Tres Songs (Inspired by New Orleans)

The better half and I took a brief sojourn to New Orleans this past week for some rest and recreation. (Recreation is abundant in NOLA; rest, not so much.) This was my fourth trip (2 business, 2 personal) to the Big Easy and I must say if you’ve never been you should consider going.

We here in the States like to call ourselves a ‘melting pot’ but the most obvious manifestation of that is, I think, in New Orleans where so many influences (Cajun, Creole, African, French, Spanish) came together to create a veritable gumbo of humanity.

Unlike my piece last year about the Grand Canyon* this is not a travelogue as such. Although that said, I need a little bit of that to set this piece up. No, this is a music piece. In fact, this trip inspired three posts, one of which will likely surprise long-time readers as much as the idea of doing it did me.

The specific event that inspired this post was a bus tour we took to catch a boat to go on a bayou swamp tour. (This same tour included a trip to a former plantation that housed slaves which was a sobering and enlightening experience.)

The tour was led by some real-life Cajun guy who they should definitely hire to be the ‘good ol’ boy’ for one of those clichéd Southern ‘B’ movies. At one point, Cap’n Tom passed around a baby gator for pictures and then explained the sexual difference between crayfish by showing us their ‘equipment.’ You can hear some of his rambling wisdom in the video at the very bottom of the post.

Anyway, the bayou. Wikipedia: “In usage in the United States, a bayou is a body of water typically found in a flat, low-lying area, and can be either an extremely slow-moving stream or river (often with a poorly defined shoreline), or a marshy lake or wetland. Many bayous are home to crawfish, certain species of shrimp, other shellfish, catfish, frogs, toads, American alligators, American crocodiles, herons, turtles, spoonbills, snakes, leeches, and many other species.”

First up, “Blue Bayou,” a song co-written by Roy Orbison. It was a hit for him in 1963 and then again for Linda Rondstadt in 1977. I already featured Ronstadt’s version in a previous series so let’s focus on Roy.

It’s not too much, I think, to say that with his songwriting skills and his vocal range, Orbison was worshiped by a legion of later singers. Bruce Springsteen:

“Roy Orbison was the true master of the romantic apocalypse you dreaded and knew was coming after the first night you whispered ‘I Love You’ to your first girlfriend. You were going down. Roy was the coolest uncool loser you’d ever seen. With his Coke-bottle black glasses, his three-octave range, he seemed to take joy sticking his knife deep into the hot belly of your teenage insecurities.”

Spotify link

With its haunting arpeggiated opening E7 chord, CCR’s “Born on the Bayou” evokes a sense of mystery and expectation. And now having spent about an hour and a half on a swamp tour – hence being an expert – I can now attest that the overall tempo of the song lends itself well to that ‘swampy’ feel.

For a guy born and raised in California and who had yet to visit the Deep South, with songs like “Proud Mary” and “Bayou” John Fogerty is somehow able to effortlessly conjure up images that stay in your head, make you feel the heat of the swamp rising:

Wish, I was back on the bayou
Rollin’ with some Cajun Queen
Wishin’ I were a fast freight train
Just a chooglin’ on down to New Orleans

Spotify link

There is much that can and should – and will – be said about one Hiram King Williams. Known as Hank Williams, he was one of the most prolific songwriters of the 20th century. This was no mean feat as he managed to live to the ripe old age of 29 before succumbing to a toxic cocktail of drugs.

Released six months prior to his January 1953 death, “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” is named, of course, for the Creole-Cajun rice-based dish. (My wife had it just last night in a bistro off of Bourbon Street. She loves it. And while New Orleans dishes and cooking are typically outstanding, Jumbalaya is one I can take or leave.)

I can practically guarantee you John Fogerty wishes he’d written this song. He loves it so much he did a cover of it on his 1973 solo album, The Blue Ridge Rangers. But we’ve already heard from Fogerty so let’s go back to the source. (This one’s for that shit-kickin’ Canuck, CB.)

Spotify link

*Three people died in plunges at the Grand Canyon recently which surprises me not at all given that there are zero guardrails of any sort up there. You wanna go over, you go over.

26 thoughts on “Tres Songs (Inspired by New Orleans)

  1. My brother (the black-sheep middle one) is a huge Creedence fan. He once corrected me when I called them CCR. “True fans call them ‘CREEDENCE,’ he said, “not CCR!” Yeah, whatever.

    Dan Rather had yet another fantastic interview recently, this one with John Fogerty. VERY revealing. I never knew there was so much animosity in that band. Anyway, there was a clip of…CREEDENCE…doing “Born on the Bayou” at Woodstock. It gave me chills. I later went to YouTube and watched the whole thing. It gave me chills and goosebumps. They came on stage at 3 a.m.! Anyway, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75VQp8iGNF0. Make sure you check out John F. barking orders just after the song ended.

    Re New Orleans, I love food and music, so it’s one of my favorite cities.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love when “true fans” set me straight. 🙂 Or guys that say that XYZ is the “best band ever.” A friend of a friend on Facebook said that about the Moody Blues. After the third time I’d had enough and I said, “Yeah except for these bands they WOULD be” and then reeled off a list from Beatles to Steely Dan and everything in between. That was months ago. I await his reply. I mean I like the Moodys but come on! Don’t try to make subjective objective and they lay it on everybody as established fact.

      I will check the Rather interview and that YouTube video out for sure. How very odd that Rather is interviewing all these rockers. Never knew he was into any of them until I saw the Gregg Allman one.

      As to CCR animosity, yeah it was so bad that John never reconciled with his brother Tom even when Tom was dying. How bad can it get? Brothers should never be in bands together. Dire Straits. Kinks. Oasis to name a few. Does not work for the most part.

      Agreed on NOLA. My wife says she wants to retire there. I cautioned her against romanticizing our occasional visits with the reality of living there (or anywhere for that matter.) The bus tour we took demonstrated that outside of the Garden District, it is somewhat of a poor city and there is even a listing saying “Murder Capital” in Wikipedia. So, maybe a very nice place to visit.

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        1. I seen him during that time. When he released ”Center-field’ ‘ there was a song on there which was a shot at the guy who ran the record label. No wonder some of these guys get a little miserable, having to deal with the non creative people telling them what to do and taking a big cut. I wouldn’t react well to that.

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        2. And holding them hostage. Springsteen, Petty – both guys who got screwed and fought back. And Lennon/McCartney never held the publishing rights on their own songs. Still don’t. The music business is a bad, bad deal.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. True about NO being a mixed bag. We may have taken that same bus tour, in 2012.

    Yes, Rather has some of the best rock music interviews I’ve ever seen. He’s not afraid to probe controversy, but does it in a polite, professional way. Unfortunately, though, his recent interviews are scraping the bottom: Steve Perry of Journey, Styx, Florida-Georgia Line…(come on, Dan, how about John Lydon??).

    Re my brother’s comment to me, I learned long ago to take with a grain (a shaker) of salt anything that he says!

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  3. CCR, Roy and Hank. There’s 3 beauties for ya. ‘Born On the Bayou ‘will be getting the CB treatment soon ( When I look at my takes, CCR seems to be a big part of my musical life). No apologies but I’ll take Roys version hands down. And Hank is …well just the man who has inspired the world.
    Get into the dirt of that music and listen to some Clifton Chenier and Queen Ida. I’d fill up a few pages talking about all the great musicians from down there.
    Better check, the “Better Half” might have that reptile living in your tub. On the video I was waiting for Doc to jump in and wrassle that bastard.
    Next stop Memphis.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of those three posts I promised will be on zydeco. I didn’t hear nearly enough down there but when I did I broke out into my hillbilly dance. You should have seen it. A thing of beauty.

      The video cut off on the alligator thing ‘coz I tried to do exactly that. “Let me at him.” I shouted but a couple of big Southern boys held me back and fed me moonshine whiskey till I calmed down. “Long distance information give me Memphis, Tennessee.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think the Zydeco is or was more of a country thing but I’m sure it’s kicking around the Big Easy. I’m sure people are still talking about that “crazy bastard that was pissed out of his head shaking a leg”.
        That gator had rubber teeth.

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        1. Watch for the post. The history may surprise. Definite blues element in there as well. I know a guy and his wife love to go zydeco dancing, whatever that may be. They always feature a good dose of it at the Lowell Folk Festival.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. This surely sounds like you guys had a fun trip.

    I’ve been to New Orleans twice for business. Other than getting a bit of a taste of the great local cuisine and taking a quick walk through the French Quarter, unfortunately, I didn’t get much of an impression.

    That bayou swamp tour sounds intriguing. I suppose the closest I ever did was a tour on an airboat in the Everglades – felt a bit like riding a propeller plane.😀 Unfortunately, we didn’t see any gators – perhaps not a big surprise, given the crazy noise of the airboat!

    As for your song selections, you won’t be surprised to hear I’m mostly drawn to “Born On The Bayou” – just a very cool tune. And, yes, it’s amazing it was written by a guy from California!😀

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    1. I feel like I’ve visited NOLA enough that I’ve gotten a pretty good feel for it or as much as is possible for a tourist. My wife and I Iast went together a couple years after Katrina and went an eye-popping tour of that devastation. Which BTW, they never stop talking about and for which there are plenty of tours.

      The swamp boat/plantation tour was 100% my wife’s idea and it was a good one. (This whole trip was a “happy wife/happy life” trip.)

      What’s more amazing about “Born on the Bayou” is that it was written by a guy who had about as much knowledge of the bayou as you and I! What a great freaking song. Never get tired of it.

      I’ll visit your crib later tonight to see what’s cooking.

      Liked by 1 person

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