Archive for February, 2011

Mardi Gras Music Series: EARL KING


I’ve been a big fan of Earl King since moving to New Orleans in the middle 1970’s. I remember seeing Earl at the Jazz Fest in the late 1970’s. He was a true R&B powerhouse. I purchased a copy of the Trick Bag album, it was 1 of the top 5 New Orleans R & B tunes for me, along with Tell It Like It Is, Go To The Mardi Gras, Cha Dookie-Doo, and Mardi Gras Mambo.

Unilaterally respected around his Crescent City birthplace as both a performer and a songwriter, guitarist Earl King was a leading New Orleans R&B force for more than 4 decades.

Mardi Gras tune-  Street Parade by Earl King

Earl King

Earl King

Born Earl Johnson, the youngster considered the catalogs of Texas guitarists T-Bone Walker and Gatemouth Brown almost as fascinating as the live performances of local luminaries Smiley Lewis and Tuts Washington. King met his major influence and mentor, Guitar Slim, at the Club Tiajuana, one of King’s favorite haunts (along with the Dew Drop, of course). The two instantly became friends. Still performing under the name Earl Johnson, the guitarist debuted on wax in 1953 on Savoy with “Have You Gone Crazy.” On this record, longtime pal Huey “Piano” Smith made the first of his many memorable supporting appearances.

In the world of the Blues the name of “King” is highly respected. Most fans associate the surname with the obvious “Big 3,” Albert, B.B. and Freddie. But in New Orleans, the residents know there is a 4th that deserves his place alongside these 3: Earl King.

Earl King was more than just a musician. He was a renaissance man. During his nearly 5 decade career, he wore many hats: guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, producer, sideman, arranger and mentor. He was prolific in his output, perhaps only rivaled by Allen Toussaint for recognizable material. His songs have been covered by the likes of Fats Domino, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Meters, Johnny Adams, Professor Longhair and many more. And unlike many other artists of his generation, he profited from the royalties gained by those who covered his songs as he had wisely retained the copyrights to his work.

Earl King

Earl King

He was born in New Orleans as Earl Silas Johnson on February 6, 1934. Raised in the city’s Irish Channel neighborhood, his father was a Blues pianist who was a close acquaintance with the locally renowned Tuts Washington. But Earl’s father died when he was still quite young and he was raised in a single-parent home by his mother, a heavy-set woman known affectionately as “Big Chief.”

Earl’s musical life began in the family church. He participated in the choir singing Gospel. But one day while walking through the neighborhood he heard the guitar playing of Smiley Lewis emanating from a bar. The music enchanted him and he sought means to express his singing outside of the church.

Pianist Huey Smith heard the teenager sing and decided to hire him for his band. Needing another vocalist and musician, he convinced Earl to pick up the guitar.

Johnson became Earl King upon signing with Specialty the next year. Label head Art Rupe intended to name him King Earl, but the typesetter accidentally reversed the names. A Mother’s Love, King’s first Specialty offering, was an especially accurate Guitar Slim homage produced by Johnny Vincent, who would soon launch his own label, Ace Records, with King one of his principal artists. King’s first Ace single, the seminal two-chord south Louisiana blues Those Lonely, Lonely Nights, proved a national R&B hit (despite a sound-alike cover by Johnny “Guitar” Watson). Smith’s rolling piano undoubtedly helped make the track a hit.

Earl King Trick Bag Album

Earl King Trick Bag Album Scandinavian version

I notice this Trick Bag album is on the Sonet label, that’s a Scandinavian label, I knew the owners, and did business with the Storyville label for many years.  It was sold to Polygram and for a decade they buried the label.

King remained with Ace throughout the rest of the decade, recording an unbroken string of great New Orleans R&B sides with the unparalleled house band at Cosimo’s studio. He later moved to Imperial to work with producer Dave Bartholomew in 1960, cutting the classic Come On (also known as Let The Good Times Roll) and 1961’s humorous Trick Bag. He managed a second chart item in 1962 with Always a First Time. King wrote standout tunes for Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, and Lee Dorsey during the 1960s.

Although a potential 1963 pact with Motown was scuttled at the last moment, King admirably rode out the rough spots during the late ’60s and ’70s. In the 1990s, he rejuvenated his career by signing with Black Top; Sexual Telepathy and Hard River to Cross were both superlative albums.After releasing well over 100 albums, the label folded in 1999. Nauman Scott died in 2002. Hammond Scott sold the rights of the catalog, and some releases were reissued on labels such as Varèse Sarabande, Fuel 2000 and Shout! Factory. In 2006, P-Vine Records in Japan acquired the worldwide rights to them, and has reissued a few of the CD’s from the catalog.

In 2001, King was hospitalized for an illness during a tour to New Zealand, however, that did not stop him from performing. In December of the same year, he toured Japan, and he continued to perform off and on locally in New Orleans until his death.

He died on April 17, 2003, from diabetes related complications, just a week before the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. His funeral was held during the Festival period on April 30, and many musicians including Dr. John, Leo Nocentelli and Aaron Neville were in attendance.[4] His Imperial recordings, which have been long out-of-print, were reissued on CD soon after he died. The June 2003 issue of a local music magazine OffBeat paid a tribute to King by doing a series of special articles on him.

Krewe du Vieux Rolls in Perfect Weather (?) With Huge Crowds!

"25 Years Wasted" 2011 KdV Title Float

"25 Years Wasted" 2011 KdV Title Float

I had more fun last night with my krewe than I’ve had since…I last rolled with my krewe a year ago! I’m an Escort, meaning I play the role of Security Guard for my float, along with several other Escorts. Since KdV rolls through Marigny & the Vieux Carre, the streets are narrow and the huge crowds last night had to be kept off the float for most of the parade.

The weather was wonderful and warm, so unlike any other KdV parade I’ve been associated with or watched. This is always a cold weather parade, since it runs very early in the Carnival Season. What a wonderful, unexpected, delightful change!

Get involved in our big local holiday, and JOIN a krewe and RIDE (or walk)!! It is a big part of  New Orleans’ identity, and the feeling is indescribable. I like to interact with the crowd, I high five as many spectators as I can, while screaming, “Happy Mardi Gras to you, & you, & you, etc.” I do this for 10 minutes on, 5 minutes off for the entire 2.5 mile route. As we high five, our eyes meet, and I get a small rush of energy. At the end of the parade, you have aggregated so many interactions with parade goers that you feel high, high on life. The world is a way better place during parades.

Lionel Batiste, Treme Brass Band

Lionel Batiste, Treme Brass Band

KdV has unique, themed throws.  Each sub krewe has their own sub krewe throw(s); however, any member can produce a limited edition throw and throw it alone or with fellow krewe members. The krewe throw may  be a fly swatter, or sticker, or bumper sticker, dreidel, etc. The type of throw may stay the same, but the contents change. The two krewe-wide throws, the cup and wooden nickel, are used every year but dressed up with the new theme.

The crowd last night seemed very special. I was amazed at the high number of coordinated costumes and big time painted faces in the crowd throughout Marigny and  French Quarter. There were more people in very nice costumes  with superb make up than I’ve ever seen for KdV.  I guess it was all the costume parties along the parade route? Otherwise, I cannot explain this phenomena.

Underwear 2011 Float

Underwear 2011 Float

A few words about the truly memorable parading music provided by the Krewe of Underwear band, Egg Yolk Jubilee. Here’s a wonderful 2001 video of EYJ with the Emperor of the Universe himself, Ernie K-Doe!! We used EYJ last year, and they were hired back this year.

The fabulous weather had a big effect on the crowd, more  Last night, it was 6o degrees at parade time! While dancing my ass off to the fabulous New Orleans Radiators, I sweated to KdV like never before.

When the Rads started after the Brass Band Jam, the KdV party gained traction and moved up a level. The Rads are on their farewell tour and I feel lucky we had them for our party last night. They didn’t disappoint and showed they are leaving at the top of their game after 35 years and 4,500 concerts!  They will be sorely missed.

Ed Volker of New Orleans Radiators

Ed Volker of New Orleans Radiators

Didn’t make it past the Rads to the more unbelievable Trixie Minx, as I wore out a bit from 9 hours of  fun & parade work. Didn’t drink last night, so it wasn’t the alcohol eventually getting me down.

Before there was KdV, there was its predecessor, Krewe of Clones.  Clones grew directly out of the Contemporary Arts Center. The CAC ran the parade, and the parade staging area was the CAC parking lot on Camp Street. It was an arty, satirical parade from the start. I still have an original 1984 Krewe of Clones T shirt with the theme Barbie & Ken go to the World’s Fair.

After watching the parade one year in front of the CAC, we noticed the CAC Parade Marshall was drinking heavily over the couple of hours it took the parade to leave the staging parking lot.

The next year, we hatched a plan to crash the parade with our own float, taking advantage of  the Marshall’s inebriation. We decorated our VW van into an elephant float by dying some sheets gray, and constructing a paper mache trunk, ears, and tail.

The night of the parade, we drove our float into position next to the CAC.  When the parade was almost out of the staging area, we took advantage of the loose formation conditions, and drove our float straight onto the route. The Parade Marshall waved us on. For the next few years, we morphed that old van into other animals, and continued to crash the parade until the Krewe perished from infighting.

As stated, I’m in the Krewe of Underwear. Here, straight from the Krewe’s of Underwear website is the rest of the story:

The Krewe of Underwear was founded in [the early 1980s] as a sub-krewe of the storied Krewe of Clones. This wild, satirical Carnival parade, which first marched in 1978, was based out of New Orleans’ Contemporary Arts Center.

Unfortunately, in 1986, infighting among the Krewe/CAC leadership, combined with pressures from the City due to the parade occurring the night before the Super Bowl was to be played in New Orleans, caused the untimely demise of the Krewe of Clones. Not wishing to be denied a good time or any excuse for wild excess, the Krewe of Underwear along with another Clones sub-krewe, the Krewe of Mama Roux, held a “Clone Funeral”. An anatomically correct (and erect) clone was created and placed on a funeral cart, and a short march to a party site was planned.
At the last minute, the individual most responsible for the entire problem got word of the plans, and called the police on the unauthorized march. Informed by New Orleans’ finest that they could not march in the street, since that would block traffic, the Underwearians and their fellow mourners marched on the sidewalk, while eleven police cars rolled along next to them, blocking the street far more effectively than the marchers ever could have.
That same year, two other Clones sub-krewes, the Seeds of Decline and the Krewe of C.R.U.D.E., held their own informal march on Mardi Gras itself, in the French Quarter. After Carnival was over that year, the two groups got together, established an official parade date (three Saturdays before Mardi Gras, the old Clones date), and received permission to march in the French Quarter. Thus was born the Krewe du Vieux Carre (the old, French name for the Quarter), now shortened to Krewe du Vieux. The first Captain of Krewe du Vieux was Underwear’s own Craig “Spoons” Johnson.

As a founding sub-krewe of Krewe du Vieux, Underwear is a leader in theme and float creativity, satire, obscenity, and general crazed celebration. Instantly recognizable by the long, red union suits that are the basis of Underwear apparel (not to mention the only underwear ever worn by most krewe members), the Krewe of Underwear takes on political follies, social norms and a large amount of alcohol every year in the best parade in New Orleans, the Krewe du Vieux.

Long Red Union Underwear

Long Red Union Underwear

2011 K.A.O.S. Float

2011 K.A.O.S. Float

Drips & Discharges 2011 Float

Drips & Discharges 2011 Float

Mystic Krewe of PAN 2011 Float

Mystic Krewe of PAN 2011 Float

Spring Break & Mardi Gras Overlap!!

Spring Break Crowd

Spring Break Crowd

I love posting cheesy beach pictures! Had no cause to do it before, but now I’ve got plenty!!

Alexa V.  Staden and her fiance had just one thought when it came to spring break this year: Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

New Orleans tourism officials, who have begun an advertising campaign to attract younger visitors, believe the happy convergence will give them a boost over Mardi Gras 2010, the biggest since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

“We figured it was now or never,” said Von Staden, who recently completed her master’s at the University of Florida. “Because Mardi Gras is so late this year that it matches up with spring break. Who knows when that will happen again?”

Spring Break in Panama City Beach, FL

Spring Break in Panama City Beach, FL

Mardi Gras is March 8. The next time it will be this late is in 2038, when it falls on March 9. New Orleans tourism officials, who have begun an advertising campaign to attract younger visitors, believe the happy convergence will give them a boost over Mardi Gras 2010, which was the biggest since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. A study done for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau said the city was not getting its share of 18- to 34-year-old visitors, despite its reputation as a party town.

New advertising campaigns are being geared to that demographic, said bureau spokeswoman Kelly Schulz. “I was kind of surprised by it,” Schulz said. “We are family friendly, but we also think people should see more of our night life.” The campaign, with the theme “New Orleans, you’re different here,” puts further emphasis on the city’s food, music and night life.

At Mardi Gras, the party takes to the streets, packing the parade routes in many areas, and turning Bourbon Street into a raucous, X-rated celebration for the young and free-spirited. Certainly those in the hospitality business are expecting a nice bump, even above last Mardi Gras when the New Orleans Saints’ Super Bowl victory was helping to draw people to the city.

“This year we are about 30 to 35 percent ahead of the pace compared to last year and we had a very good year last year,” said Gil Zanchi, general manager for the New Orleans Marriott and the five other Marriott hotels in the city.

Spring Break will have to bring lots of visitors to equal last year. 2010 was an extraordinary Mardi Gras as the Saints won their first NFC Championship and very first Super Bowl during those last weeks of Carnival 2010.  Those 2 wins packed the French Quarter almost as much as Mardi Gras does.

Students looking for spring break adventures can’t be credited for all the boost in room bookings, said Diana K. Schwam, who wrote the “Frommer’s New Orleans” guide book.

Hollywood Heartthrob Andy Garcia to Reign as Bacchus XLIII For Mardi Gras 2011

Andy Garcia  Bacchus 2011

Andy Garcia Bacchus 2011

Actor Andy Garcia will reign as Bacchus XLIII when the krewe rolls March 6 as part of the Mardi Gras 2011 celebration.

“His fame and his personality will assure that he is a great Bacchus King who helps make the 2011 Mardi Gras stupendous, highly successful and memorable,” said said Owen Brennan III, executive director of the Krewe of Bacchus.

Garcia was nominated for both an Oscar and a Golden Globe award for his role in “The Godfather III” in 1990. He was also nominated for several awards for his portrayal of casino owner Terry Benedict in “Oceans 11.”

The theme of the 2011 Bacchus parade will be a salute to the World War II generation, known as “the Greatest Generation.” Blaine Kern float makers have worked closely with staff members at the World War II Museum to assure that all references to World War II and U.S. armed forces are authentic

New Mardi Gras App Will Help Monitor Parades


History repeats itself every Mardi Gras. Thousands of tourists and locals  will wake up at the crack of dawn and head out to the neutral grounds and sidewalks  around Jackson and St. Charles Avenues with hopes of snagging a Zulu coconut. Then, they’ll wait. And wait. And wait.

Zulu Coconut & Muses Shoe

Highly sought after Zulu Coconut & Muses Shoe

They’ll wonder if they read the parade schedule wrong, walk into the middle of the street to see if anything is coming, and then it will hit them like a double-decker float: Zulu always runs late (exception: 2010)

But this year, smart phone owners will be able to sleep in. Even though they could be miles away from the parade, thanks to a new app with a built-in parade tracker, they’ll be in the know.

The parade tracker relies on devices placed on the head and tail floats of select parades, said Rob Hudak, the interactive creative director at Zehnder Communication Inc., the New Orleans company that created the app in partnership with television station WWL.

The free app, called Experience Mardi Gras, is in its early stages but still will allow parade-goers and those hoping to avoid parade traffic to track up to one parade every day starting with Muses on March 3 and ending with Zulu on Fat Tuesday. The app also features a post-parade events section and live streaming video of select parades.

That means only the last half the parade season is covered by this app, which isn’t very good.

EMG screen shot

EMG screen shot

“This is version 1.0, and we hope it grows into a more robust app experience,” Hudak said. “We’re talking about adding social and augmented reality components. Something almost like an extension of the Mardi Gras experience.”

There are a handful of apps connected with Carnival, but Zehnder and WWL’s app actually provides real-time tracking of Carnival parades, without relying on user-generated reports.

WDSU-TV has a parade tracker program that originate from a person riding in a car at the front of most parades. The human reports are converted to text messages which are sent to participating phones.  This program is free. Arthur Hardy’s Mardi Gras Guide has a program that basically is his magazine on your smart phone. He charges 4.99, same as his magazine, I think.  There are a number of free phone Mardi Gras theme wallpapers available.

Production of the app began in December and comes on the heels of a successful Voodoo Experience music festival app that the agency launched in October. Augmented reality was heavily utilized in that app.

With the Voodoo Experience app, concert-goers could point their smart phone cameras at a band and the app would tell them who was currently on stage. It would also give them information about the band and who was playing next.

By panning the camera around the premises, users could see where they could go to the bathroom or where they could get their next beer. By pointing it at a vendor, users could look at the menu items available at that concession stand.

Hudak envisions using the same concept for the Experience Mardi Gras app by 2012.

“An idea we’re throwing around is doing virtual throws, so that when you point your phone at a float, it’ll have a button that you can press to get a throw, which could be a coupon to a sponsor,” he said.

Sponsors currently include Zatarain’s and Tabasco, but Hudak expects to add restaurants and bars on the parade route in future versions of the app.

I attempted to find this program with my HTC Hero smart phone, and my market search engine (google!) couldn’t find any Experience Mardi Gras app. When I used my phone bar code scanner program to scan the QR code provided, my phone recognized the code but was unable to find the web site. Then I went to the web site the article linked to, and clicked the download link. The site indicated the download had started, but I never received the app.

I’m not sure releasing the app in time for Carnival 2011 with this many bugs was a wise move. Time will tell.

From the web site-

Experience Mardi Gras is an app like no other. You can follow your favorite Mardi Gras parades as they’re happening! Find out schedules, routes, events, and more with this one-of-a-kind interactive, mobile application.

It’s the only app to offer the PARADE TRACKER feature, so you can follow the parade as it makes its way to your exact location. While the app follows the biggest krewes as they make their way down New Orleans’ historic streets, you’ll be the first to know when the parade is over so you can beat the crowd to the next event – no more guessing about when it’s going to end or if the parade has broken down.

This app uses Google Maps to give you the most accurate parade routes, helps you navigate the city and lets you know exactly when and where to be for the best parades.

And while you’re waiting on each parade to reach your location, the app features authentic and entertaining videos of this year’s Mardi Gras as well as years past. Learn some fun facts about storied carnival traditions from the unique personalities that make this New Orleans’ favorite season while receiving up-to-date information on route changes, dates, and times for Mardi Gras 2011!

After the parades, use the EVENTS page to plan your evening out. Find out where all the action in the city is happening and where your favorite band is playing.

Download the best guide to everything you need to make the most of your Mardi Gras Experience in a single spot!


– PARADE TRACKER (see where you are in relation to the beginning and end of the parade route)

– Complete parade schedule and start times (Date/Time, Location)

– Google Map of all parade routes

– Authentic video content featuring current content from WWL TV

– Up to the minute listings of events, music, and happenings around town

Recent changes:

-Added start and end markers to parade maps.

Latest version: 1.05 (for all Android versions)

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