On a nondescript evening in 1974, a few New Orleans musicians gathered at the WTTW studio in Chicago to film the season finale of Soundstage, a new live concert television series that aired on PBS.
Yet these were no ordinary New Orleans musicians. Rather, they were some of the finest players and songwriters this town has ever produced. Dr. John, Professor Longhair, The Meters and Earl King—all of them pioneers in their own right.
The night’s grand finale, an all hands on deck rendition of “Big Chief,” has been a minor hit on the interwebs for some time. It’s a fantastic number, to be sure, but the hourlong episode is worth viewing in its entirety.
Billed as “New Orleans Swamp,” the program finds Fess and King backed by The Meters, who also get in a couple tunes of their own. Dr. John emcees the whole thing, in full Nite Tripper regalia of course, before taking the stage with his own band. Despite being filmed in Chicago, the episode captures New Orleans’ funk and R&B heyday as well as anything you’ll find on YouTube.
It doesn’t get much better than this, folks.