Posts tagged Mardi Gras in New Orleans



Mardi Gras Stats Mashup Courtesy of, compiled by Margaret Rhodes

Mardi Gras Mash up

Mardi Gras Mash up

Mardi Gras Music Series- PROFESSOR LONGHAIR


I’m very very partial to the tunes and Mardi Gras Spirit of Professor Longhair. When I first arrived in NOLA in the mid 70’s, Fess very much alive, and I remember seeing Fess live at Tipitina’s many times. It wasn’t until Longhair had been dead for 15 years that his music really took off. That’s when I got involved in the Longhair estate professionally and made sure his heirs would be properly taken of. I went to the south Riviera of France, to MIDEM, the premier music publishing conference after setting up meetings with international roots publishers I knew. I met with Don Williams ( He owned some great roots music catalogs, but none from New Orleans. He was very interested in the Longhair publishing sale. Within a few years, he purchased Longhair, Booker, and Earl King’s publishing catalogs. All 3 had songs in all 3.5 seasons of Treme, HBO’s series about NOLA after Katrina. The Booker, Earl King and Longhair estate are all thriving financially as they head into 2013.

New Orleans has an exotic flavor all its own, and Professor Longhair exemplifies the colorful music traditions that are representative of the city.

At the time of his death at age 62 he remained a brilliant pianist and singer with an unusual, appealing voice. Fess died a relatively poor man in January 1980. He owned 1 huge asset- the songs he wrote.  His will showed his unusually large heart. Fess had 2 kids, a boy and a girl, by his wife Alice. While these kids were growing up, Alice left Fess and had 4 kids with other fathers. These 4 kids were Alice’s, not Fess’, yet he gave 25% of his estate to Alice’s kids, and 75% to his 2 kids. That’s a big man!

His Carnival songs, Big Chief, Parts 1 & 2 and Mardi Gras in New Orleans remain very popular after all these years because they reflect the exuberant spirit of Mardi Gras. Longhair’s songs are related to the second line dance beat popularized by New Orleans Jazz funerals. He described his music as a combination of “rumba, mambo and Calypso.” Born in Bogalusa, Louisiana in 1918, Henry Roeland Byrd’s family moved to New Orleans in the early 1920s. Young Roy first became a proficient tap dancer, then a guitarist, before settling on his voice and piano as his instruments of choice. Dancing outside of taverns for tips as a boy heightened his sense of rhythm.        

Professor Longhair

Professor Longhair

      During the 1930’s, Byrd played the piano professionally while working at other jobs, including the Civilian Conservation Corps, cooking, boxing, and card playing before being drafted in 1942.  In the military, Byrd became serious about his playing when he learned he could entertain his fellow Corps workers instead of working. In 1944, he was released from the service due to poor health. Byrd returned to music and around 1947 earned his famous nickname, reminiscent of the old Storyville ‘professors’ who entertained on the piano in the local bordellos. As the story goes, Byrd received his nickname courtesy of the Caldonia Inn’s proprietor, who, upon meeting the long haired Byrd and his group, named them “Professor Longhair and the Four Hairs Combo,” which soon became “Professor Longhair and the Shuffling Hungarians.” Longhair is on record as saying there was a Hindu in the Band, but no Hungarians. 1949 was a big year for the Professor, he recorded his first and most successful songs: She Ain’t Got No Hair, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Bye Bye Baby, and Professor Longhair’s Boogie. A remake of She Ain’t Got No Hair renamed Baldhead reached number 5 on the Billboard R & B chart during the summer of 1950. He continued to record for several companies sporadically throughout the 1950s. Fess had his biggest Carnival hit when he recorded Mardi Gras in New Orleans as Go to the Mardi Gras, a  local hit in 1959. This song sells well every Carnival, but Longhair had no royalty agreement. The Professor recorded a few times in the early and middle 1960’s but again major success and money eluded him. His second Carnival classic, Big Chief, was recorded with Earl King (whistling and on vocals) in 1964. Big Chief was not much of a hit for Longhair himself, although Dr. John revived it in 1972 on his Gumbo album.  The Professor’s version, on a 1976 album (featuring twelve R & B Carnival classics by six artists) continues to sell well seasonally and has done much to popularize Big Chief. Music failed to provide Fess with any sort of living during most of the 1960’s, his career didn’t revive until he played at the Louisiana Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1972 and 1973 and the Montreux Festival in Switzerland in 1973. Gloriously, in 1974, the Professor’s career was reborn. He recorded an album, resumed his local club appearances and performed in New York and Europe.  In 1975, Tipitina’s, named after one of the Professor’s best songs, opened in uptown New Orleans. Still open, Tip’s is one of New Orleans’ greatest nightclubs today.  There’s a beautiful bust of Fess when you first enter the bar. At the end of his life he did achieve some of the recognition he deserved, as rock stars like Paul McCartney came to pay him homage. His last two albums before he passed, Crawfish Fiesta and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, won large critical acclaim and are still available. When he died, he was accorded  a traditional jazz funeral, attended by many local music luminaries and thousands of fans (including me!). His unique playing continues to inspire and amaze musicians and fans. Each Carnival, his songs are heard on the radio and on jukeboxes all over town. Fess certainly is missed.

Listen to Fess-

Big Chief

Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Bust of Fess in Tipitina's

Bust of Fess in Tipitina’s

Shangri-La Gives Up the Ghost!!


Krewe of Shangri-La Crest

Sad day indeed when the former mighty Queens of St. Bernard Mardi Gras, the Krewe of Shangri-La, ceases to exist as a parading Krewe!

My family had a real blast during Shangri-La’s heyday in St. Bernard, with over 1,000 Krewe members riding in a huge parade with  around 38 units.  I’m talking about the mid 1980s, when the Krewe was at their mightiest.  By 1982, Shangri-La was the largest woman’s organization in the history of Carnival in New Orleans.

In another Mardi Gras life, I would see around 40 parades per season.  I had my own crazy Mardi Gras  posse- My wife Meg, her daughter Sharon, Sharon’s friend Tara, Tara’s brothers Hank and Eddie and Eddie’s friend Bruce.   We’d go see the parades in New Orleans very early, then hit St. Bernard, or Metairie, which had more parades in the 80s. We’d go to Slidell, the West Bank, anywhere to catch a local parade. We’d catch some parades at the start, some in the middle, and some at the end.  Fun, fun, fun was had by all.

We used to watch Shangri-La twice, once on St Bernard Highway, and then on Judge Perez Drive.  You catch way more throws that way.

One year I took the Posse out to St. Bernard for the then fabulous Shangri-La. On the way out, the skies opened up and it began to rain cats and dogs. We persevered, as did the parade. It was warm that evening, we were young, and didn’t mind getting soaked to catch a few beads.

The parade crowd dissipated, and the route was almost devoid of any spectators.  The krewe noticed we were almost the only folks out watching, and they dumped throws on us to show their appreciation. That is my wettest Mardi Gras Parade story, and I’ll never forget how generous the krewe was that night. It was the most throws we ever caught, and just about the most fun our posse ever had at the parades.

Shangri-La started in 1973 and paraded in Chalmette until 2000, when they moved to uptown to St. Charles Avenue. The krewe started admitting men into their ranks at this time.

St. Bernard was especially hard hit during Hurricane Katrina 5 years ago, receiving almost 25 feet of water, the most in the Metro Area.  The population was slow to return, which severely impacted Shangri-La’s membership.  Many members returned for the parade from out of town.  2 years ago, the krewe adjusted to the diminished membership by successfully transforming the street parade into a French Quarter carriage parade.

In 2010, a 45 unit parade ushered in Mardi Gras on the eve of Super Bowl 44. This was a very exciting time in New Orleans, and their final French Quarter stroll was fun.

During a July meeting, the Shangri-La Board voted unanimously  to become a Social Club and continue their philanthropic plans.  After 37 years, the once fabulous Shangri-La Carnival Club ceases parading. They live on the web at Krewe of Shangri-La.

2010 Mardi Gras Parade Schedule


Yes folks, it’s Carnival Time in New Orleans, which means parades, parades, and more parades. Here’s the 2010 Parade Schedule for the Metropolitan New Orleans area.


Wednesday, JANUARY 6TH
• Phunny Phorty Phellows – New Orleans
• Claude – Slidell 1:00 p.m.
• Slidellians – Slidell 1:00 p.m.
• Krewe du Vieux – French Quarter 6:30 p.m.
• Bilge – Slidell 12:00 p.m.
• Little Rascals – Metairie 12:00 p.m.
• Perseus – Slidell 1:00 p.m.
• Pearl River Lions Club – Pearl River 1:15 p.m.
• Oshun – Uptown 6:00 p.m.
• Excalibur – Metairie 7:00 p.m.
• Atlas – Metairie 7:30 p.m.
• Cleopatra – Westbank 6:30 p.m.
• Eve – Mandeville 7:00 p.m.
• Hercules – Houma 6:00 p.m.
• Pontchartrain – Uptown 2:00 p.m.
• Shangri-La – French Quarter 2:00 p.m.
• Sparta – Uptown 6:00 p.m.
• Pygmalion – Uptown 6:45 p.m.
• Caesar – Metairie 6:00 p.m.
• Chocktaw – Gretna 11:00 a.m.
• Adonis – Westbank 11:45 a.m.
• Push Mow – Abita Springs 11:00 a.m.
• Olympia – Covington 6:00 p.m.
• Mona Lisa & Moon Pie – Slidell 7:00 p.m.
• Tee Caillou – Chauvin 12:00 p.m.
• Aquarius – Houma 6:30 p.m.
• Carrollton – Uptown 12:00 p.m. CHANGE- ROLLS 1 HOUR EARLY
• King Arthur – Uptown 1:15 p.m. CHANGE- ROLLS 1 HOUR EARLY
• Barkus – French Quarter 2:00 p.m.
• Rhea – Metairie 1:00 p.m. CANCELLED
• Centurions – Metairie 5:30 p.m.
• Alla – Westbank 12:00 p.m. CHANGE- MOVES TO SATURDAY
• Knights of Nemesis – St. Bernard 1:00 p.m.
• Dionysus – Slidell 1:30 p.m.
• Hyacinthians – Houma 12:30 p.m.
• Thor – Metairie 7:00 p.m.
• Ancient Druids – Uptown 6:30 p.m.
• Babylon – Uptown 5:45 p.m.
• Muses – Uptown 6:15 p.m.
• Chaos – Uptown 6:30 p.m.
Krewe of Proteus, 2006 Mardi Gras
FRIDAY, February 12th
• Hermes – Uptown 6:00 p.m.
• Krewe d’Etat – Uptown 6:00 p.m.
• Morpheus – Uptown 7:00 p.m.
• Selene – Slidell 6:30 p.m.
• Orpheus – Mandeville 7:00 p.m.
• Aphrodite – Houma 6:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, February 13th
• Iris – Uptown 11:00 a.m.
• Tucks – Uptown 12:00 p.m.
• Endymion – Mid-City 4:15 p.m.
• Isis – Metairie 6:30 p.m.
• NOMTOC – Westbank 10:45 a.m.
• Bush – Bush 9:00 a.m.
• Salt Bayou – Slidell 2:00 p.m.
• Mardi Gras – Houma 6:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, February 14th
• Okeanos – Uptown 11:00 a.m.
• Mid-City – Uptown 11:45 a.m.
• Thoth – Uptown 12:00 p.m.
• Bacchus – Uptown 5:15 p.m.
• Corps de Napoleon – Metairie 5:30 p.m.
• Grand Isle Independent- Grand Isle 5:30 p.m.
• Tchefuncte – Madisonville 2:00 p.m.
• Terreanians – Houma 1:00 p.m.
• Montegut – Houma 2:00 p.m.
MONDAY, February 15th
• Proteus – Uptown 5:15 p.m.
• Orpheus – Uptown 6:00 p.m.
• Zeus – Metairie 6:30 p.m.
• Cleopatra – Houma 6:30 p.m.
MARDI GRAS DAY, February 16th 2010
• Zulu – Uptown 8:00 a.m.
• Rex – Uptown 10:00 a.m.
• Elks Orleans – Uptown11:30 a.m.
• Crescent City – Uptown after Elks
• Argus – Metairie 10:00 a.m.
• Elks Jefferson – Metairie after Argus
• Jefferson Trucks – Metairie after Elks
• Lions – Covington 10:00 a.m.
• Covington – Covington, after Lions
• Grela – Gretna 11:00 a.m.
• Bes – Gretna 12:00 p.m.
• Houmas – Houma 12:00 p.m.
• Kajuns – Houma follows Houmas
• Bonne Terre – Houma 3:00 p.m.
• Skunks – Lacombe 1:00 p.m.
• Chahta-Ima – Lacombe 1:30 p.m.

2010 Carnival Season Kicks off Tomorrow Night


Tomorrow is January 6, or Twelfth Night, the official kick off to the 2010 Mardi Gras Season. The first two events are on January 6- the Phunny Phorty Phellows ride a decorated St. Charles Streetcar from uptown to downtown. The Joan of Arc Parade walks throughout the French Quarter.

Phunny Phorty Phellows
Start/End: Willow Street at Carrollton Avenue, Uptown, 7 p.m.
A free event

The Phunny Phorty Phellows board the streetcar and began their ride to “Herarld the Arrival of Carnival” down the St. Charles Ave. Streetcar Line. The Phellows are an historic Mardi Gras organization that first took to the streets 1878 through 1898. They were known for their satirical parades and today’s krewe members’ costumes often reflect topical themes.

St. Joan of Arc Parade
Start: Decatur and Conti Streets, French Quarter, 6 p.m.
End: St. Philip and Decatur Streets, French Quarter
A free event

This second annual parade walks on Twelfth Night, Joan of Arc’s birthday, in celebration of her story and the golden statue that graces the French Market at New Place de France. The post-parade party features free live music by Pierre Pichon and Marc Gunn beginning at 6:45 at The Market Cafe©, 1000 Decatur Street.

Route: Begin at Decatur & Conti Streets; up to Chartres, across Jackson Square, continuing on Chartres to St. Phillip, up to Joan of Arc statue at St. Philip and Decatur Streets in front of Market Cafe©

The Joan of Arc Fete was a one day festival celebrating the life and legacy of St. Joan of Arc, Maid of Orleans. The festival featured panel discussions, a free French class, songwriting and costume workshops, a silent auction, a cabaret-style arts showcase of Joan-related chamber music, original songs, and theater excerpts. The Festival ran on Sunday, January 3, 2010 from 10 am to 6 pm at the Bienville House Hotel, 320 Decatur Street in the French Quarter.

King Cake season arrives with Carnival, with local bakeries and groceries selling their version of King Cakes, many of them filled. Varieties include cinnamon, strawberry, cream cheese, blueberry,
lemon, pecan praline, apple, raspberry, plain, and many, many more flavors. King Cakes are shipping around the world, some with Mardi Gras packages including beads & doubloons; purple, green and gold decorations; and masks.

King Cakes come in numerous sizes and fillings

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