Carnival season is here and it’s time to stock your music player accordingly. Here’s 10 of our favorite Mardi Gras songs, some obvious and some obscure. We’ve left off the three most obvious ones: Professor Longhair’s “Big Chief,” Al Johnson’s “Carnival Time” and the Meters’ “Hey Pocky Way” since you’ve heard ’em already.
The Hawkettes, “Mardi Gras Mambo”
Individually and collectively, the Neville Brothers have been behind some of the greatest Mardi Gras songs, none greater than this. The sax player nearly bursting into “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” during his solo is somehow perfect.
Egg Yolk Jubilee, “Show Your Tits”
This song always eluded us due to the depth and complexity of the lyrics. Kidding. But we will say that the WWOZ version, which throws some ridiculous sound effects to cover the naughty word, is even funnier than the straight version.
The Abitians, “Prettiest Girl on Mardi Gras”
From the shamefully overlooked album New Mardi Gras Classics, this song concerns the singer’s devout wish to be the best-dressed lady who wears rhinestones and sequins and gets everybody whistling. The singer, of course, is a guy with a frog croak of a voice.
Snooks Eaglin, “I Went to the Mardi Gras”
The lyrics to this one are as simple as it gets—“I went to the Mardi Gras, and had a real good time”—but the expression is pure joy. Doesn’t seem that long ago that Snooks and George Porter, Jr. were practically the house band at the Rock ’n’ Bowl.
The Wild Tchoupitoulas, “Meet De Boys on the Battlefront”
The granddaddy of Mardi Gras Indian songs harks back to the days when tribe duels were less friendly than they are now. The chorus is “Wild Tchoupitoulas gonna stomp some rump,” but we’ve heard at least one tribe sing it as “fuck ‘em up” instead.
The Wild Magnolias, “New Suit”
Not to be outdone, the Magnolias came up with the song that makes sewing sound like the funkiest and most manly activity on the planet.
Oliver Morgan, “Who Shot the La La”
Don’t ask why Eddie Bo thought to write a party song about the murder of a popular musician, and don’t ask why anyone thought that a song with lyrics like “Only three fellas do a thing like that / A hothead, yo’ mama, and my brother John” would stand a chance of airplay. Sometimes it just happens that way.
Dr. John, “Mardi Gras Day”
The Doctor cut his best Carnival song during his voodoo period. The main attraction of this classic is that it’s eight minutes long, so the feel just gets spacier and hazier as it goes on—much like the real thing.
The Radiators, “I Ain’t Ready For It”
The Rads’ contribution to the Carnival repertoire is a song they never recorded and only played at appropriate times. It’s a slightly cranky sing-a-long that celebrates all the partying you’ll do whether you want to or not. (Check out this recent version by the New Orleans Suspects.)
Benny Grunch & the Bunch, “Ain’t No Place to Pee on Mardi Gras Day”
Lots of Mardi Gras songs celebrate the parties and the pageantry, but this one—smartly arranged to sound like an old Huey Lewis record—addresses one of the aspects that tourists never hear about. But trust us, they’ll find out.