Four stories that explore the skills that we’ve learned from teachers, ancestors, and community members in South Louisiana.
Bradley Griffin playing the tenor drums and cymbals with the East Jefferson Marching Band's drum line. Photographs courtesy of the Griffin family.
Left to right: Katherine Madere baking at home; poster of speech by feminist labor organizer Rose Schneiderman (1882-1972), and Katherine's business inspired by her, "Bread and Roses." Images courtesy of Katherine Madere.
In Act 1, Bradley Griffin takes us into the East Jefferson High School band room where he learned the polyrhythms of the drum line. Celebrated and critiqued on the Westbank for embracing New Orleans’ ethos of improvisation, the multiracial band, led by band director Edward Grotkowski, travels to Greenwood, Mississippi before hitting the streets for Mardi Gras parades. .
FEATURED MUSIC: Live recordings of the East Jefferson Marching band while Bradley was a member of the band include drum cadences, their fight song, and take on ESPN. An example of an excellent version of the marching band classic "Under Pressure" is performed live by Jackson State in 2016. And finally, next time you go to Greenwood, Mississippi, turn on Little Richard's song by the same name from his album The Rill Thing (1970) released by Reprise Records.
In Act 2, Katherine Madere shares her journey as a baker from her father’s home on Plum Street in Uptown New Orleans to farmers' markets around the city during the pandemic. Self-taught, she has traced ancestral grains back to France, as she learns the magic of fermentation.
FEATURED MUSIC: "Breakin'Bread" by Fred Wesley and the J.B.'s from Funky Good Times: The Anthology (1995), released by Universal Records; "Season of the Witch" by Donovan from Sunshine Superman (1966), released by Sony Music Entertainment; "Wanderin" by Dave Van Ronk from Just Dave Van Ronk (1964), released by The Island Def Jam Music Group; "Carnival Time" by Al "Carnival Time" Johnson from Feeling Right Saturday Night: The Ric and Ron Anthology (2018), released by Craft Recordings, A Division of Concord Music Group.
Left: Jo'shanique Darensbourg as Lil Queen of the Comanche Hunters. Middle: Percy Francois, Sr. and his son, Percy Francois, Jr. uptown for Super Sunday. Left: Lil Chief Percy Francois, Jr. and his cousin Lil Queen Keira Francois. Photographs courtesy of the Francois family.
In Act 3, Percy Francois tells the story of growing up as the Lil Chief of the Comanchee Hunters, his father’s Mardi Gras Indian tribe in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. While the tribe looked to him to take on more responsibility, he was not sure if he was cut out to be a performer. The episode celebrates music from the Lower Nine, and weaves stories and Mardi Gras Indian music together to demonstrate how different songs are used in ritual contexts.
FEATURED MUSIC: "Ooh Poo Pah Doo (Part 1)" by Jessie Hill from Y'all Ready Now? (1987), released by Charly Records; "Carnival Time" by Al "Carnival Time" Johnson from Feeling Right Saturday Night: The Ric and Ron Anthology (2018), released by Craft Recordings, A Division of Concord Music Group; "Who Shot the La La," by Oliver Morgan from New Orleans Jazz Gumbo: Jazz, Blues, & Gospel (2008), released by Mardi Gras Records; "My Girl Josephine," by Fats Domino from The Fats Domino Jukebox (2002), released by Capital Recordings; "I'm Gonna Be A Big Wheel Some Day," by Fats Domino from The Fats Domino Jukebox (2002), released by Capital Recordings; "Indian Red" by Voices of A Nation (Juan Pardo, Kentrell Watson, Jeremy Stevenson, and Romeo Bougere) from their self-titled album (2017), produced by Jazz Festival Foundation; "Let's Go Get 'Em," by Bo Dollis, Monk Boudreaux, and Rebirth Brass Band from Rounder Heritage: Mardi Gras in New Orleans, released by Rounder Records; "Indians Here They Come," by the Comanche Hunters (featuring Kevin Goodman), a live recording at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on April 29, 2011; "Shoo-Fly" by Bo Dollis, Lawrence "Lil Crip" Adams, Monk Boudreaux, and Rebirth Brass Band from Mardi Gras Indian Super Sunday Showdown (1992), released by Rounder Records; "What A Price," by Fats Domino from They Call Me the Fat Man (1991), released by Capital Records; "Sew, Sew, Sew" by The Flaming Arrows from Mardi Gras Indians (2012), released by Mardi Gras Records; "Walk Through the Streets of the City," by Joe Lasie, Jr. and the Lastie Family Gospel from their self-titled album (2008), released by Preservation Hall.
In our final act, Dominique Ferguson invites us over to East Feliciana Parish, where she and her cousins were raised up in the years after her grandmother closed her beauty salon in Jackson, Louisiana. Inspired by India Arie and Akon's hair chronicles in "I Am Not My Hair," she charts how, as her family began to spread out along Highway 19, they continued to come back together to support each other’s changing hairstyle. The musical ethnography also features swamp blues by musicians from East Feliciana Parish and Woodville, Mississippi.
FEATURED MUSIC: "I Am Not My Hair (featuring Akon)," by India Arie from Testimony, Vol. I: Life and Relationships (2006), released by Motown Records; "Black Magic Woman," by Santana from Ultimate Santana (2007), released by RCA/Jive Label Group; "Stack O' Dollar," by Clarence Edwards, Cornelius Edwards, and Butch Cage from Country Negro Jam Session (1993), released by Smithsonian Folkway Recordings; "A Thing You've Got to Face," by Polka Dot Slim from Rare Nouthern Soul Vol. 2 (1999), released by Astro Music; "The River is Waiting," by Irma Thomas from Simply Grand (2008), released by Rounder Records; "Done Got Over," by Clarence Edwards from Louisiana Swamp Blues Vol. 4 (2015), released by Wolf Records; "I Need Your Love," by Jimmy Dotson from Louisiana Swamp Blues (2014), released by JSP Records; "Nobody's Special," by Larry Garner from Louisiana Swamp Blues Vol. 3 (2015), released by Wolf Records; "Feel Alright," by Jimmy Dotson, from Rockin' Rhythm and Blues from Memphis (2013), released by Smith & Co.
Self-portraits by Dominique Ferguson show different hairstyles she's tried over the years. Images courtesy of Dominique Ferguson.