Blue Monday Mission, operating in Lafayette for three years, helps aging, retired and elderly musicians. A division of the nonprofit Love of People, the organization plans to expand to New Orleans. Love of People executive director John Williams recently selected bassist and bandleader Charlie Wooton to be Blue Monday Mission’s New Orleans liaison.
In Lafayette, Blue Monday Mission stages its Blue Monday Concert Series the second Monday of every month at Rock ’n’ Bowl. The organization’s third Bubbles and Blues Gala is February 1 at the Lafayette Science Museum and Rock ’n’ Bowl. The gala’s performers include the internationally-known Acadiana musicians Marc Broussard, Michael Doucet, Sonny Landreth and Roddie Romero.
On January 4 at the Maple Leaf Bar, Blue Monday Mission introduced itself to New Orleans through an all-star event featuring Landreth, Rockin’ Dopsie Jr., Anthony Dopsie, George Porter Jr., Arsene DeLay, bassist Lee Allen Zeno (Buckwheat Zydeco), drummer Steve Adams (Ernie K-Doe, Jessie Hill, Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint, the Boogie Kings) and Wooton’s Zydefunk as house band.
Before the Maple Leaf show, Wooton said, “Williams came to me with something that is authentic and all good. We’re taking care of elderly musicians who worked their whole lives, but they didn’t have health insurance or a 401(k).”
Many older musicians who performed as sidemen are in poor health and in financial straits, Wooton said. “We have so many people in desperation. They played bass or drums, for whomever, every night. So, we’re here to pay back all the love they gave us. None of those front men would have sounded good without a great rhythm section.”
Williams calls 86-year-old Carol Fran, the Lafayette singer-pianist who worked in blues, swamp pop, rhythm-and-blues and jazz, the first lady of Blue Monday. “She didn’t have anything,” he said. “We provided groceries and personal care and transportation. A lot of older musicians are living without basic needs.”
The original house band for the Blue Monday Mission Concert Series included veteran Acadiana musicians Zeno, Major Handy and the late Lil’ Buck Sinegal. “Because everybody wanted to play with Lil’ Buck, Lee and Maj, that brought all of the musicians together,” Williams said.
Williams, a nurse by trade, has always wanted to expand Blue Monday Mission beyond Lafayette. “Because the need is not just Lafayette,” he said. “It’s in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, these areas that have such deep music history. These older musicians are our foundation. If we’re going to continue to grow our music industry and make it better, we’ve got to fill in those cracks.”
The Bubbles and Blues Gala is 6 p.m. February 1 at the Lafayette Science Museum and Rock ’n’ Bowl.