NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Around every corner of the Big Eazy, there is someone singing a song about the place they call home.
New Orleans is known as the birthplace of not only Jazz but also some jazzy musicians, soulful singers, songwriters and interesting instrumentalists. The list goes from the Neville family to John Papa Gros, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Big Freedia, Irma Thomas, Terriona Ball, Anjelika Joseph and so many more.
Back in 1965, “The Meters” formed in New Orleans with homebred members. Its original lineup consisted of Art Neville, George Porter Jr., Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste and Leo Nocentelli. Whether it was a Saturday night or Mardi Gras morning, you would know The Meters were jamming with their unforgettable hit “Hey Pocky A-Way.”
Dating back further, the “Dukes of Dixieland” came about in 1948. A Dixieland Jazz band established by brothers Fred and Frank Assunto, and their dad Papa Jac Assunto. Some say the Dixieland style of music can be summed up as a use of “collective improvisation.” You can often hear their rendition of “A Closer Walk with Thee” featuring Louis Armstrong at the end of every New Orleans funeral as a loved one is carried on to glory.
Staying with the theme of Jazz, the “Preservation Hall Jazz Band” was founded by Jazz Tubist Allen Jaffe from Pennsylvania, who found himself in New Orleans after being discharged from the army. He was the manager of the art gallery Preservation Hall in the French Quarter before recruiting traditional New Orleans jazz musicians to play, thus creating a space where the music could be heard consistently. If you find yourself strolling the quarter, hopefully, you don’t have the “Basin Street Blues.”
New Orleans is also home to a gumbo pot filled to the brim with other musical genres including R&B, Soul and Funk, which describes the unique sound of “The Neville Brothers.” It all started in 1976 with a recording session and four brothers Art, Aaron, Charles and Cyril along with their uncle George Landry. By 1978, they released their debut album entitled “The Neville Brothers” with the song “Vieux Carre’ Rouge.” The Nevilles want you to know that if you find yourself in love in New Orleans, then it must be that “Voodoo.”
In modern-day Orleans, the music caters to all ages, creeds and demographics. One group that gets the crowd moving is the “Tank and The Bangas.” Being the youngest group mentioned, the group assembled in 2011 after meeting each other at the Liberation Lounge open mic night. The lively bunch, Terriona “Tank” Ball, Joshua Johnson, Jonathan Johnson, Norman Spence, Etienne Stoufflet, Albert Allenback and the Grenades is known for their funky flair both in music and in style. Whether you’re trying to get some “Nice Things,” “Boxes and Squares” or some “Self Care,” just remember you are “Human.”
The groups born with New Orleans roots are as equally amazing as the songs they create. Louis Armstrong released “Boy from New Orleans” in 1970, in which he sings about his growing up in the city. His lyrics read “When I was a boy, five or so. Down Rampart Street I used to go, and I heard the great Bunk Johnson, Jazz it up in New Orleans.” His love for his birthplace shines bright and can be seen as a love letter to NOLA.
That love letter grew to ask the question “Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?” Armstrong pours out his heart as he sings “Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans and miss it each night and day? I know I’m not wrong. This feeling’s getting’ stronger, the longer, I stay away.”
In 1960, the great Fats Domino told the world that he was “Walkin’ to New Orleans” after the love of his life did him wrong. He told her “I’ve got no time for talkin’, I’ve got to keep on walkin’, New Orleans is my home. That’s the reason while I’m gone. Yes, I’m walkin’ to New Orleans.”
In 2007, the “Soul Queen of New Orleans” Irma Thomas, who was born in Ponchatoula, told the city about the hold the city had on her as she sang “I Just Can’t Get New Orleans Off My Mind” with Marcia Ball. The lyrics read “That’s why I just can’t get New Orleans off my mind. Fun dancing and music all the time. So, if you don’t see me, oh that’s where I’m going to be. ‘Cause I just can’t get New Orleans off my mind.”
Finally, in 2009, the City of New Orleans was featured in Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog.” A story told about famous chef Leah Chase. The soundtrack featured a song that summed up the full experience you will have “Down in New Orleans.” Sung by Anika Noni Rose, the lyrics read, “In the South Land, there’s a city. Way down on the river, where the women are very pretty, and all the men deliver. They got music, it’s always playin’, start in the daytime, go all through the night and when you hear that music playin’, hear what I’m saying and make it feel alright.”
So the next time find yourself listening to some toe-tapping New Orleans original music, think about where it came from and remember the moment you heard it so that you can spread the love throughout the world.
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