Some people have expressed concern that because you’ve opened Kermit’s 9th Ward Juke Joint you might be giving up the Mother-In-Law. Are you keeping both clubs and if so, why the second club?
Yes, that’s for sure. I just love freaking barrooms. When I was a kid, after my mom retired from radio and TV, she started working at all the bars in the 9th Ward. The same bar I have now, she helped run it—the Morris Lounge.
My cousins own almost that whole block. Dirty Rice [Kermit’s right-hand man, Anthony Richardson] saw that the club [at 5119 St. Claude Ave.] was empty and he came and told me. I said “That’s my cousin’s place, let me call him up.” We got a lease from him. It came full circle because I went to Emerson Elementary in the 9th Ward and I went to Lawless and I was in all of those clubs when I was 18 years old.
So are two clubs enough or are you going to start a Kermit empire?
Oh, two is enough. Every time I wake up I say, “What the hell I got myself into?” Once I’m wide awoke, I think, “I’ll be okay, it’s going to be fun.” Without these clubs, I think I’d be bored to death.
The first band to play at Kermit’s Joint other than your Barbecue Swingers was the Ambush reggae band each Sunday night. How did that come about?
Sundays are so big over here [at the Mother-In-Law] with the TBC Brass Band to the point where I have four security guards, six barmaids with barricades going down the sidewalk with people standing in line waiting to get in. So I figured I’d do the reggae down there so people who don’t want to hear a brass band, they’ll have something different to do. You know, it’s all trial and error right now.
At both clubs the music starts early in the evening. Why is that?
I love early. It’s working over here at the Mother-In-Law so I’m doing the same there—one long set. On Tuesdays I have a young jazz trumpeter, Jelani Akil Bauman, starting at 6 p.m. He does a lot of original stuff.
What’s your greatest pleasure in owning these clubs?
The goal is to hire a bunch of musicians and have live music as much as possible. It just brings a lot of love into neighborhoods that are almost dying for clubs that used to be like that. All I’m doing is what I used to see. I just want to make sure that I bring that spiritual feeling to these bars and the neighborhoods.
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