“You have to want more for the other person than you want for yourself,” says Barbara Menendez. The former member of local ’80s band the Cold pours me a cup of coffee in her kitchen around the corner from the Prytania Theater. She doesn’t ask if I take cream or sugar, only “How much do you want?” It is obvious from her and husband Ray Ganucheau’s smiles that coffee is one of the things that have kept them going and together all these years. “Sitting down and just talking is so important,” she says. “I’ve been a hands-on mommy for going on 28 years. The music career always came second to me; I wasn’t going to let somebody else raise my kids. At this point, I’m having so much fun starting again with my new band, the Help. But I’m my husband’s biggest fan. I want to wear Ray Ganucheau t-shirts.”
When shooting these portraits, I was looking and listening for signs of connection. In some, it was in their eyes, like with Spooky and D.C. Harbold. In others, it was in the stories they told. Jimbo Walsh, for instance, recounts the story of how he and his wife, Janna Saslaw, went on a road trip up to New York through Arkansas once and realized that it actually does matter whether spouses share the same last name—something that isn’t all that common among musicians who establish professional names before meeting their significant others: “We were driving a beat-up old station wagon and it was loaded with musical instruments. Janna was driving and she passes a state trooper in Arkansas. You don’t pass a state trooper. So he pulled us over and they separated us and questioned us, didn’t believe we were married. Not until they asked, ‘When’s your anniversary?’ and I said, ‘That’s just not fair. Married man to another?’ Then they believed us.”
Across town, in the Bywater, music promoter Lefty Parker shares a shotgun house with his wife Alison Fensterstock, music critic at The Times-Picayune. They got married in 2009, and it changed both of their careers. “She doesn’t get to write as much about me now that we’re married. Sometimes I’m actually doing interesting things, but she can’t write about it,” he says. “At least not without full disclosure.”
Ulrike Masakowski: Pianist, music book writer.
Steve Masakowski: Guitarist, music professor. Performs with Nova Nola and Astral Project.
Anniversary: 1981. Do not remember the date.
"Whatever I cook, he puts ketchup on it. I think it's the mellowing agent of ketchup. I mean, who else is married this long?!"
Sophie Lee: Singer and co-owner of Three Muses on Frenchmen Street. Performs with her own band.
John Rodli: Guitarist. Performs with New Orleans Cottonmouth Kings, Palmetto Bug Stompers, Hot Club of New Orleans, King James and the Special Men. Eleanora Moon, 3. Una Mae, 1. Anniversary: Together since Jazz Fest 2002.
Dr. James “Jimbo” Walsh: Bassist, guitarist, keyboardist, arranger. Performs with the Naked Orchestra, the Other Planets, Davis, Washboard Rodeo, New Orleans New Music Ensemble.
Dr. Janna Saslaw: Singer, flautist, music professor. Performs with the Naked Orchestra, Bubble Bath, New Orleans New Music Ensemble.
Anniversary: June 16, 1984. Together since 1979.
“We performed as a duo for the first time recently. For a funeral.”
James Westfall: Vibraphonist, keytarist, pianist. Performs with Nova Nola, Bionica, the Wee Trio.
Kathleen Gorman Westfall: Opera singer, voice teacher. Teaches and performs at University of Southern Mississippi.
Anniversary: June 27, 2009. Together since 2002.
“We have one chair. Would you like to sit?”
Alison Fensterstock: Music writer and promoter.
Lefty Parker: DJ, bassist, music producer and promoter.
Anniversary: April 29, 2009. Together since 2007.
"I just got the king cake baby for the first time ever. I moved here in '95, so that's 15 years, and it's not like I haven't eaten my share of king cake."
Connie Fitch: Singer and music minister at St. Raymond/St. Leo the Great.
Dwight Fitch: Singer, pianist, music minister at St. Raymond/St. Leo the Great and Xavier University.
Anniversary: June 5, 1971. Together since 1966.
"We met at our high school talent show. We've been married 40 years. We have five children and all of them are musical."
Jane Harvey Brown: Singer, voice teacher. Grand marshal for Storyville Stompers, performs with Jane Harvey Brown Traditional Jazz All-Stars, Sugarbear and the Jazzcats.
Kerry Brown: Drummer, pianist, festival producer. Has performed with David Allan Coe, Allman Brothers, Tuxedo Brass Band, Olympia Brass Band, Treme Brass Band, Storyville Stompers.
Anniversary: December 24, 1998.
"I wanted a voodoo wedding, because I've had the other kind, I've had the limousines. I decided voodoo so I don't have to marry again. You get a divorce, you wake up with snakes in your bed."
Angela O’Neill Harbold a.k.a. Reverend Spooky LeStrange: Burlesque dancer, vocalist, music director, oboist. Performs with Crescent City Cupcakes, Billion Dollar Baby Dolls, the Amazing Dr. Z, former member of Sophistikittens, etc.
David Cheney Harbold: Singer, guitarist, bassist, drummer. Performs with Clockwork Elvis, the Junior League, the Swaggers, Flatware, Doctor A’ Go-Go, Hairy Lamb, the Help, the Kitty Lynn Band, Andre Williams.
Anniversary: Halloween 2007, together since 2003.
“I came to her burlesque show at the invitation of another girl.”
Barbara Menendez: Singer, entertainer, keyboardist. Performs with the Help, former member of Babs Guitars and Drums, the Cold.
Ray Ganucheau: Guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, singer, songwriter. Performs solo and with Bande Le Rois. Has played with Continental Drifters, the subdudes, Tommy Malone and Susan Cowsill.
Anniversary: September 7, 1982. Together since 1980.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m right. I can just be nice.”