Mini-Ponderosa Stomp at SXSW
Performers at the SXSW showcase represent a veritable dream team from the New Orleans and Gulf Coast music scenes of the 1950s and ‘60s:
First, there’s funk master Eddie Bo, who’s been laying down the groove for more than 45 years, recording unforgettable sides of balls-to-the-wall rock ’n’ roll, classic New Orleans R&B, and hardcore Southern soul. A veteran of such seminal labels as Johnny Vincent’s Ace Records, Apollo, Chess Records, and the Ric label, Bo, one of the last great piano players from the golden age of New Orleans’ R&B scene, has also penned classic hits like “Hook & Sling,” “Check Mr. Popeye,” “Check Your Bucket,” “I’m Wise” (the prototype for Little Richard’s “Slippin’ & Slidin’”), and “Dearest Darling” (a major hit for Chess labelmate Etta James).
Fellow Crescent City native Al “Carnival Time” Johnson, who cut his first record, “Ole Time Talkin’”/”If I’ve Done Wrong,” for Aladdin Records in 1956 — when he was just 16 years old — dropped “Carnival Time,” the definitive Mardi Gras anthem, three years later. Soon drafted into the army, he finally resurfaced in 1999, when he was awarded the full rights to his hit. In 2005, Johnson reigned as the King of the Krewe Du Vieux during New Orleans’ carnival season, proving that he’s still Crescent City royalty.
Swamp poppers Tommy McClain and Warren Storm will also perform at the SXSW showcase. McClain, a native of Pineville, Louisiana who laid down brilliant blue-eyed soul versions of Patsy Cline’s “Sweet Dreams” (which sold 10 million copies), the Righteous Brothers’ “Try To Find Another Man,” and Bobby Charles’ “Before I Grow Too Old,” possesses the same heart-wrenching vocal range he debuted in 1966. Storm, a Cajun raised in Abbeville, Louisiana, began playing drums professionally at 12 years old. After stints with legendary South Louisiana groups the Rayne-Bo Ramblers, Larry Brasso’s Rhythm-Aires, and Herb Landry’s Serenaders, Storm launched his own bands, the We-Wows and the Jive Masters. But his real fame came in 1958, when he recorded “The Prisoner Song” for swamp pop impresario J.D. Miller, which sold a quarter of a million copies. McClain and Storm, who are inductees in both Louisiana’s and Texas’ Music Halls of Fame, each remain a force to be reckoned with today.
Four-time Ponderosa Stomp performer Barbara Lynn, the Empress of Gulf Coast Soul, will also make an appearance at SXSW. The Texas-born singer/guitarist first struck gold in 1962 with “You’ll Lose A Good Thing,” then penned “Oh Baby (We’ve Got A Good Thing Goin’),” covered by the Rolling Stones three years later.
“Tighten Up” singer Archie Bell, a Houston native, will perform alongside blue-eyed soul-meets-Texas garage rocker Roy Head, South Louisiana guitar slinger Lil Buck Sinegal, and Excello bluesman Classie Ballou, all backed by Lafayette swamp pop traditionalists Lil Band O’ Gold.
Shreveport, Louisiana, native DJ Fontana, who began his incredible career in 1953 as the staff drummer on the Louisiana Hayride before jumping ship to back Elvis Presley on approximately 460 cuts and in films King Creole and Jailhouse Rock, as well as on TV programs like “The Ed Sullivan Show” and the ’68 Comeback Special, will also appear.
Killer Gulf Coast garage rock acts the Bad Roads and the Zakary Thaks were cherry-picked to close out the SXSW showcase. Expect to hear stompin’ original sides like “Too Bad” and “Blue Girl,” along with a scorching rendition of the Kinks’ “’Til the End of the Day,” from the Lake Charles, Louisiana-based Bad Roads, while Corpus Christi, Texas’ Zakary Thaks, still a primo blend of fuzzy guitars and first-rate songwriting skills, will deliver “Face To Face,” “Can’t You Hear Your Daddy’s Footsteps,” “Please,” and “Won’t Come Back,” from their canon of mid-‘60s garage-psych greats.
The Ponderosa Stomp’s SXSW Gulf Coast Revue previews the 2006 Ponderosa Stomp, slated for Monday, May 8–Wednesday, May 10, at the Gibson Guitar Factory in downtown Memphis, TN. The Stomp is sandwiched between the Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival and the Blues Music Awards, making for one of the most exciting weeks of music in Memphis history.
The SXSW show is happening by sponsorship of Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co. and the New Orleans Musicians Gig Fund through a generous grant from Rolling Stone.
After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans last September, followed by Hurricane Rita, which decimated portions of the Gulf Coast, the New Orleans-based Ponderosa Stomp, an offshoot of the Mystic Knights of the Mau Mau (a social club-turned-501.c3 non-profit organization), has temporarily relocated to Memphis and reorganized the event as a fundraiser benefiting the New Orleans Musicians Clinic and MusiCares.
Tickets for the 5th Annual Ponderosa Stomp are available for $40 per night at www.buyolympia.com/events/index.php?details=170 . More than 60 legendary artists — an all-time record — will perform on three stages over a three-night period, while the Stomp will also feature ancillary events including a DJ Night, a Record Show, and more. Information about the line-up and the venue can be found at www.ponderosastomp.com .
CNN has declared the Ponderosa Stomp “history in the making,” while New York Times music critic Jon Pareles calls it a “dream” event that “plunges into the obscure byways of rock ’n’ roll past.” Of the 2005 festival, Gambit magazine joined MSNBC, the Associated Press, Mojo, the Christian Science Monitor, High Times, Living Blues, the Chicago Sun-Times, and more, with praise, writing, “For roots aficionados, the Stomp was nirvana; you almost had to pinch yourself to make sure it wasn’t a dream.”
The Mystic Knights of the Mau Mau will also present monthly concerts at the Circle Bar and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, both located in New Orleans. The non-profit, volunteer-run organization, founded by a group of rock’n’roll fanatics to celebrate the pioneers of blues, country, swamp pop, jazz, soul, and R&B, has presented more than forty shows, helping to resurrect the careers of dozens of “lost” musical legends, including Howard Tate and Jody Williams, over the past five years.