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Please share your favorite Jazz Fest memories...

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  • Please share your favorite Jazz Fest memories...

    For me the #1 has to be going way back 1996. I'd been in town about 18 months having transplanted from Michigan. Been a guitar player and singer my whole life and it was a dream come true. But I knew nobody, had no connections. I did rent out my PA and mix sound for events and small festivals. One such event was The Bluesberry Festival on the North Shore. I had a great time but it was a long day as I was a crew of 1. We had the great Corey Harris on the bill and it was a treat to work with him. We also had this funky blues band called Slewfoot, named after the lead singer. They did a nice set and I delivered a great mix for them. The upshot was somebody hooked up with the Fest was there, liked what they heard, and the band got a slot at Jazzfest for that year. The singer Slewfoot was grateful to me for my efforts and offered to let me do a tune with them. The fest was some months off and we parted and went our ways.

    So about 10 days before Jazz Fest I finally get a call from Slewfoot. He says, "Hey, man, I know I told you that you could do a tune with us but I don't even know if you know how to play. I need to come over and check you out." So he shows up at my place and we sit down and run through about 4 songs. He asks to use may phone and comes back a few minutes later and says, "I fired my guitar player. You're my new guy. Let's get ready for the Fest."

    Geez, here I was ready for my first ever gig in New Orleans and it was gonna be Jazz Fest. I was knocked out to say the least. So we had 9 days of intense rehearsals and I learned all the material. We had a ringer for a keyboard player, the late, great Cindy Chen who was a frequent player for Piano Night at Tips. That took some of the pressure off me.

    So the day arrives, opening day, the first Friday and we're slotted for first of the day in what I think was the old Lagniappe tent. It was pretty surreal, driving in with my parking pass, getting the shuttle, settling into the trailer we shared with the Pfister Sisters. So the appointed hour comes, 11 am and we're summoned to the stage to do a quick sound check. It is at that time we discovered there is a technical glitch and there are no monitors on stage at all. Whoa!!! And we have a piano player working on an acoustic grand. Hmm, gonna take some concentration to pull this off. But all of sudden people start piling into the tent, it fills up, we kick it off and somehow pull off a pretty respectable set. Right before we started J. Monque 'D stopped by to wish us well. I was in heaven. I could hardly believe my good fortune. The audience was great and very enthusiastic.

    So we finish, I change, pack up my gear and go out into the tent and sit down in a chair and listen to the Pfister Sisters. I get tapped on the shoulder and turn around and it is Slewfoot (Mickey) and he says, "Here's your pay" and hands me some cash. I was dumbfounded. I'd just played the greatest gig of my life up to that point and now I got money on top of that. I was in heaven to say the least.

    From there I went on to do regular gigs with Slewfoot at Margaritaville, then moved to Cindy Chen's band for a few years. I eventually ended up with Irving Bannister's Allstars and did that for 14 years. While doing that I had the pleasure of working regularly with Eddie Bo and Ernie K-Doe, sometimes at house party jams with Marva Wright, Timothea, Prince Albert "Dogman" Smith, Davell Crawford, Oliver Morgan, Skip Easterling, The Creole Wild West and many, many more. It was an amazing experience. The generosity , warmth and sense of family from the New Orleans musicians was incomparable.

    As Earl King said, "There ain't no city like New Orleans!" Yeah, you right, Earl!

  • #2
    Great story.


    • #3
      Originally posted by Marignygregg View Post
      Great story.


      • #4
        My favorite JF memories are of many lovely days at the FGs, not too hot--high 70s/low 80s, sunny but with some clouds for shade now and then, just enough breeze to stream all the banners and windsocks and ventilate the tents while wafting delicious aromas from the food booths but not so much as to blow the sound away at Fess and Gentilly and Congo stages, whirling dancers and flyin' and dyin' watermelons at Fais Do Do, Mardi Gras Indian chants and splendor, raucous parades, the most amazing array of food at any festival anywhere, [email protected]!n only at night and only enough to settle the dust, legendary and amazing new performers everywhere you turn, and the sweet feeling as the Sun sinks toward the church dome on Esplanade, knowing you have the incredible variety of NO nightlife awaiting you and that tomorrow or next week or next year it will all happen again. Let's hope.