George Porter, Jr.: Here Comes the Meter Man

George Porter, Jr. is one of the most influential rhythm and blues players from the post-1950s generation of musicians that engineered the revolution in soul music that became known as funk. But Porter has gone on to excel in a variety of genres, from jazz to pop. The bassist is a highly accomplished sideman, the pivot around which all the original Meters have continued to play at various times, the driving force along with Meters founder Art Neville behind the funky Meters and the leader of his own band, George Porter, Jr. and the Runnin’ Pardners. Porter’s distinctive bass lines illuminate such classic songs from the New Orleans canon as “Cissy Strut,” “Hey Pocky A-Way,” “Fire On the Bayou” and “People Say.” Porter practices his craft with tireless dedication and a seemingly limitless good humor. “He’s the most fun 51-year-old man you’ll ever meet,” says John Gros, one of the two keyboardists in the Pardners.

On a bright summer morning Porter was up early working in the home studio on the top floor of his uptown triplex putting together a new album, Funk ‘n’ Go Nuts, that finally captures the paint-stripping intensity of the Pardners’ live sound. Porter’s exchanges with drummer Russell Batiste, an absolute master of the instrument, rank with some of his sublime moments with original Meters drummer Zigaboo Modeliste. Guitarist Brint Anderson is a magnificent foil to Porter’s guitaristic bass riffs, and the dueling keyboardists Gros and Michael Lemmler layer in hot and varied rhythmic beds, accents and solos.

Life has not always been so sunny to Porter, who battled through a drug dependency that he now feels almost ruined him. One of the songs on the album, “High Above,” deals with the psychological rollercoaster that he rode over and over again back in the day, a ride he has exited with audible relief.

Porter’s studio has a little bit of the aspect of a mad scientist’s lair, every square inch neatly allotted to some aspect of the archives, from the stacked tape recorders to the carefully arranged trays of digital cassettes documenting hundreds of live recordings by the Meters and the Pardners.

 

The tracks you just played for me are mind-boggling. Not only is this the best solo material you’ve done, it holds its own with some of the best moments of the Meters.

I think it’s probably my best effort, to date, of all of the records that I’ve done, I think that this one is more thought out, musically. In the past, it seemed like it was always, I wanted to do a record, but then things would be rushed to get to do it, you know, we’d do it, and it would never get done the way I would like to have had it. The record I did that was released only in Japan, the Count On You record was very close to the way I would have liked to have a record sound, but it was never released in the U.S.

This version of the Runnin’ Pardners is flying right now.

They’re good musicians, so when you bring ‘em into the fold, it’s a very good idea to let what they do shine instead of just narrowing them down to being the players that I want them to be, it’s just like let ‘em get out there and play, you know. I mean, I know how I felt when I was playing, when I’d go out and play music on bigger tours with people like David Byrne and Harry Connick, Jr., you’re narrowed into being just this all of the time, so you don’t get a chance to play. Of course, I understand it’s because they’re selling music, them guys are selling what they do and not what I do. So I always say that my band is going to be, musically everybody’s gonna get a piece of the action, everybody has a statement, everybody can make it. At some point, we’re gonna all make a statement, and if we cross the finish line together that’s great, although it doesn’t really happen all the time.

Was it like that in the Meters?

No, not really. We had our moments. In the early years, we all played what we wanted to play, and most of the time me and Leo were playing pretty much the same thing. We were playing lick-oriented things. So by the time we started singing, by the time we got to the Warner Brothers years, I was more or less just a bass player at that time, so I just came in and did what I did. I always brought my own tools to the table. There were just a few songs where my bass line was actually thought out in advance, a couple of songs that Leo had written, contrary to the beliefs that Leo Nocentelli wrote all our songs. He’s the primary excuse that we all have when we don’t have a job these days. We pretty much equally brought stuff to the table, and towards the ending, towards the Warner Brothers years, we had what I call the “songwriter wars.” You know, whose song was going to get recorded and whose song was gonna get on the album. At that point, I just started doin’ more drugs and said fuck ‘em [laughs]. Just let them fight, and they can call me, and I’ll come and do my sessions, do the tracks and I get the fuck out and you all go fight all you want.

So do you think that that actually contributed to you getting more heavily involved in drugs?

I won’t attribute it solely to that. I just think that me and the drug thing was just something that was, it was an adventure, and it was a way to get away from the bullshit. ‘Cause, see that’s every junkie’s fucking excuse. “Oh man, there’s so much bullshit.” I just had one of those addicted, fucked up attitudes and it only took a little excuse. Oh, the grass is green today. Fuck, I’m gonna get high. That was it. I didn’t need a reason to do it, you know, it was just I did it. I used to think of excuses. I didn’t need a fucking excuse to get high. I liked it, I did it, and I did it until it started doin’ me, you know? That’s when I decided that something better change quickly.

What was the moment that made you decide to quit?

Between the deaths of James Black and David Lastie and Oliver Corning. Oliver was a beautiful young bass player. He didn’t even use drugs. He might have smoked some weed, but nothing harder. Then one night at Snug Harbor, somebody enticed him to take a hit of cocaine and it killed him. Shortly after that David Lastie died. Shortly after that James Black died. Word was out that I was next. I was doin’ more drugs than David or Oliver was doin’. James, I don’t know about [laughs]. We were doin’ different kinda drugs. We hung out at the same places but in different corners of the room.

So you got up one day and said “That’s it.”

It was a Sunday morning. The night before I had played with John Mooney at Carrollton Station and I was sober all night, all through the gig. I was real clear with myself because I had been sober for six, seven days. We got off and between the time of putting my stuff in the car and getting into the car, I drove right past my home and went straight to the old Storyville. Luther Kent was playing down there. I got onstage and jammed a little bit. Luther used to drink straight shot glasses of Crown Royal while you were playing. Luther would walk over to you, put a shot glass to your head and you would hit it, you know?

That was it. That one hit put me on a six, seven-hour cocaine run that ended up at ten o’clock in the morning. I’m riding down Elysian Fields coming from the Lakefront with a fifth of vodka in one hand and a bag of cocaine in the other hand. We come up to a red light, and I’m in the far lane and a police car pulls right up alongside of me, and a beautiful blonde pulls up alongside of them. I’m sitting there snorting this cocaine and I saw the police car outta the side of my eye but they was looking at the girl next to them. I practically had a hemorrhage. It was the most frightening moment of my life. I was crying I was so scared. I don’t know how I drove home. I got home and my wife and my daughter were on their way to church. Ara was saying ‘Come on Trina, let’s go,’ and the only thing I could think of is that they were leaving. I didn’t realize they were going to church. So I got inside, I called my mom and told her she had to get me off the street today or I’m dead. She told me to stay there. My wife came right back and my mother came over and they found me curled up on the sofa in a fetal position. They drove me to Bowling Green and I gladly went in.

You didn’t want to lose your family.

No. I always knew they was important, but that coupled with almost going to jail, because if they would have stopped me I was driving without a driver’s license and I had more than enough cocaine in my possession to be booked for attempt to distribute. They would have stuck me with that because I was a well-known musician. I would have just got hammered. They would have truly made an example of me. That Sunday morning was the day.

What about your father?

Me and my pop didn’t get along very well. All of the years I was getting loaded he expressed his concern about me being stupid. It would always end up in another argument or something. We never got tight, and then when I went into treatment he came over to visit me one Sunday, which really surprised me, actually it shocked the shit out of me. I was glad to see him to tell the truth, ’cause I knew there was shit I had to settle with him. We made plans to patch up our relationship when I got out. I got out on a Friday and that Sunday morning he died.

That must have weirded you out.

It did. I was kind of angry ’cause I always felt that he never was there for me and then he broke another promise to me. When he died it felt like he abandoned me again. I mean, my father was there when we was kids, but I was a dumb teenager and I didn’t get it. He was strict. I wouldn’t say he was abusive, looking back on the things he did, they weren’t abusive but he was strict. It probably had a lot to do with things I realized later in my life when getting sober was important to me, things I wish I’d listened to.

How about his influence on your musical taste?

He was a music lover and he definitely is responsible for my interest in jazz. He was a big Sonny Stitt fan, Stanley Turrentine, he was into all of the organ bands, Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Jack McDuff. He had one or two Shirley Scott organ records. I liked that stuff from hearing it around the house—in fact I bought a Stanley Turrentine record recently.

Some of that is very much along the lines, feel-wise, of what you’re doing now.

Yes, it does have some of that feel. It’s the space that happened in that music that I
like.

Obviously family is very important to you now. Is that a big change from when you were getting loaded?

Yes, it is a change, because in my foolishness there was a lack of paying enough attention to what was going on around me. My daughter and me went through a lot of the same problems that me and my father did because when she was a small kid I was loaded, and even though a lot of the things I was saying were right and in her best interest, it was the presentation that was fucked. That made it harder for her to accept, because it was being presented to her by a madman.

How long have you and Ara been married?

Me and Ara got married in 1984, but we’ve been together for 30 years. What she did more than help me out is that when I was going through the craziness, she worked two jobs, she kept food on the table. I was working at the time, in fact I was working a lot, but as much as I was working, if 50 percent of it got home I was lucky and might have blown the whole weekend in one sitting. I would always take care of the overhead bills and Ara’s income took care of feeding and clothing us. That’s as much as I can remember, she worked hard. She married me after the World’s Fair. I was so nuts during the World’s Fair. I had been sober since December and started getting high again on our wedding day. From there it was a downhill ride to 1988.

Do you do any motivational talking to kids?

When I first got out of Bowling Green I wanted to do it because I really got along with the kids inside. For some reason the young people was very receptive to me, they talked to me, I played basketball with them. My counselors told me I should consider doing some of that, but after I got out Bowling Green went through a lot of changes and the people I knew there left. I don’t have trouble talking about it but I don’t want to go knock on doors.

Are you still tempted?

I don’t think I’m tempted. As much as I think the temptation comes to me, those things might come around but it goes real quickly because my wife would kill me.

You must be happier than at any point of your life.

Most definitely. I’m really pleased with the struggle I’m involved with perfecting my craft. I’m up against my old musical voice in the Meters and what I’m trying to do is stand alone. For years when we first came out I couldn’t get on the Jazz Fest ’cause they considered me a Meters clone band. I remember Quint Davis sayin’ one time when I had trouble getting on the Jazz Fest for a couple of years was that he already had a funky Meters playin’, he didn’t need a clone band. I remember Steve [Eggerton, longtime Meters roadie and, eventually, manager] tellin’ him, “Hey man, you better come out and see this band, because it’s not a clone band, it’s nothing like the Meters.” So when he came out and saw us, he agreed, and I got on the Fest the very next year and I’ve been on ever since.

This record sounds like you’re taking on the Meters.

Because now it’s a keyboard band. We can be tempted to be a more Meters-type band than the horn band was. This new record is my first chance to showcase the two-keyboard band versus the Meters. The last project was tracks written for the horn band that were rearranged for keyboards. This record was written for the keyboards, not horns. In fact when I changed the horns I also considered doing a one horn band. Sort of like what Mark Mullins is doin’ with the new horn thing [Mulebone]. I was thinking of just keeping it a single horn, but Mark was out touring with Harry Connick, Jr. One of the things that New Orleans is well-known for is that most musicians in this town play with five different bands. The good players got gigs. They’re gonna be playing with a lot of players. So that kind of meant me having to be able to just replace these guys with three other guys that’s gonna come in and do the job just as well. You know, all the three new guys are gonna come in and do is read, they wasn’t going to be able to do those head things. A great deal of the instrumental stuff from the prior two albums got wrote that way.

You’ve been playing with Zig again. Obviously people are wondering if you will ever get the original Meters lineup back together.

I know those rumors are already flyin’. I never say never to anything, but that’s not anything that we have been discussing or considering. For practical purposes, I would think that that would only be trouble by creating the myth that one band is better than the other one. I never say never, because if somebody came up with the right dookies, then the chance of that band playin’ together is better. I don’t think none of us are in a financial position to say no to money. I mean, of course provided that all management says OK to it. That would be the biggest hold up, it wouldn’t be necessarily the musicians that say we won’t play together, I don’t want to play with that guy, I don’t think that’ll happen. It’s just whether management—all four of us got managers—if all of those guys meet and say it’s cool. I mean I would think that their problems would be how to split the money up.

Is there any one aspect of what you do that you like more than the rest of it?

I still have a great deal of fun playing live performances.

Would you rather be playing with the Runnin’ Pardners or the funky Meters?

Oh, it don’t matter. I’m playing. That’s the point. You know, I don’t think I have any more or less gratification out of playing with either one. I mean, it’s always fun playing with Art, just ’cause you never know what’s gonna happen, you know [laughs]? You’re willing to wait for the surprises to come. The income is better, naturally. But with the Runnin’ Pardners I’m playing a lot more of my own music.

More creativity?

Yeah. But the funky Meters, that’s another animal. I mean, the jams that we do in that band… Now, with Russell Batiste in the Runnin’ Pardners once again, those jams that tend to build from drum and bass moving as one person will get a little bit more intense. That Russell is some motherfucker isn’t he? I got nothin’ but praise for that kid. He’s just a great drummer. He has this unique ability to be everywhere and still be in the place where the pocket never goes away. He could play so much stuff around the pocket, you know, that can lose some players, other guys’ll stop playin’ ’cause they don’t know where “one” is, but he knows where it’s at. I always tell him that’s not a good thing, ’cause when you lose the band, then that means that you doin’ something wrong. When I first started the band, Russell was the original drummer. And we had a guitar player, and I won’t call his name, just because it’s probably embarrassing, but he used to get lost all the time. When we started playing, Russ would make a turnaround, and he would come to a screaming halt, because he didn’t know where “one” was at no more. And him and Russ almost went to blows one night, ’cause he thought Russell was doin’ it on purpose, tryin’ to trick him, tryin’ to fuck him up. And so eventually he just quit the band, because he felt that he either was gonna quit the band or kill Russ.

But those kind of things happen. I mean, drummers are the guys, I call them the “guardians of the groove” because they’re the ones with absolute power to create and destroy a groove. They can create it and hold it, or they can create it and destroy it. And no one else can do nothing about it because we’re at the mercy of those guys, and if those guys got their shit together, then more than likely the gig is going to be one hell of a gig. I’ve been uniquely pleased to only have one drummer in my life that I hated, I absolutely hated that motherfucker. I wanted to kill him. He wasn’t my drummer, I didn’t hire him, but I was on tour with him, with Professor Longhair in Europe for three weeks. He never let himself get alone with me ’cause he knew I would kill him. If I ever contemplated murder that was the guy. He left New Orleans after that tour. I think he just didn’t feel safe in New Orleans no more after that [laughs].

What’s the difference between playing with Zig and playing with Russ?

Zig has these pockets of brilliance. You’ll be going along in this direction, and all of a sudden he’ll do something and everybody goes, “Wow! What the hell was that?” You’d be turning around and begging him to do that some more. He’s just always been that way, he’ll just do things that blow your mind. Russell is a little more aggressive than Zig. He came from that school as a kid, learning from Zig, but being a music major at school he developed these uncanny chops. He can do whatever he wants to do whenever he wants to do it, so well that some guys can’t keep up with him.

You seem to do a wider range of things with Russell.

Russell just has the chops that allows him to go off and do things, but he still has the knowledge of where “one” is. Sometimes the whole band just gets crazy and the five musicians take off in five different directions. Russell’s ability is always able to bring us back. We’ve had times when we’re so far out there that we just stop playing and let Russell take it. He’ll always reorganize it.

You did an interview in 1995 in OffBeat with Art Neville, and it sounded like you were down on Leo in that piece.

I was really sorry it came off that way. It is what it is. Musicians are given a talent. We keep what we have by sharing it with others. When we stop sharing and start just taking the money and running, somewhere that unique and great talent is lost. People see that too. I love Leo, I really do, I love all those guys, because what we all were doing prior to playing with each other would have never gotten us to where we are today. We were all sidemen, even Art was just a sideman. He was Art Neville, the sideman. He had this great voice and everything else, but the Meters made all of us. “Sophisticated Cissy” took off, and “Cissy Strut” continues to take off, it’s in the history books. But if we get to the point where it’s no longer a group effort musically, it becomes a one-man band. In that case, why are the rest of us here?

I never meant to down Leo at all because he has the ability to play what it would take two or three guitar players to match. All that early stuff, it was just one guitar player playing two or three parts at the same time. He made everything happen, rhythm, lick and all. I’ve played with guitar players who say “which one of these parts you want me to play?” ’cause they think there’s three parts. But it’s not three parts, it’s just one part. Personally, I think that all the negative stuff that the funky Meters get from friends of Leo, people think we stabbed him in the back, but I don’t think we did. Leo left us, we didn’t leave him. He left the band and that was the end of the story. I regretted the way my statement came out in OffBeat that time. I probably said it the way it was written, but unfortunately, when you write words out, they don’t always read like you say ‘em. I do have a problem, though, when we as musicians stop giving the people what they paid for. When it gets to the point where all you want is go to get the money and go home, everybody can see that. If you go to see a band play three times in a row you shouldn’t have to see the same eight songs. I have a big problem with that.

We play clubs like Tramps in New York, two shows a night, and most of the time most of the second show is the same people as the first audience. Then they’ll come back the other nights. I’ve looked in those audiences and see the same faces four nights in a row. When that happens, they may hear “Cissy Strut” every night, they may hear “Hey Pocky A-Way” every night, they may hear “Fire on the Bayou” once, but the rest of the set is gonna be different stuff. Even when we play the same songs, because we are a jam band, we never play them the same way. A lot of our early records were spontaneous things that happened in jams. We would go into the studio for weeks at a time and just record whatever came off our chest. That’s why Marshall Sehorn had tapes on us of unreleased stuff long after we had left him.

You had the hits, you were considered “musicians’ musicians,” but the spotlight eluded you.

We were famous but we never got to be stars. Sometimes when I think about it, if we had been stars and famous there’s probably a good chance that some of us wouldn’t be alive now. There was that element in some of our lives that could have ended it.

You were at the top of your game when Allen Toussaint paired you up with Dr. John to make the In the Right Place album.

At the time we were Allen’s home run-hitting rhythm section, so there was no consideration of anyone else to do that record. That was a good record, but I really liked the second one more, Desitively Bonaroo was my favorite of the two.

You’re listed on the record as George “Freak Man” Porter.

Dr. John did that shit, he called me “Freak Man,” I was crazy. He gave everybody crazy names.

This bit with the socks, your fans have turned your knee socks into a trademark. How did that happen?

I’ve always worn ‘em, but the summers seem to have gotten a lot hotter here in the last ten years, so I started wearin’ shorts. One of the great reasons for wearing them is I wear tennis or karate-type shoes most of the time and those big socks help my feet have not as much punishment because those shoes don’t have any arch supports. They also absorb water and keep my feet dry so my feet weren’t funky. After the kids started in on this they started giving parties where at the door when you come in you trade your black ankle socks in for high knee socks and that’s what you wore at the party.

You have a great rapport with your audience.

I really try. I’ve seen a lot of musicians go from being people people to being popular and becoming stars, and it seems like as we climb this ladder of success the people get further and further away. I’ve certainly tried not to elevate myself from the people because I think if we’re not people-friendly then they’re gonna stop coming to see us. I started doing songs on Runnin’ Pardners sets that I was getting requests from people to do on Meters gigs, things like “I Need More Time,” “Yeah, You’re Right,” “Ride Your Pony,” “No More Okey Doke.” The Meters never played those songs. “Just Kissed My Baby,” “Hey Pocky A-Way,” “Cissy Strut,” those are the signature Meters songs I play on my gigs. The Meters hardly ever played “Jungle Man” or “The Dragon [He Bite Me].” I’ll play those songs. “Funkify Your Life,” the Meters hardly ever played it, so I rearranged it and I played it. I did these things but I didn’t sacrifice the individuality of the band. When I play “Cissy Strut” the response is always there, that’s just one of those songs that just don’t go away. So I don’t have a problem playing “Cissy Strut.” In the Runnin’ Pardners version of it I added chord changes to it, I added different sections and solos and breakdown sections and stuff, so it’s not like the original song. when we re-recorded “Yeah, You’re Right” I put other parts in the song, made different changes and turned a two-and-a-half minute song into a five minute song. So that was pretty much what my intentions were. Any Meters stuff I was gonna do, I was gonna rearrange it.

What’s the story behind your guitar?

The body of the guitar and the neck of the guitar are two different pieces. The neck came from a retired bass player’s guitar. The original neck is from an older bass from a musician who was in forced retirement. The bass sat in the corner of his house for years. I bought this fretless bass and I took it on tour and Art and Zig said I was playing out of tune. So I went home and bought the neck and put it on this bass. It’s been on it since 1971.

You played with Irma Thomas early in your career.

Irma Thomas was a really good friend to me when I was a kid—she still is a good friend—she always tells people she gave me my first gig. I did have gigs prior to working for her but she was the first person I toured with, local tours to Jackson, Mississippi, or Baton Rouge.

My first working gigs were with a band called the Royal Knights, who were led by a guitar player named Herbert Wing. That was a band that got fraternity gigs backing up like Earl King and Ernie K-Doe, Chris Kenner. I had been doing that stuff since I was 16 years old. I was a sub, I played drums, guitar and bass and I did a little James Brown. Whatever was needed that’s what I played. I went from the Royal Knights to playing with Frank Moton at the 808, where I met Walter Washington. I was playing bass at the time, but I was more of a guitar player. I played with Art at the Masque Lounge on Gentilly once. That was as a guitar player, and he simply hated me as a guitar player. When I hooked up with Irvin Bannister and the All-Stars, that’s when I became a bass player. That was ’63, ’64. I started working with Art sometime in 1965. Art saw me in a club on Galvez and Washington Avenue right across the street from Charlie’s Corner. Art came in and asked me if I wanted to play in his band with Leo Nocentelli at a new club on Louisiana and Carondelet called the Nite Cap. I asked him about rehearsals, but we never did rehearse. That’s one thing we never did much of. It was always right there.

What’s the story behind the James Black tribute on the new album, the variation on “Valsvaa”?

I’ve always liked the groove, and I always said I’d like to do that. The jazz players said the melody was in the chord forms, but I never heard a melody, I just always thought the song needed a melody. So, when I started writing the song, I hadn’t heard the original version for a while, so what happened is that the lick is a little different from the original lick. I was just gonna take it and rewrite the song originally and just title it exactly like it is and just re-copyright it as a co-writing thing using James and myself. But when I let David Torkanowsky hear the song, he said “You know, that ain’t the way the lick goes. That’s the wrong lick.” Of course I added other changes, I reconstructed the configuration of the song, so at that point I said, “Well this is a totally different song,” and he said, “Yeah, sort of” [laughs]. So then I just, I made it a tribute, you know, I just called it the “James Black Attack.” I figured I won’t be ripping nobody off. ‘Cause you know, this city is quick for calling people and sayin’ you rippin’ off somebody.

Who are your favorite bassists?

I don’t listen to bass players. I probably listen to more drummers, saxophone players, than bass players. Probably my favorite bass player is a guy named Chuck Badie. He’s an old upright bass player that played in New Orleans. He was in the AFO band. And he was just a great friend. The guy who kind of gets the credit for bein’ my bass teacher would be a guy named Benjamin Francis. His nickname was Poppy. I think in my growing musician lifestyle, two guys probably played a real important role, ’cause I was a guitar player/drummer/bass player. The guitar player was Herbert Wing, who ran the Royal Knights, I kind of hung out with him. We used to call Leo Nocentelli because he knew Leo, I didn’t know Leo at the time, he knew Leo and he would call Leo up on the phone. He had one of the first speakerphones I had ever seen. I don’t think anybody had that, but he had one in his house. We used to always call him the gadget man. And he would call Leo and me and him would sit in the room while Leo would be on the other phone and he would ask Leo questions: “How that lick went man?” So Leo would tell him over the phone. I never said anything, he would do all the talking, so I was just in the back listenin’ to him talkin’ to Leo on the phone and askin’ Leo questions about how licks would happen.

The rest of my education just came just from personal application. I think as a bass player, being a frustrated guitar player led me to be the kind of bass player that I ended up being. As a drummer, all the New Orleans street-feel things, that’s the kind of drummer I was. I can swing pretty well as a drummer. Now I can’t play the shuffle worth a shit. I mean, I can play it, but not for long [laughs]. I can’t play funk, I can’t play the syncopated drums. It’s gonna be pretty much straight-ahead or old-style, New Orleans-feel stuff, rather than the syncopated stuff that Zig brought into play, you know. That stuff that Ziggy would play, when I think of the syncopation that Zig brought to the music scene, I think of a guy with four arms. And I can’t do that. I can think it, and I can explain it to somebody, but I can’t play it. I can’t play it. All my arms and my legs just fall off my body.

When you met Paul McCartney, did he want to talk to you about playing bass?

No, not at all, man. McCartney knew who we were, you know, and the guy knew everything about us. When we first met those guys, they knew who we were, all of ‘em, man. The Stones, Rod Stewart. Back in those days, Rod Stewart’s band was called the Faces. We did a show in London with Professor Longhair, Allen Toussaint and Dr. John, and after the show we were told that a lot of those guys didn’t get along well together, so they brought all of ‘em in at different points so we would just meet and greet and say hello. So we got to see the Faces, we got to see the Stones, we got to see the Beatles. They all didn’t come together, you know, as one group. McCartney kind of traveled alone most of the time as I remember. The only person in the Beatles we didn’t meet or didn’t show, was the drummer, Ringo Starr. But we never talked about what we do. We talked like we had been old friends.

When McCartney did the recording session here in New Orleans, our management at the time was tryin’ to keep us away from the studio. Paul had asked Steve Eggerton about me, so Steve came to my house one evening and got me. He said “Hey man, I’m gonna bring you somewhere.” As a general rule, when we were home, if we weren’t playing or working, we didn’t even go to the studio, so there would have been no chance of seeing McCartney. But Eggerton came up and got me and brought me down and says, “Man, somebody wants to see you.” When I get to the studio, when we walk in the door, it was Linda [McCartney], and she was sitting there with the Xerox machine, playing, taking handprints, you know, on the Xerox machine and bringing ‘em back to Paul and saying “Whose hand is that?” [laughs]. So she had me make a Xerox copy of my hand and she ran into the back of the studio and says, “Whose hand is that?” and Paul takes a guess and she says, “No, no, no” and he turned around and she said it’s George Porter, Jr., and he turned around and knew then. Big hugs and excitement and the session kind of came to a screaming halt for about a half hour, with Paul and me just talkin’. We hugged a couple of times, and just talked about how we doin’, how’s the family, how the children doin’, this and that. It was pretty cool. We never talked business at all, we always talked like we had been long-time family members, you know? Checking on each other’s families.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I just wanna say I owe all of my girls a great deal of thanks. My mother Henrietta, my wife Ara, my daughter Katrina, my granddaughter Ciara and my aunt Rose, my mother’s sister. That’s the five women in my life.