The OffBeat staff—myself, Joseph Irrera, Alex Rawls, Craig Guillot, Elena Reeves, Eric Broad, Sarah Lockwood and Richard Giraldi—wishes you all a very happy and blessed holiday season.
Thank you all for your support and love of New Orleans and Louisiana music and culture. Without the musicians and artists, and the people and who listen to their music, buy their products, and soak in our culture, Louisiana’s unique heritage could fade and die away.
Not as long as I’m kicking!
I’m very sad to report that I was greeted with an email from George French who informed me that Ernest “Doc” Paulin passed away this morning. He was 100 years old. Doc grew up in a family of Creole-French speaking musicians and in the early 1920s he started his first band, the “Doc” Paulin Dixieland Jazz Band. Doc played with jazz greats Kid Ory, Danny Barker, Papa Celestine and Harold Dejean and performed with his band until his last appearance at the 2004 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival—at the age of 97!
I’m going to put on my preacher’s robe now (am I preaching to the choir?) to ask you to make sure you pay attention to the traditional jazz musicians. Everything we listen to and enjoy, jazz-wise, owes its existence to what these men and women created. What they created is the improvisational music that evolved into the many forms of jazz we know now. Hell, if you look at it in a broader sense, every funk and jam band out there owes a debt to New Orleans traditional jazz. So before you dismiss trad jazz as “old people’s music,” give it another listen. Look for a story on Doc and his work and heritage in the January issue of OffBeat.
On a much happier note, happy 60th birthday to George Porter, Jr., a good friend, our cover story, and the city’s funkiest bassist. OffBeat is one of the sponsors of George’s tribute party at the Howlin’ Wolf on his birthday, December 26. The bash will feature Mark Mullins and Bonerama, Ivan and Ian Neville, Russell Batiste, Tony Hall and many more.
We’ll also celebrate the second in a series of three parties for OffBeat‘s 20th anniversary at the Hard Rock Café on December 7. The party will be a tribute to Fats Domino, and Theresa Andersson, Jon Cleary and many others will perform. The event benefits the Tipitina’s Foundation.
The year’s over, but our work is beginning anew. By the time the next issue of OffBeat hits the streets and the mail, we will have completed the Louisiana Music Directory, in conjunction with the state of Louisiana Department of Economic Development, and an improved Web site will allow you to search for information online. Look for it in the new year.
A new year also means that you’re invited to the biggest party of the year: the 13th Annual Best of the Beat Awards. In 1996, OffBeat‘s very first Best of the Beat Awards recognized the best in Louisiana music for 1995. The awards show at House of Blues, wasn’t called the Best of the Beat, but rather the Best of the Best. Later that year, it occurred to us (duh) to dub the awards the Best of the Beat.
Lifetime Achievement awards were not presented until 1998, with Tommy Ridgley the first being recognized. (Go to OffBeat.com to see a sampling of award winners over the years).
The Best of the Beat Awards were a continuation of OffBeat‘s annual, infamous, Christmas party. Back in the early days of the magazine, we did a joint Christmas party with Ultrasonic Studios, then located on Washington Avenue (since destroyed by Katrina). After a few raucous parties at the studio, we moved the party to the 13th floor of the Masonic Temple Building at 333 St. Charles Avenue, where we had relocated our offices. There the party became even more out of control, and was infamous as a good time, since we provided free liquor (hard liquor, no less) and food to all the musicians and music industry people (and an increasing number of party crashers). A very good time was had by all.
But we always thought that OffBeat, as the music journal of the city, should honor our musicians with awards and be able to throw a good party, too. We wanted our guests to pass a good time. So instead of a Christmas party in 1995, we enlisted the help of the staff of the House of Blues and proposed the first-ever OffBeat Awards.
Since all musicians and music business in Louisiana were invited to the Christmas party, the Best of the Beat Awards invited only musicians and music business folk. Attendance was by invitation only. The Awards were such a success that in 2001, the general public was offered tickets to attend the event.
Besides recognizing the best Louisiana music and music businesses, the Best of the Beat Awards became one of the city’s best music shows. In 2001, the first year the general public was invited it was called a “mini Jazz Fest” by an attendee. With two stages and performances by 15 bands and food from over 20 local restaurants, the Best of the Beat Awards became a must-see event.
Early on, we realized that the unexpected performances were the most thrilling, and we started putting together “super groups” usually to pay tribute to our lifetime achievement recipients. We remember a performance by Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr. when unannounced Michele Shocked came on stage. The risqué performance has often been talked about over the years. Oooh, Michele, did you shake that moneymaker!
The highlight in 2004 was the R&B revue featuring Irma Thomas, Frankie Ford, Al “Carnival Time” Johnson and Clarence “Frogman” Henry all backed by an all-star band led by Joe Krown.
As a consequence of Hurricane Katrina, our 2005 Awards only featured Lifetime Achievement recipients, but that didn’t stop the music. Only four months after the levees failed, the music community packed the House of Blues for one of the most memorable Best of the Beat Awards ever. The joy of greeting the music community after such a calamity was truly heart warming. After accepting his award, Allen Toussaint unexpectedly started singing a cappella a newly composed song “Come Back to New Orleans” accompanied by Jeffrey “Jellybean” Alexander on drums.
The most frequently-heard comment is always, “How are you going to beat this year’s performance?” The 2006 awards that featured an all-star tribute to Fats Domino will certainly be hard to top. It truly was historic to have the stage filled with Art Neville, Dr. John, Irma Thomas, George Porter, Jr., Jon Cleary (who played guitar), Warren Storm, Kenny Bill Stinson, Dickie Landry, David Egan, C.C. Adcock, Derek Huston, Al “Carnival Time” Johnson and long-time Domino horn men Herb Hardesty, Roger Lewis, Elliot “Stackman” Callier—all participating in the Fats Domino tribute. The awards were such a success that OffBeat donated $4,000 to New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund, now known as Renew Our Music.
Mark your calendars now for our 2007 Best of the Beat Awards show, which is scheduled for January 12, 2008 at the House of Blues, sponsored by OffBeat, the House of Blues, Miller Brewing Company, Capital One Bank, and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation. We promise a memorable show.