Cosimo Matassa is a legend.
He’s one of the creators of the “New Orleans Sound,” and his engineering expertise was as influential as anyone, including the people who actually made the music—Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew, Little Richard, and so many others—in birthing New Orleans as the seminal R&B capital of the South.
Anyone who’s been involved in music in New Orleans in the last 60 or so years knows this. The fact that Cos is being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is long, long overdue.
I first met Cos almost 30 years ago. I was a young whippersnapper, eager to put the music and musicians of New Orleans more “on the map.” Cos was, of course, well-known to musicians and people in the biz. To me, not so much. I loved the music, wanted to apply my business acumen to promoting it, but didn’t know anything about how it was made. I was in a hurry to get people to recognize music as an economic force. Looking back from the perspective of ripe old age, I see that I didn’t have the proper respect for my elders—which isn’t all that unusual for younger people wanting to accomplish something. Young means you think you have all the answers.
My attitude was sort of… “Well, you did something 30 years ago, but what are you doing now?”
Bad attitude. Stupid, disrespectful woman!
But I learned.
After meeting and getting to know Cos, and getting my comeuppance from him a few times, I had to reform my smart-aleck attitude to put him on the pedestal he deserves. The man deserves massive respect for what he’s contributed to the music world.
Cos was the very first recipient of our Best of The Beat Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Music Business. Who else could we give that award to?
He and I became pretty good friends over the years; he’s told me so many stories about how he made music. How he basically didn’t know what he was doing, learned on the job, and managed through sheer talent to make some of the greatest music this city has ever produced. He’s definitely an idea guy, and always willing to take a chance on something new. Way back when we first became friends, before the compact disc became the primary means of recording and selling music (so you know how long ago that was!), Cos wanted to open a compact disc manufacturing facility in New Orleans. He looked for a spot to put the plant, that would have also had a recording studio attached.
He wanted to create a gourmet grocery store and deli downtown on a piece of property behind Canal Place; had the plans worked up, and was ready to go.
His plans and ideas were fabulous. He had the energy to get his ideas off the ground too, but never had the money to take his grand ideas to the next level. And they were great ideas—anyone hear of Rouses on Baronne Street? Probably just way ahead of his time.
And talk about a closet stand-up comic! Cos knew and could tell more jokes than anyone I have ever met. They were either crazy corny (ba-dum-dum) or dirty as hell. I miss his sense of humor…
Cos has been in failing health for some time now. The last time I saw him was about a year ago at the Rock Hall when Dave Bartholomew was honored. I am thrilled to know that he’s being honored while he’s still alive and that he can be applauded nationally. If anyone deserves it, he does. Cos, I love and respect what you’ve done for New Orleans music, and will always hold you in the highest regard. I will forever be a member of the “Krewe of Cos.”