Dig into the recesses of your New Orleans concert-going history back to the early 1980s, or, if yours is of insufficient vintage, jump onto YouTube and look up new wave band the Cold. In the center of that visitation will be a blonde whirlwind named Barbara Menendez, a mass of flailing locks from which a melodious plea to be “Mesmerized” soars over a jagged, poppy dance beat. During their original run from their first show in 1979 to their second breakup in 1985, the Cold were the coolest thing in the city.
“I worked my butt off performing with the Cold for what was a ‘rabid patch’ there for a while.” says Barbara Ganucheau née Menendez (or “Barbara B. Love” as she christened herself on Facebook. “Meanwhile, I was looking for companionship and found Ray Ganucheau. The crowds started dwindling, until, of course, we said we were breaking up. I decided I wanted a family and I made a choice. 28 years of marriage and four beautiful children later, here we are! Happy happy!!”
The oldest of those children, Wes, is the bassist for Barbara’s newest group the Help, featuring George Brown (drummer for the Roebucks who also plays with the 9th Ward Marching Band), restaurateur/guitarist Rich Siegel, and D.C. Harbold on guitar and vocals. The last time she was in a band (excluding Cold reunion shows at the Howlin’ Wolf in 1999 and 2001) was 1997 during her tenure in Babs, Guitars, and Drums, but the introduction to her most recent band was pretty seamless.
“I was looking for my passion,” Menendez-Ganucheau says. “I wanted to sing again. It had been nine years. I would see Rich Siegel now and again at his restaurant Le Crepe Nanou. He sent me a message on Facebook saying something like, ‘Would you like to sing with my little band at Carrollton Station on April 10th?’ which was 8 days away. I said yes. That’s it.”
Looking back, the Cold seems like one of those shoulda-been bands, but with the Help, the goals are a little more relaxed. “We’ve only had a few gigs. We started this thing with the understanding that we’d let this have a life of its own.” Menendez-Ganucheau and Siegel are writing new material to work in with covers and older renovated Cold tunes. “We do several covers the Cold made their own and one original Cold tune from 1979, ‘You Don’t Look at Me,’ which translated to today quite nicely.” She says of the band’s repertoire, “The songs are pop. Sort of ’60s new wave punky, not harsh but fun, danceable.”
As for any advice the Barbara of today would have for the Barbara back then, she says, “I guess I’d have to have several meetings with her as she was a hard headed one. I’d say what I always say now—the answer to every question is love. Service brings the highest reward. Don’t always equate everything in terms of dollars and cents and how much notoriety you get. Follow your passion. Stop partying so much and be serious about your gifts. And I’d tell her that she was special just the way she was.”
The Help play Carrollton Station July 17.