Wardell Quezergue, one of New Orleans’ great behind-the-scenes musicians passed away Monday, leaving behind a discography of playing, producing, and arranging credits whose size is only matched by a handful of others in the local R&B pantheon (Allen Toussaint, Dave Bartholomew, Senator Jones, etc.).
The mega hits he produced—”Mr. Big Stuff,” “Iko Iko,” “Big Chief,” “Groove Me”—have been mentioned everywhere, and would have been enough to cement his place in history on their own. Quezergue made records for almost 60 years though, and we wanted to give a deeper picture of the breadth of his work, both for local and international artists. To that end we put together a career-spanning retrospective playlist of Wardell Quezergue songs on streaming music service Spotify (and we made sure to include all the hits too).
The very-roughly-chronological playlist, clocking in at 110 tracks or 6 hours of music, starts with some of Quezergue’s earliest recordings, including his own Wardell & the Sultans group’s “I’m Broke,” released on Imperial Records in 1962. It goes through his work with a young Mac Rebennack, national singles for the Dixie Cups and Willie Tee, sides for Robert Parker on Quezergue’s own NOLA Records, and carnival classics “Big Chief”, “Trick Bag” and “It Ain’t My Fault”.
It then moves into Quezergue’s funkiest period of the late 1960s and early ’70s, with singers like Chuck Simmons, Denise Keeble, Tami Lynn, and his Malaco Studio hit-makers Jean Knight and King Floyd, as well as songs by his usual backing band during this period, The Barons.
In the mid-to-late ’70s he wrote horn arrangements for the Meters two biggest albums, Fiyo on the Bayou and Rejuvenation, and arranged for more Southern soul singers such as Jackie Moore, Ted Taylor, Dorothy Moore, and The Controllers.
The ’80s and ’90s saw Quezergue working with some of the biggest names in the business—The Neville Brothers, Robbie Robertson (of The Band), Dr. John, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, B.B. King, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, and his hometown friends Davell Crawford, the Wild Magnolias and Jon Cleary. His last work came in the middle of the last decade, with Dr. John, Bobby Charles, Marva Wright, and Luther Kent.
As big as this list is, it’s the only tip of the iceberg of Wardell Quezergue’s legacy. For more, check out the full albums the songs in the playlist are taken from. And of course, there’s lots more out there as well once you fall in love with the sound of his horn arrangements. Here are two more favorites that weren’t available on Spotify.