Even swamp pop supergroups have their Led Zeppelin fantasies. And Lil’ Band O’Gold will get to live out theirs when they play a string of dates this summer as Robert Plant’s opening act, including the Mahalia Jackson Theater on July 17. No doubt they’ll wind up onstage together, as they did at Tipitina’s in 2007. But since this is the new millennium and everybody’s grown up, we can assume that no hotel hijinks or red snappers will be involved.
“Yeah, it’s too bad we couldn’t be invited to open dates on that ’73 tour,” notes LBOG guitarist C.C. Adcock. “If I’d had a crystal ball back in sixth grade, and seen myself getting onstage with Robert Plant, I would’ve really been hot shit around the Edgar Martin Jr. High school playground. If that crystal ball would’ve made it look like I was taking Jimmy Page’s place, then I would’ve been the most hated dude in the land—and probably gotten my ass beat pretty bad. Onstage playing next to Robert at Tip’s that first night, I remember thinking, ‘Don’t even play any Jimmy Page licks.’ There was no puckering my lips or moving my head side to side, and I made sure I wasn’t wearing my guitar slung too low.”
“We initially hooked up with Robert for the recording of Going Home, the Fats Domino tribute record,” adds singer/accordionist Steve Riley. “Apparently Robert had Warren Storm’s “Prisoner’s Song” 45 as a kid in England. When he showed up at the studio, we were all in there messing around with the tunes we were going to record and he walked in and it was almost instantly like he was an additional member of the band. There’s a very cool, calming, yet very much in control demeanor about him—it was like hanging out with a very hip uncle, and he sang his ass off. We’ve stayed in touch and met up a few times since, and he’s always said we’d do something together again. Well, here it is! It should make for some good fun and mischief—musically and otherwise.”
Plant isn’t the only rock star who’s jumped onstage with them: Elvis Costello’s been up there too, and the LBOG’s Plays Fats album, which repeats the Plant tracks, also includes Lucinda Williams and Ani DiFranco. “Hey man, Steve got Wayne Toups onstage with us, and he’s way bigger back at home than Costello,” Adcock points out. Adds Riley, “C.C. has always been the catalyst, as far as attracting the rock stars that have sat in with us. I’m not sure how we pull it off, but it always works out brilliantly and leads to other interesting projects for this band. Band O’ Gold can cover a lot of musical ground, but we always give it that swamp pop-jukebox spin. I love the multi-generational aspect of the band and what all we represent. We’re like a south Louisiana Buena Vista Social Club.”
Longtime fans will note some recent changes in the group, as Warren Storm gave notice earlier this year. But they’ve still got first-generation swamp-pop legends in the lineup, as Tommy McLain and Lil’ Buck Sinegal are joining them more regularly. And Storm’s been replaced on drums by the great Excello studio man Jockey Etienne, who played on Storm’s first records in the ’50s. “Ol’ Warren has it in his head that he can only play in one band these days, so he’s back to just doing his casino lounge circuit thing around Lafayette,” says Adcock. “All the cats in LBOG, and our fans around the world and people who know and care, think it’s a terrible shame.” Adds Riley, “The way it all went down with Warren has been a serious drag but Jockey is fantastic in his own way and brings a more spatial, swampier sound to the band—or at least makes us play more that way.”
With the band now into its second decade, its original mission—to pull vintage swamp pop back into the spotlight—is at least partly accomplished.
“Those records connected a lot of dots for me and fueled my tastes,” says Adcock. “So when I got started making records, I wanted to fly the flag, like Steve was doing with his accordion for Cajun music. Then when he and I joined forces and went around and got all of our superheroes from around here, and started introducing some new originals to the mix– it became an even bigger and deeper thing. We go out traveling and playing and find that there’s pockets of folks, young & old, all over the place, who still really know and love that music. So it all comes around. And the real shit stays cool and current.”
“Cajun and zydeco have long been the best known musical exports from our part of the state, but swamp pop seems to be having its day—just like it originally did back in the ’50s and ’60s when it busted out and ruled the airways,” says Riley. “It sounds too damn good not to get noticed.”