(pictured: The Neville Brothers)
When I do a longer series, I like to take a break in the middle. Hence this side trip from San Francisco to The Big Easy. In the meantime, if you want your Dead fix, I’ll cheat a little bit and add in a fourth song. It’s the Dead’s version of the Meters’ “Hey Pocky A-Way.” Fear not, the Grateful Dead series will resume in a couple of days….
The Neville Brothers (Art, Charles, Aaron, and Cyril) are from New Orleans Louisiana, started up in the mid-Seventies and (praise be!) are all still very much with us. (Actually, most of these guys have been active since the Fifties but didn’t officially come together as a band until 1977.)
Aaron with his “warm, conversational tenor that modulates effortlessly into an ethereal falsetto or rich bass notes,” is arguably the most well-known. His “Tell It Like It Is,” was originally on my “Indispensable 150” list till I realized it was too far away from the Fifties. (1966.)
The brothers originally got together for a recording session for their uncle’s band, The Wild Tchoupitoulas. (Please note – that is the greatest name ever for anything on the face of the earth.)
“Congo Square” is a song from the Neville Brothers’ 1994, Live From Planet Earth. It was co-written by Mississippi-born Louisiana native (and slide guitar whiz), Sonny Landreth. I have no idea how this song popped into my head. But I’m glad it did as it inspired this post.
A while back I was browsing through the blogosphere and stumbled on the site of fellow blogger, Jealous Sounds. She had a post on a great, now-defunct New Orleans band, The Radiators. Head slap! I loved these guys and I completely forgot about them. A great, smokin’ bluesy band.
Although they’ve broken up, apparently they still periodically re-form to play the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and the legendary Tipitina’s, a club that, sadly, I could not get to when down there a couple of years ago.
I couldn’t decide among “Doctor, Doctor,” “Like Dreamers Do,” and “Suck the Head.” (A reference, of course, on the proper way to eat crayfish.)
“Doctor, Doctor” it is, a smokin’ hot tune with some nasty slide:
What can one say about Dr. John that hasn’t already been said? I saw him once in another lifetime. 10,000 years ago. He’s always been around and apparently always will be. He was sometimes backed by the Meters, another great NOLA band whose frontman was Art Neville and who were the house band for the late great Allen Toussaint.
He is not the first to record the song “Iko, Iko,” but his version is my favorite. Brief history – James “Sugar Boy” Crawford, of New Orleans, wrote the song and called it “Jock-A-Mo.”
“It came from two Mardi Gras Indian chants that I put music to,” he advises. ““Iko Iko” was like a victory chant that the Indians would shout. “Jock-A-Mo” was a chant that was called when the Indians went into battle. I just put them together and made a song out of them.”
As it happens, today is the last day of this year’s Jazz Festival. The Radiators weren’t there but Aaron Neville, Sonny Landreth, Dr. John, and the Meters all played.