody that

important decides he doesn't want to do it anymore, what can you say?

J.S.: Can you imagine continuing?

D.M.: Yeah I can imagine it. It remains to be seen. It means trying out another keyboard player and it would have to be someone who can sing but sure it could conceivably

happen. It's way too soon for me to say one way or the other about that but the question was 'Is it conceivable' and yes it is conceivable, of course.

J.S.: You're playing out your commitments.

D.M. Ed had agreed to play through Jazz Fest and after a day of sorting through the email I called him up and reminded him that there were other gigs we had booked beyond that

that he wasn't necessarily aware of because I handle that stuff along with Josh our road manager. When he found that out he agreed to go to the last booked gig. Then he called

me back an hour later and said I think the last gig the Radiators play should be at home. I had been thinking the same thing. So Tips would be great, hopefully we could have

farewell shows at Tips on the second weekend of June next year. That's what's going on.

J.S.: What's been the reaction?

D.M.: Disbelief and... sadness, I guess you'd say. Pretty much sad people. People have been calling me up, people I don't talk too that often, crying. It's awesome to hear

that this music means so much to so many people but it's kind of heartbreaking to hear.

J.S.: How does this feel to you personally?

D.M.: I don't know actually. Im sure when it gets closer to the end date I'm gonna be way more emotional than I am now and I am emotional now already. It's the end of

something that's been more than half of my life. Even thinking about him not being there is like having to think about your parents not being around. This steadfast thing

thats been in your life for this long a time to be suddenly gone is gonna be very weird.

J.S.: Do you think of your identity as a musician as Dave Malone of the Radiators or do you think of yourself in a larger context?

D.M.: I've done side projects that felt really good but for the most part yeah because I've been playing with this group of guys for so long, more than any other thing, you

start to question whether it will work in some other setting. I don't have arrogance and ego to think anything other than that. Luckily I've been doing outside projects

enought to indicate to me that there's more to me than being Dave the Radiator.

J.S.: But you will continue to play.

D.M.: How can you not play? That's what we do. I'm a guy who plays music with a guitar. What would I do? My youngest daughter wrote me out a possible future career list.

Number one was cowboy. Number two was bodybuilder and number three was a wood carver. No, I think of myself as Dave the guitar play singer guy. Hopefully I'll do some stuff

with my brother Tommy, hopefully I'll do some stuff with my daughter, my son, with some of the other musicians I love playing with. I don't know that yet. I'm still trying to

digest that the Rads aren't gonna be in my life anymore as such anyway.

J.S.: Fortunately there's still seventh months.

D.M.: Yeah you might think I have all this time to make a decision but I have all this time to be sad too. Thank god it didn't happen like it could have happened. We tempted

fate, we tempted death for a lot of years and at least we're not breaking up because a band member died. I'd be a blubbering mass of jelly if that happened.

J.S.: Maybe there's something to be said for stopping while you're still at a peak, like the baseball player who retires after a great season.

D.M.: That's easier said than done. It's one thing if your monetary rewards made retirment not an issue but we have to earn a living of some sort. It's a dilemma someone whose

in the world of being an artist, but you also have to pay the electric bill.

J.S.: People I'm talking to are looking at this as the end of an era.

D.M.: People calling me up and saying this stuff to me, it's just tearing my heart out. But I'm proud also at the same time. I'm having my heart yanked out because there are

so many people across the country whose whole friend base and love life, families even, are based on being around the Radiators. They're calling and saying they can't imagine

their lives without us, weve played their weddings, people have built social communities out of connections to the band, which is really incredible. I'm honored to have such a

big part in making their lives what they consider to be good, it's really touching.

J.S.: It's also the end of an era in that the radiators are the one rock band left in New Orleans with a direct tie to Professor Longhair and Earl King.

D.M.: We played with both of those gentlemen and they were super influential on our musical environment, but we also have ties to all of New Orleans rock and roll, we do

versions of some pretty obscure New Orleans songs. Lots of people don't even know that they're not our songs. We were lucky to grow up in an age when we could hear Ernie K-Doe

and Benny Stillman and Earl King and the Hawkettes on the radio and we were thinking everybody in the country was hearing this stuff because at the same time we were also

hearing what were national hits. We found out later that wasn't true. There are some bands coming up that are connecting themselves to some old brass bands way of playing,

even reinventing the songs. There needs to be another wave of kids appreciating the golden age of New Orleans rock and roll, all the Cosimo recordings and all that stuff.

There probably will be but we are the only band I know of that plays those songs regularly and understands how important that was in our musical formation.

J.S.: And you play those songs in the same context as songs by the Beatles and the Stones and the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers and all the blues and country stuff.

D.M.: We have that eclectic taste because back then the radio had free reign to play whatever the disc jockey wanted to play. You could hear Hank Williams Sr. and Otis Redding

and (laughs) Gary Puckett and the Union Gap back to back. We have all these diverse musical influences that were all brought to the table when we created our own songs as

well. I dont think we have a polka. We have to work on that.

J.S.: How thick is your schedule?

D. M. This just happened. I have to figure out how many gigs the guys want to play.

J.S.: Are you gonna do a Last Waltz type event?

D.M.: That's the idea. We've been talking about doing another studio album. The Last Waltz was not only about the band but also about all the people who had anything to do

with them. Some of the feedback has been that people just want to see the rads. We'll have to make a judgement call on that I think.

J.S.: The Last Waltz was clearly not just the end of The Band but a capsulization of a whole era of music. Maybe this being the end of a different era maybe that's the feeling we take away.

D.M.: I'm getting weepy just talking about it. I want it to be joyful, honest and honorable.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Jazz Fest reviews

Big Chiefs on the Battlefront
Forty two years ago Monk Boudreaux and Bo Dollis joined forces to lead a Mardi Gras Indian parade to Congo Square as the first official act of the New Orleans Jazz and
Heritage Festival. It was an extremely important symbolic act that opened up the secret society of the Black Indian gangs to the general public in non-ritual time. At roughly
the same time the two began to mix Mardi Gras Indian music with New Orleans R&B, an incredible important development in New Orleans music. At this year's Jazz Fest Boudreaux
and Dollis were still at it and Mardi Gras Indians were a huge part of the festival's identity at the Heritage stage and elsewhere. Boudreaux, who's become an iconic figure
through his presence in Treme, has never enjoyed a higher profile. He brought the house down as part of the Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars at the Acura Stage and had two
hellacious sets at the Heritage stage, one with the 101 Runners and another leading his own band. During the 101 Runners show and wizened old black man moved down to the front of the stage and started beating on a portable tom tom drum in time with the band. Several percussionist on stage smiled approval as the guy hit all the right accents during "Sew Sew Sew." This was about as perfect an expression of how New Orleans music moves seamlessly from the streets to the stage as I've ever witnessed.
I interviewed Bo Dollis two years ago and he was extremely frail, but at Jazz Fest he was miraculously restored to his rightful spot in front of the Wild Magnolias. With his son Bo Dollis Jr. providing appropriate support Bo Sr. seemed transported by the music, urging the crowd to sing along as he balanced on his cane or sat as he sang, decked out in a brilliant white suit instead of feathers and beads. Dollis was in powerful voice and was able to sing numerous verses as the crowd, aware that they were witnessing a miracle, urged him on with the fervent devotion of a religious gathering.

Long on Shorty
Trombone Shorty apparently doesn't sleep during Jazz Fest. He was all over town, day and night, playing until dawn at Tipitina's and then hitting the Fair Grounds for an
onslaught that included guest shots with people as disparate as Fifth Ward Weebie, Kid Rock and Jimmy Buffet. His own set was a dazzling example of how jazz can still be
cutting edge contemporary popular music. The young audience watching him at the Gentilly stage was mesmerized by his beautiful rendition of "On the Sunny Side of the Street,"
a song that would have driven the same audience to the exits if delivered in the cornball version too many veterans give it. Shorty made a very good song his own in the
context of a set that sizzled with a hard rock edge but traveled on funk rhythmic patterns and featured great trombone and trumpet playing from New Orleans' most galvanic
soloist. I saw two young men right after the show playing air trombone instead of air guitar as they moved excitedly toward their next destination. I was disappointed to see a
national writer try to describe how good Shorty was by comparing him to Kermit Ruffins. Shorty doesn't need Kermit as a foil to demonstrate his brilliance. It just doesn't sit
right with me that Kermit has to be dissed in order to talk about how good Shorty is. The perception problem is caused by too small a sample. It's a mistake to judge New
Orleans music by what happens at Jazz Fest alone. Kermit's decision to stay local isn't just good for his own lifestyle; it benefits everyone who calls New Orleans home.

Rads on a roll
The comment I kept hearing after the Radiators played their final Jazz Fest show was "That didn't sound like a band that is breaking up." Indeed it didn't, and the fact is the
band isn't breaking up; Ed Volker is leaving. I find it hard to believe that some version of this group will not continue on and I submit that the question of who will replace
them in the Jazz Fest lineup can be easily answered: pay them Bon Jovi money to reunite for a special series of performances at Jazz Fest every year. The band's run during
this year's fest was uncanny. Those who judged them merely on the two hours at the Fest with a host of special guests were unaware of the context of this music. Over seven
shows there were only a couple of repeat performances including the incendiary readymade "The Twitch," a guaranteed quantum jumper that goosed every set it
appeared in. My personal highlight reel of this run would have to include "Creeping Vine," "Hold Back the Flood," "Let the Red Wine Flow" and an astonishing great "Total
Evaporation" with Mark Mullins at The Temple; "Can't Take It with You When You Go" at Le Petite Theater; "Nail Your Heart To Mine," "Smoking Hole" and "Suck the Head" at House
of Blues; "Confidential," "Law of the Fish," "Circus Life" and "The Wrong Road" from the Dream Palace Revisited; "Screwloose," "Fuck 'Em if They Can't Take A Joke", "Lost What
(They) Had" and "River Run" from Snafu; and finally at Jazz Fest with "Never Let Your Fire Go Out" (with Michael Doucet on violin), "Waiting for the Rain" (with Warren Haynes
on guitar) and "Wild and Free." The whole run ended with Dave Malone channeling Chris Kenner on a careening version of "I Like It Like That" backed by a host of friends. When
a band plays a series of shows in one city that is as varied as the Radiators performances were during Jazz Fest the thoroughgoing critic has a genuine obligation to consider
the run as a whole because just about everyone else plays the same show night after night. Judging the Radiators by about a seventh part of a sequence of music that really has
to be heard in its entirety to be fully appreciated is like reviewing Wagner's Ring Cycle on the basis of the performance of "Ride of the Valkyries." Maybe that's why the fans
who took the time to listen are the only ones who ever really understood this very important piece of New Orleans music history.

Reggie Speaks

Here's a transcript of an interview I did with Reggie Scanlan of the Radiators, parts of which were used in the OffBeat cover story from Jazz Fest 2011:

Reggie Scanlan: I'm excited about doing something new and focussing on what I look at as another chapter in my life. The Radiators have had their time and it's probably better to close it down now with a little bit of style than to just kind of fall apart.

John Swenson: Do you see any difference in the shows since the announcement?

R.S.: I have to say that I think the band is playing at more of the level that it was at 15 years ago. We only have so many gigs left to go so it's almost like an unspoken thing that every gig has to count. Everybody is playing up to the mark and I can feel some people in the band getting a little more sentimental I guess. When you've got guys backstage crying and saying that this is worse than when they got divorced, I kind of go "Whoa, it's just a band," y'know?

J.S.: But obviously it's not just a band.

R.S.: When that started happening it dawned on me that the real thing the band achieved was not that it played great music and Ed wrote a lot of great songs, that's OK. A lot of bands do that. But the one thing about us that I think is our crowning achievement is that we were the catalyst for the formation of an amazing community of people that kind of formed in our wake. It's a real community. People talk to each other across the country, they travel to meet each other, they met their wives at a Radiators gig. We've become part of the tapestry of a lot of people's lives. I think that's really what we did. We proved that music really does bring people together.

J.S.: How did that happen?

R.S.: It wasn't a conscious effort on our part, I can tell you that. We had no idea what we were doing. Our fans have a different feel about them than other band's fan bases. These other bands have great fans -- Grateful Dead, Little Feat, Allman Brothers, they all have great fan bases. But ours seems to have taken on a different kind of a feel than all of those people. I'm not sure why that is. It might have been that we never got so big that we had 100 million fans. We got just big enough that we had a group of fans that could all stay in touch with each other if they wanted to. They all knoow each other when they go to shows. They all know their names, they recognize each other. It's a mystery to me why that group of fans fell into that particular mindset. It just happened on its own and in any other petri dish so to speak it never would have happened. It's a fluke almost.

J.S.: Are we talking about the nature of what it is to be in New Orleans?

R.S.: No because this is something that happened across the country. We're all out of New Orleans and obviously that's something that appeals to people on a deeper level. Maybe New Orleans music is what it took to get people to come together like that. Now that we're talking about it, I'm not even sure I wanna know.

J.S.: Alot of people would say it had something to do with the fact that you played with all these generations of Tulane students who moved to different places but stayed fans in those new places.

R.S.: That's really how we started to get gigs on the east coast back in the old days. Also people would come in and ask if they could tape shows. We said 'sure, if you want to go to the trouble to tape the show you can have it.' We didn't realize that the tape traders were sending these things back up to the east coast. When we went up there to play people already knew who we were. It was an amazing grass roots advertising system. But also, people following the Heat Gen which is the Radiators list serve, people were talking about what part we had played in their lives and you start seeing that we were really the soundtrack for a pretty good chuck of most of these people's lives. Whatever else was going on in their life, this was the constant. So I think that's one of the things that people kind of latched on to. And also Ed seems to write the kind of songs that make people believe that a particular song speaks to them at a certain point of their life when they need it. Something's going on in their life and they hear that song and think that's really what I'm about right now. I think all of that has a lot to do with it.

J.S.: What will these fans do now?

R.S.: I would imagine this is gonna be the same scenario on a smaller scale as what happened when Jerry Garcia died. There will be a number of fans that are not gonna wanna see anything that any of us do or any revised version of the Radaitors because they're Radiators fans and that's it. But that will be a small percentage. I think most of them will be interested in seeing what we do post-Radiators and hopefully it will touch them in some similar ways and be something thet're willing to support to some degree. There are people in the band who want to keep it going with a new keyboard player but honestly and realistically I can't see that happening. You can't do a big farewell tour and then jump up and say here's the band again. You're screwing your fans if you do that. You'd make them feel like they'd been conned.

J.S.: It wouldnt be the same band.

R.S.: It is in the sense that you have a different element in there but in a broad sense the Radiators is whatever we say it is. If we got a new keyboard player it would have a different... You want somebody who's gonna bring something to the party, adding to it because everybody plays different and I wouldn't want anybody in there who was trying to sound like Ed Volker. Half the fun of bringing somebody new into the band is they've got a different way of doing things.

Friday, May 27, 2011

New Atlantis on the tube

Here's a link to the NY1 report on New Atlantis and interview with John Swenson


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Washboard Chaz; New Atlantis in OffBeat

The June issue of OffBeat just came online. My cover story on Washboard Chaz is in there as well as an excerpt from my book New Atlantis. You can see both pieces as well as Alex Rawls' interview with mayor Mitch Landrieu and a wrap up of this year's New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival at:


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Porter, Batiste, Stoltz legal benefit

Whatever the legal merits of the case against the New Orleans musicians George Porter Jr., Russell Batiste and Brian Stoltz may be, the result should not bankrupt such important resources. A very important benefit to raise legal funds to enable the trio to defend itself takes place May 27 at the Howling Wolf. Legal battles pitting managers and record labels against New Orleans musicians always seem to end up with the lawyers getting far too much of the money. Anyone with a beef and the money to back it up can file a lawsuit; the lawyers win either way. But defending yourself from unjust accusations is always punitively expensive, so the musicians lose either way. Here's a link to Keith Spera's explanation of the story:


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Zeke Speaks

Here's a transcript of an interview I did with Ed Volker of the Radiators shortly after he announced he was leaving the band last year:

ED VOLKER: My story is that after 9/11 the road started squeezing tighter and tighter. There was the enhanced security, and our fortunes started waning a little bit so we weren't playing multiple nights when we traveled, so there was a lot more roadwork which meant a lot more riding from town to town. After Katrina the finances started getting even tighter. Over the last few years I've been more and more compressed and I'm just exhausted from the squeezebox of the road. I'm looking forward to a quieter, less stressful life.

John Swenson: So you've been wrestling with this decision for a while.

E.V.: Yeah. It started about five years ago, slightly before Katrina. The band has made difficult economic decisions in order to keep on rolling. Compared to other friends I know we've done remarkably well. But the price you have to pay for that is you make less money and you work harder. The road doesn't soften up and meanwhile I'm certainly getting older and I'm not snapping back like I used to. I've been debating it seriously for about two years. It just got to feeling like it's time.

J.S.: Was there a straw that broke the camel's back?

E.V.: Not really. Nothing dramatic. Just going through the same changes we all must go through. Watching your pennies and living on deadlines and gotta get to the airport... just... the road, y'know? More than anything else. I love the guys and I love our music. It wasnt an emotional thing of 'I cant work with this guy anymore' or 'You're playing the song wrong,' nothing to do with any of that stuff. I thought this was the most caring and fair way to make my departure, to give a lot of lead time so if the rest of the guys want to continue on with the Radiators in some fashion or another it's with my blessing. Whatever anybody does it gives us all some lead time to decide waht the next step would be.

I've gone through variations of three large feelings. One is relief to finally get away from it all. Another is complete heartbreak because a large portion of my life has been dedicated to the Radiators and the music. And the other thing is I'm scared. I don't know what the future's gonna bring. I've had a posse to work with for the last 33 years. Actually far before that I ran with the Rhapsodizers and before that it was the Dogs. I've been running with possees since I was 15. This is a major life change.

J.S.: Have you thought about what you'll do?

E.V.: I have all these little interests. I have a great affinity for being out of the public view, working underground, the true underground, the artist's cave. I've been doing a lot of archiving of my old songs. I have various interests, books that I study. I'm not making any plans at all. I'm thinking of taking six to 12 months of not being in the public eye at all, doing any performances whatsoever.

J.S.: So you wouldn't mind if the Radiators continued on without you.

E.V.: Not at all. It all remains to be seen.

J.S.: Are you thinking along the lines of doing a Last Waltz type event?

E.V.: There have been some discussions. There was an idea of doing a studio album. It seems more fitting that maybe we do three nights in a row at Tip's for our swan song and make that the project. We could call it some kind of variation of Work Done On Premises because our first recording, barring the single at Luigi's 'Suck the Heads,' our first complete work was the LP Work Done on Premises recorded in the spring of 1980.

It all remains to be seen. Man proposes, god disposes. This all presupposes that all of us are healthy enough to make it to Tipitinas in June of 2011. We'll see. We don't know what's going to happen.

J.S.: It strikes me that this is the end of an era of New Orleans music. Not everybody would agree with me when I say that the Radiators were the carriers of a particular type of New Orleans culture but to me that seems very clear that the end of the Radiators would mean the end of a specific type of New Orleans rock culture.

E. V.: We embodied the idea of the eclecticism that defined 60s bands like Little Feat and the Dead, and the early Stones, but we did it in our uniquely New Orleans fashion. There was nobody quite like us in the way we mixed things up. We seemed to have our fingers in lots of pies. In that way we were unique. While we were a part of New Orleans music we were something apart from it as well. We didn't have a set approach or style. We had Dave's country rock thing, then riffing on the Meters with 'Suck the Head' then a Merle Haggard song, a Blind Willie Johnson song. We covered a lot of different song spaces.

J.S.: You are also a direct link to an era of New Orleans music that no longer exists because you actually played with Professor Longhair and Earl King.

E.V: That's so much a part of us that I take it for granted.

J.S.: The new wave of very interesting eclectic New Orleans rock bands doesn't have that connection. That's been cut. You guys are the last link to that. These new rock bands could just as eaily come from San Francisco or Portland, Oregon or Minneapolis or Brooklyn New York. In fact, some of them do come from other places.

J.S.: Looking back, does anything stand out?

E.V.: It's a kaleidoscopic merry go round or rather roller coaster I should say.

J.S.: You have a close relationship with the MOM's ball dating back to the Rhapsodizers.

E.V.: Before that. The first MOMs ball there was live music Camile and I were in the band. It was a band called Sweet Magnolia. As long as there's been live music at the MOMs ball -- the first year there wasn't -- I've been in the band.

J.S.: What is the band's legacy?

E.V.: That's a tree that has lots of branches. What will it be remembered for? Part of it is the eclecticism of the music, part of it is the good heartedness of the shows and part of it is an extension of that in that our fans became communities onto themselves, kind of floating communities. About eight or ten years ago when a lot of people had more disposable income I guess people would fly around to catch us in various places around the country. There was a lot of community spirit there, sort of like the fans created their own Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs wherever they went.

J.S.: The connections between those people don't necessarily end even if the band isn't there to conduct the service. What kind of feedback have you been getting?

E.V.: They're kind of in a state of shock. I don't really do a lot of social networking. My idea of social networking is Terranova's and walking on the bayou and hanging out with friends on my porch. I don't really go on line to see what people are saying.

J.S.: Will Jolly House continue?

E.V.: Jolly House is a nice little thing. We played last night at Chickie Wah Wahs. I don't know what Reggie's going to do and Joe's still with the Iguanas. I want to get away from ambition, the way the Radiators lifestyle for me was a driven-ness. I'm not going to translate that headline deadline reality to any other entity. I like playing with Jolly House but I have no plans or ambitions except to do the occasional gig.

J.S.: You must be happy about what you achieved.

E.V.: Oh yeah, I got to live my dream. When I was a kid, first starting to get turned on to music when I was 10 years old, when I first started to write songs I would design my own LP covers and write the whole back cover and list all the songs. So back when I was 10 years old I was dreaming of having this reality and I got to do it.

Rev. Frank Zappa on the deficit

The great moral philosopher Frank Zappa had the perfect solution to the deficit crisis back in the 1980s when he ran for president. In light of the terrific advice we're getting from religious zealots these days it's worth revisiting his bold economic plan:

"Tax the churches. Tax the businesses owned by the churches!"

That's our sermon for today. Thank you.

Rapture this, suckers

Spent the day of rapture drinking beer and eating sausages at a local bar. Old fart face still around on the day after, and he has all that money people gave him to console himself with. Doesn't this guy owe everyone on earth $1.99 or something for wasting our time with his phony science fiction drivel? The Bible is a cool book about human life but people should stop using it as an excuse to tell other people how much better than them they are. Jesus is not coming to turn all dead "believers" (I believe they are actually dead, y'know?) into Norman Rockwell zombies, and unfortunately he's not coming to whisk away all the living ones either. I'd gladly take my chances with "The Rapture" if only to get rid of all these gun toting, rich people worshiping, bedroom window peeking, abortion doctor killing right wing hypocrites who call themselves Christians. Christ did not keep company with jerks like that when he actually was around to pick his friends.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Jazz Fest thoughts

I've been busy with the release of New Atlantis: Musicians Battle for the Future of New Orleans, so I haven't posted lately. I did write some pieces about what happened in late April and early May in New Orleans for OffBeat's upcoming June issue, including a lengthy report on Chaz Fest. Overall the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Presented by New Orleans Musicians was an obvious success due in no small part to spectacular weather, perhaps the best ever. I have to say I felt cheated by the presence of the likes of Kid Rock and Bon Jovi not so much because they watered down the music, which of course they did. There was plenty of great music to go around at Jazz Fest, though. The problem from where I stand is that the celebrity quasi-musicians at Jazz Fest distracted too many journalists from writing about the local music at this festival, which was shockingly dismissed or simply glossed over in many national magazine reports on the fest. I won't single anyone out but a casual glance will reveal who was more interested in the opportunity to weigh in on Entertainment Tonight regulars than to report on the magnificent music that is only available in New Orleans. National readers heard about who they already know and could easily see in their own town on the rest of the national tour that Jazz Fest was only a stop on. They did not read about Irma Thomas' heartrending recollection of her recently-deceased mother during her Mahalia Jackson tribute. The historic final Jazz Fest performance of the Radiators was sniffed at. You won't read anything about the joyous reunion of the Bluerunners at the Fais Do Do stage. Dr. John's stirring performances with Dave Bartholomew playing trumpet on "The Monkey Speaks His Mind" and Mac himself on guitar paying tribute to Earl King with "Let the Good Times Roll" went unremarked. Once again the eloquent warnings of the Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars fell on deaf ears, which is one reason why Tab Benoit's speech urging listeners to bypass the media in dealing with this problem had such resonance. Anders Osborne's best big stage rock performance of the festival was an afterthought in most reporters' notebooks. I'm sorry I didn't do a more aggressive job of finding a way to report on this singular -- and very imperiled -- event myself. I'll add some posts on my personal highlights in the next few days.