OffBeat Magazine is celebrating 30 years and reached that milestone with our November 2017 issue. To mark the anniversary, over the next 12 months OffBeat will re-publish excerpts from features and interviews from the past 30 years. In our fourth installment, from our May 2005 issue, John Swenson interviews guitarist and songwriter Leo Nocentelli of the Meters.
“I was like the top guy in the city. I was in demand. I was doing a lot of the early recordings with Allen Toussaint: ‘Get out of My Life Woman,’ ‘Working In the Coal Mine,’ ‘Mother-In-Law’. When I was writing that music back then I was just doing it because it was something I wanted to do. I fell in love with the idea of the Meters as a vehicle to exploit a lot of the songs I wrote. Many of them were written long before I played with the Meters. I wrote ‘Cissy Strut’ in my garage a year or two before I introduced it to the Meters. The reason I wrote it was that there was a song called ‘Hold It’ and every band opened up the set with it. It got redundant to me, so I wanted to write something that had the same kind of feel but was something different. I introduced it to them when the band was working at the Ivanhoe. I said check this out and we started playing ‘Cissy Strut’ and we started using it to open up our sets. We started playing the Ivanhoe when desegregation first entered on the scene, especially on Bourbon Street. There were only a few black bands down there back then so the Meters really stood out.”
“Even though desegregation was just taking hold back then, we’d find ourselves playing and looking out the window and Bourbon Street is packed with people who don’t want to come into the club, and most of the people were black. Even with desegregation, they still didn’t feel cool about coming into the club. So there was a sea of people on the corner of Toulouse and Bourbon, a whole group of black people supporting the Meters because they knew we were black. They wanted to show their support but they were scared to even come into the club.”