Archive for February, 2009



Carnival music adds considerable excitement to the festivities. All the major activities of the Carnival season: parades, balls, and parties make heavy use of music.

Probably the most popular songs of Carnival, revived annually on jukeboxes, the  internet, and across the radio dial, are Rhythm and Blues Carnival Tunes performed by Professor Longhair, Al Johnson, and the Hawketts (also Hawkettes).

Four songs are heard most often: The Hawketts’ Mardi Gras Mambo, Al Johnson’s Carnival Time,  Professor Longhair’s Go To the Mardi Gras, and Earl King’s Big Chief Part 1 & 2 (as performed by Longhair).

Mardi Gras Mambo was a local hit for the Hawketts in 1954. It was the first recording experience for the group, which included lead vocalist and organist Art Neville. The majority of the band was still in high school. They received little money from the recording, but were established as a favorite local performing group because of it. Oddly, there was never another Hawketts recording.

Over the last couple of decades, Mardi Gras compilations have multiplied prodigiously. The first and best compilation remains Mardi Gras Records’ Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The track list follows:

1. Go to the Mardi Gras, Professor Longhair

2. Handa Wanda, Bo Dollis and Wild Magnolia Mardi Gras Indian Band

3. Carnival Time, Al Johnson

4. Big Chief Part 2, Professor Longhair

5. Street Parade, Earl King

6. Second Line Part 1, Stop Inc.

7. Mardi Gras Mambo, the Hawketts

8. New Suit, the Wild Magnolias

9. Big Chief, Part 2, Professor Longhair

10. (Big Chief like plenty of) Fire Water, The Wild Magnolias

11. Handa Wanda Part 2, Bo Dollis and Wild Magnolia Mardi Gras Band

12. Second Line Part 2, Stop, Inc.

No article on popular Carnival music could be complete without mention of the official song of Rex, If Ever I Cease to Love. This song, a waltz, is the favorite of much of the ball-going set, a position it has held for a very long time, as the tune was first performed at the very first Rex parade in 1872.

The song was selected because Alexis Romanoff Alexandrovitch, the Grand Duke of Russia, had seen Lydia Thompson sing it in New York in a burlesque show, Blue Beard, and was smitten by both the woman and the tune. The Duke’s decision to visit New Orleans during Carnival prompted the hasty organization of a gala daytime procession, which became Rex. In honor of the Russian guest, If Ever I Cease to Love was played often. The song was an instant success, and it has been the preeminent ball tune ever since.

Mardi Gras Glossary


1873 Boeuf Gras engravingANODIZED  A method of coating a plain aluminum doubloon with a color by dipping the doubloon in an electrolyte bath.

BEIGNET  A square, fritter-like doughnut without a hole, fried in hot oil.

BOEUF GRAS  “Fattened ox” in French. the Boeuf Gras symbolizes the last meat eaten before the start of Lent.

CARNIVAL  The season of merrymaking beginning twelve days after Christmas and ending with Ash Wednesday.

CAFE AU LAIT  Coffee prepared with one half hot milk.

DEN  A warehouse used to store and build parade floats.

DOUBLOON  A type of throw, an aluminum coin with the emblem of the issuing organization embossed on one side and the theme of the parade on the order. 2009 is the 50th anniversary of the Mardi Gras Doubloon, invented by Alvin Sharpe.

FLAMBEAU  The traditional device for illuminating Carnival parades, a metal torch fules with naphtha (a petroleum product).  Plural- Flambeaux.

KING CAKE   A doughnut shaped cake decorated with purple, green and gold icing and/or colored sugar.  King Cakes are a major food tradition of Carnival in New Orleans.

KREWE  A Universal term for Carnival organizations, coined by Comus in 1857.

MARDI GRAS  French for Fat Tuesday, also known as Shrove Tuesday.  The culminating day of the Carnival festivities.

MEDALLION  A type of throw, a necklace with a pendant bearing a Krewe’s emblem.

NEUTRAL GROUND  The dividing strip of ground, usually planted, between the two sides of a large street.

PARISH  the Louisiana term for county.

THROW  Any trinket tossed from a Carnival parade float to spectators, the most common being plastic beads and plastic cups. Stuffed items are very popular- stuffed animals, swords, figures, etc.

VIEUX CARRE  French for “Old Square”, the French Quarter.

Future Dates of Mardi Gras


How is the date for Mardi Gras determined? This year, the date is February 24, but any Tuesday from February 3 to March 9 could be the one. The rule is: Mardi Gras is always 46 days before Easter, which is always the first Sunday after the full moon following the Spring Equinox. And when is the Spring Equinox? It’s the day when the sun crosses the plane of the earth’s equator, making day and night all over the planet the same length. Because this date changes, Easter and Mardi Gras shift also. Easter can fall on any Sunday from March 23 to April 25.  Isn’t this easy?  Try the following chart for quick reference.

Upcoming Mardi Gras Dates:

2009 February 24 2016 February 9
2010 February 16 2017 February 28
2011 March 8 2018 February 13
2012 February 21 2019 March 5
2013 February 12 2020 February 25
2014 March 4 2021 February 16
2015 February 17 2022 March 1


The Clydesdale team in action, courtesy Paul J. Murphy, 2007

The Clydesdale team in action, courtesy Paul J. Murphy, 2007

Carnival in New Orleans wouldn’t be the same without the annual appearance of the famed Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale Horses. The eight horse hitch pulling the traditional Budweiser beer wagon will appear in seven parades in the New Orleans area: 2/13, Excalibur; 2/14, Ceasar; 2/15, Nemesis; 2/17-19, stable viewing; 2/20, D’Etat; 2/21, Endymion; 2/22, Bacchus; 2/24, Zulu.

The Clydesdale breed is a heavy draught (work) horse breed originating in Scotland and improved through crossbreeding with Flemish stallions. They were introduced into America as a draught horse used to pull a load.

In 1933, August A. Busch, Jr. introduced the first Clydesdale hitch to celebrate the end of Prohibition. Today, three eight-horse hitch teams travel the US, making more than 400 appearances annually.

The Clydesdales travel in style. Each eight-horse hitch is transported via caravan in three fifty by eight-foot custom designed vans with air cushion suspension, thick rubber flooring to ease the rigors of standing. Vent fans and insulation assure fresh air and comfortable temperatures.  The caravan stops each 100 miles while traveling and at night to attend to the horses’ comfort.

Weighing in at slightly more than one ton, each gelding eats 25 pounds of pounds of beet pulp, crimped oats, bran, minerals, salt, and molasses daily, plus 55 pounds of hay.

In 1950, the first dalmatian appeared for the Newark Brewery Opening. They have been the official mascot ever since.

Grooming and dressing the Clydesdales is a massive undertaking. It takes an average of 45 minutes to wash a single horse. Braiding ribbons into the mane and tail takes another 20 minutes. Then into the black and brass $35,000 custom-made harness-ware.  In all, it takes five hours of strenuous work to ready each animal to meet their public, and they sometimes make two appearances in a day.

In the New Orleans area, the Clydesdales are stabled at the local Budweiser Distributor:
Southern Eagle Sales & Service
5300 Blair Drive
Metairie, LA 70003
They always have a nice display set up and you can come out and pet them and meet the handlers who take care of them and travel with them. When I went to my local Rouses Grocery on Tchoupitoulas Street around noon today (February 17, 2009), there was a Bud Clydesdale horse doing public relations with one of the huge buses they travel around in. I didn’t have my camera with me, and my phone camera sucks.

To get WDSU Parade Tracker updates on your cell phone, text “follow parades” to 40404


Check out They have gps units on the first and last floats of all the parades and text the info live via twitter to your phone.  You can always know where the parades are while they are running and you are running after them. To get complete details how to turn this service on and off, go to:

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