Friday, February 27, 2009

Farewell to Snooks and Antoinette

They're burying Snooks Eaglin in New Orleans today. And there will be a farewell to Antoinette K-Doe at the Mother in Law Lounge this weekend. Sad to see two NO icons go at the same time. I'm sure many tears will be shed and a few Hurricanes consumed.
A big send off is planned for Snooks at the Howlin' Wolf club, with Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint and Deacon John scheduled to perform, while a 'visitation' is planned for Antoinette at the lounge, followed by a funeral service and a procession to St. Louis Cemetery No. 2, where Ernie K-Doe is buried. A repast follows at the Mid-City Lanes Rock 'n Bowl, where of course Snooks regularly performed.
There's a great tribute to Snooks on the excellent and the blog also confirms that Antoinette appeared as one of the Baby Dolls at last year's Ponderosa Stomp and has a picture to prove it. There are reports and photos of both funerals on and even more photos here
Farewell Snooks and Baby Doll - rest in peace.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

And now it's Antoinette

The bad news from New Orleans continued today with the death of Antoinette K-Doe - on Mardi Gras of all days. It's a tragedy for the city because not only did she single handedly keep Ernie's memory alive, but she transformed the Mother in Law Lounge from a run down neighbourhood bar into one of New Orleans' most popular night spots.
Antoinette was a larger than life character - almost as over the top as Ernie himself - and turned the Lounge into a shrine to her late husband. I visited the lounge in 1998 and saw Ernie perform a charismatic, if bizarre, tribute to Jerry Butler. The place was virtually empty,apart from a few musicians (including Jon Cleary) who drifted in late after performing; there were cockroaches in the toilet, and Ernie sat rather drunkenly on his throne as Antoinette bustled around keeping the place going and Ernie out of trouble. After his death she installed a life size mannequin of Ernie, K-Doe cushions and nic nacs and various other tribute items and the bar started to attract locals and visitors alike. I made it a point to visit on both my last two trips: in 2007 we chatted to C C Adcock, and in 2008 we went with some Melbourne DJs and danced to the oldies on the juke box, as well as enjoying a live band.

I am including some photos from my last visit showing me with some of the K-Doe memorabilia, the mannequin and a mural at the back of the lounge. The report of Antoinette's death on mentions her role in restoring a Mardi Gras tradition of the Baby Dolls, and unless I'm mistaken Antoinette and friends made a brief appearance on stage as such at the Ponderosa Stomp. Perhaps a Woodie could confirm. Here's the report:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Snooks Eaglin RIP

Snooks Eaglin, one of the rapidly shrinking list of New Orleans music stars, has died aged 72. I've been aware of Snooks and a lover of his music since the mid 60s, and saw him many times on my visits to the Big Easy. He didn't travel out of New Orleans very often, but in 1990 he played the Town and Country Club, along with Earl King and Bobby Radcliff - a great night as I recall. His death is a great loss and I don't think I can do better than to reprint in full the report from the Times-Picayune.
New Orleans guitarist Snooks Eaglin dies at 72
Posted by Keith Spera, Music writer, The Times-Picayune February 18, 2009 2:30PM
New Orleans rhythm & blues guitarist Snooks Eaglin.
Snooks Eaglin, the idiosyncratic New Orleans rhythm & blues guitarist with fleet-fingered dexterity and a boundless repertoire, died Wednesday afternoon. He was 72.
"He was the most New Orleans of all the New Orleans acts that are still living," said Mid-City Lanes owner John Blancher.
Even in a city and musical community known for eccentric characters, Mr. Eaglin stood out. Extremely private, he lived with his family in St. Rose. For many years, he refused to perform on Friday nights, reportedly because of religious reasons.
The digits on Mr. Eaglin's right hand flailed at seemingly impossible angles as he finger-picked and strummed a guitar's strings. A set by the so-called "Human Jukebox" could range from Beethoven's "Fur Elise" to Bad Company's "Ready for Love."
He thrived on feedback from onlookers, gleefully took requests and challenged his musicians to keep up. Utterly unselfconscious, he would render fellow guitarists slack-jawed with a blistering run, then announce from the stage that he needed to use the bathroom.
Mr. Eaglin was born Fird Eaglin Jr. in 1937. As an infant, glaucoma robbed him of his sight. He earned his "Snooks" nickname after his mischievous behavior recalled a radio character named Baby Snooks.
As a toddler, he received his first instrument, a hand-carved ukulele strung with rubber bands. As a boy, he learned to pick a guitar to songs on the radio. He attended the Louisiana School for the Blind in Baton Rouge. By 14, he had dropped out to work full-time as a musician.
His first steady job was with the Flamingos, a popular seven-piece rhythm & blues band that also included a young Allen Toussaint on piano. Post-Flamingos, Mr. Eaglin briefly billed himself as Lil' Ray Charles. In the late 1950s, he performed on street corners and recorded two acoustic albums for a folk label. His studio work included the guitar parts on Sugarboy Crawford's "Jockamo."
In the early 1960s, Mr. Eaglin released a handful of singles for Imperial Records under the name "Ford" Eaglin. He logged three years in the house band at the Playboy Club off Bourbon Street.
After the British Invasion decimated the market for New Orleans rhythm & blues, he semi-retired. The launch of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1970 brought with it fresh opportunity.
Mr. Eaglin performed with Professor Longhair during the pianist's "comeback" gigs. He also contributed to Longhair's landmark "New Orleans House Party" album and the Wild Magnolias' early recordings.
In 1987, Mr. Eaglin released "Baby, You Can Get Your Gun!," his first album on Black Top Records. Several more well-received albums on Black Top further heightened his profile.
His annual appearances at Jazz Fest were hugely popular. In addition to legions of local fans, Mr. Eaglin's admirers included prominent musicians from around the globe.
It was Robert Plant, in fact, who first made Blancher aware of Mr. Eaglin.
In 1990, not long after he took over the Mid-City Lanes, Blancher received a call from Plant, who wanted to throw an after-party at the bowling alley. He asked Blancher to book Mr. Eaglin, whom he met years earlier when the guitarist performed at a party in New Orleans for Plant's former band, Led Zeppelin.
The after-party didn't happen, but the Mid-City Lanes became Mr. Eaglin's preferred venue. He played as frequently as once a month.
"He's an irreplaceable guy," Blancher said. "More celebrities came to see Snooks than anyone. His reputation was as big as anyone's in New Orleans. And he wouldn't travel, so if you wanted to see Snooks you had to come to Rock 'n Bowl."
During the 2000 Jazz Fest, Bonnie Raitt showed up at the Mid-City Lanes to hear Mr. Eaglin. He exclaimed from the stage, "Listen to this, Bonnie! You gonna learn something tonight, girl!" She later lent a hand by replacing a broken string on his guitar.
Blancher would often pick up Mr. Eaglin in St. Rose and drive him to and from shows at the Rock 'n Bowl. Along the way Mr. Eaglin regaled him with stories.
Among the most infamous is the time Mr. Eaglin drove the Flamingos home following a Saturday night gig in Donaldsonville. The musicians were so intoxicated that they decided their blind guitarist was the most qualified driver.
Mr. Eaglin claimed he navigated the curves of the road from memory. The crunch of gravel under the tires warned him when the '49 Studebaker strayed onto the shoulder. The story concludes with Mr. Eaglin pulling up to his house early Sunday morning and his mother suggesting the musicians proceed directly to church.
Mr. Eaglin met his future wife, Dorethea "Dee" Eaglin, at a Flamingos gig during Mardi Gras 1958. They married in 1961 and she became his constant companion and confidant. Dee would sit nearby as her husband performed.
Blancher was among the few music industry figures that Mr. Eaglin allowed to visit his house. But even he was unaware of the guitarist's deteriorating health. Blancher learned in January that Mr. Eaglin had been battling prostate cancer.
Mr. Eaglin last performed at the Mid-City Lanes in July. Blancher spoke to him recently about booking a show in March. "He said, 'I'm going to wait until Jazz Fest. I'm not going to do any gigs until then,'" Blancher said. "I was surprised by that."
Mr. Eaglin checked into Ochsner Medical Center last week. With regret, he told his step-daughter, Carolyn Gioustover, "I've got to call Quint Davis and tell him I won't make it to Jazz Fest."
He went into cardiac arrest on Tuesday.
Mr. Eaglin often said his mother took care of him until Dee took over. He died on his mother's birthday.
Survivors include his wife; a daughter, Stacey Eaglin Hunter; a step-son, Allen Ancar III; and two step-daughters, Carolyn Gioustover and Deborah Ancar Randolph.
Here's an obituary that was published in The Times on February 23:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Spencer Wiggins at Porretta

The southern soul theme at this year's Porretta Soul Festival continues with the announcement that the legendary Goldwax artist Spencer Wiggins has been added to the bill. It's beginning to look impossible to resist going and I just hope that I can make it this year.

Fellow Woodie Soulboy praised my last entry on the death of Estelle Bennett of the Ronettes, but asked why I hadn't mentioned the death of Molly Bee. Same reason I didn't mention Blossom Dearie - she didn't really measure up.

Folk America continued on BBC4 with a look at Bob Dylan and the other folk revivalists of the 1960s. A thoroughly entertaining programme and a fascinating insight into how traditional folk in the style of Pete Seeger and Joan Baez gradually turned into folk rock, with the Byrds and others.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Estelle Bennett

Estelle Bennett of the Ronettes has died. In 1963 when the Ronettes hit number one 1 with Be My Baby I was 17 and already a fan of the girl group sound as exemplified by The Crystals among others. Phil Spector's Wall of Sound production may have been the key to the Ronettes' chart success, but they also looked amazing. Those beehive hairdos, exotic make up and tight skirts were the stuff of teenage fantasy and I drooled over their black and white appearances on Ready Steady Go. Ronnie went on to suffer abuse at Phil's hands only to re-emerge decades later still looking and sounding great, as I witnessed at last year's Ponderosa Stomp. But Estelle faded into obscurity, apparently suffering from anorexia and fighting a battle against Spector for back royalties. Estelle's contribution to 60s music, and that of sister Ronnie and cousin Nedra , was recognised in 2007 when the Ronettes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But fame apparently did little for Estelle once the Ronettes broke up in 1967 and the Wall of Sound disintegrated. Such beautiful and exciting memories though. May she rest in peace. Here are a couple of reports.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Snow joke for Hank

It's snowing in London and as a result there are no buses and hardly any tubes running. Pathetic really. I got into work and was one of only three who made it out of over 20 in my department. Sorry I bothered.
Oh well, the world goes on, and the deaths of musicians continue to occur. The latest is R and B saxophonist Hank Crawford, aged 74 - another former Ray Charles sideman to have passed on following the death of David 'Fathead' Newman the other day. This obituary appeared in The Times of February 27:
A word too in remembrance of Ray Topping who died just after the new year. Ray lived in Romford and died of pneumonia and supranuclear palsy. Aged just 65 he was an authority on American recorded music for the post war period of 1945 through 1975 and contributed discographies to many specialist magazines. He unearthed thousands of rare and unissued master recordings while working for Ace Records Ltd. There's an excellent obituary of Ray in The Times of February 6
The picture shows Ray with Guitar Gable.
There are also obits of Mickey Gee, who played with Dave Edmunds among others and Lux Interior of The Cramps, who I once had the dubious pleasure of seeing at the Forum
Also no more is UK folk guitarist John Martyn. And tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the death of Buddy, Ritchie and the Big Bopper. The Final Word lifts a glass to them all.