Willie Norman “Bill” Sinegal passed away on April 14, 2014 in New Orleans. A retired veteran, Sinegal was born on May 13, 1928 and grew up in Uptown before moving to Gentilly.
Music fans will recognize Bill Sinegal, a bass player, as the leader of the band the Skyliners, who recorded the Mardi Gras standard “Second Line Parts I and II,” released on the White Cliffs record label in New Orleans in 1964.
In a 2001 interview, Sinegal recalled recording at Cosimo Matassa’s studio: “We did 13 sessions, and they made money, so we had time in between, so I said, ‘Let’s do our B-flat blues,’ because I wasn’t calling it ‘Second Line.’ It’s in the key of B-flat. Cos [Matassa] said, ‘Bill, can I record it?’ I said, ‘Sure, go ahead and record it.’ So he recorded it, and six months later, he called. ‘Bill, come down here to the studio, in a hurry. That thing you were playing around with, I think we can make a go of it.’ I went down and did about five versions of it, fast and slow and we put something in, put something out. Cos said, ‘What do you think about this one?’ after he had mixed it down, some of the things I was doing. I said, ‘Alright, but it’s a little slow.’ He said, ‘I like it.’ I said, ‘OK, put it out.’ That’s the end of it. No paperwork. No nothing. You understand? Me and trumpeter Milton Batiste and James Rivers on sax and so on, so we just set a riff. We’d play that, and everybody would get out there and shake the booty, you know.”
In an interview by Jeff Hannusch in 2000, Sinegal confirmed: “It was a song that bands did on gigs that got a good reaction. The introduction was the same one that Dave Bartholomew played on ‘Good Jax Boogie.’ But that riff came along way before Dave was born. Dave played it when he wanted the musicians to get back on the bandstand after a break. The rhythm came from a song called ‘Joe Avery’s Blues’ that used to be popular.”
Sinegal started out on tenor and C-melody saxophones. He then went to Grunewald School of Music, where he studied bass. He became well known in New Orleans for backing up everyone from Guitar Slim to Tommy Ridgely to Sugar Boy Crawford. Sinegal spent much of the ’60s on the road, working for Shaw Booking Agency in backing up national acts such as Curtis Mayfield and Dee Clark. By the end of the ’60s, Sinegal got off the road and concentrated on taking pictures. At his suggestion, Senator Jones recorded “Second Line” with the band Stop Inc. that became the hit that is played ad infinitum each Mardi Gras.
Sinegal is survived by his wife and seven children. He was interred April 22 at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Gentilly.