We arrived in New Orleans on Tuesday, April 30th and were met at the airport by our friend and personal hotelier/chauffer Dr. Bob. We stopped at Robert's to pick up plenty beer and a few things we thought we'd need in the next few days then immediately made our way to John's, our favorite 9th ward asian grocery, for over-stuffed shrimp poboys. We then met with Tony Owens to layout a poster and finalize details for our Thursday evening show. We made the obligatory, and unsuccesful, phone call to our boss, Mr. Earl King, then ended our first day in New Orleans relaxing around the house (and Vaughn's and B.J.'s and...)
On Wednesday we attended the memorial second line from Ernie K-Doe's St. Louis cemetary #2 crypt to the Mother-In-Law Lounge where a commemorative plaque, honoring Mr. K-Doe and the lounge, was being unveiled. We returned to the Lesseps manse, once again tried unsuccesfully to hook-up with Mr. King, and took it easy in preparation for our two shows the next day.
On Thursday morning we again tried unsuccessfully to connect with Mr. King by phone. We still had his Jazz Fest parking and admission passes that he would need later that day if he was going to gain easy entrance to the fest. Robert tried to make things easy by dropping the credentials off at a friend's house we knew Earl would include in his entourage. The band members all arrived backstage and we began greeting the many Earl King fans who began stopping by: No, we hadn't seen him yet. No, we didn't have any extra back stage passes. No, we didn't know when he would get there but yes, we'll tell him you stopped... A few minutes before we were to begin setting up onstage Dr. Bob received a call on his cel phone letting us know Earl King would not make the gig. We were told Earl was in need of medical attention and that an ambulance had been called. I quickly let the stage manager, the head of festival productions and representatives of WWOZ- the radio station that had contracted with us to pay to broadcast the show live- that Earl would be a no show. 'OZ chose not to broadcast us without Earl but everybody else told us to get on out, play our show and wished us well.
the band was very concerned about the state of Earl's health the show
had to go on. We had a few charts that the band had planned to use
to open the show but we were quite unprepared to play the entire one
hour show by ourselves. We didn't wish to disappoint anybody about
whether Earl would make it to the show
so we announced frequently from the stage that Earl was not going
to make his scheduled performance but, strangely enough, very few
people left the tent. As we neared the end of the set I took a vote
from the audience on whether they would like to hear us play some
Earl King songs without Earl. The vote was nearly unanimous: "let
the good times roll!"
quickly turned John Lindberg loose on "Trick Bag" and followed
up with "I'll Take You Back Home (a song Earl has dropped from
his list but we've kept in ours) and "It All Went Down The Drain."
The crowd was with
us and I kept spitting out tunes, oblivious to my surroundings. As
we started our last song of the Fest I finally turned around and saw
that Dan was dangerously overheated. It might have been 90 outside
in the sun but inside the tent, without much air circulation, it was
probably well over 100 degrees, the air was stale
and not moving and it was very humid. Dan was as red as a man should
be from the waist up and we were just starting "The World Is
A Ghetto," a very physical song for him. Thankfully we finished
the set without killing Dan and when we ended the set we were rewarded
with a standing ovation.
I was surprised and gratified by the audience's response to our efforts and I know the band was pleased as well. We had kept, and entertained, a full house in the Blues Tent. As I wandered around the festival grounds in later days many very nice people approached me and praised our show. Positive remarks have continued to come in from unusual sources; last week Craig Kent, our friend/Tortilla Flats Jug band member/cab driver, picked up a fare and was conversing during the ride when he found out the fellow had been to Jazz Fest. Craig asked the usual questions concerning who he saw and liked and the man told him he had seen the Butanes and they put on his favorite performance of the fest! Craig replied he knew us well and of course the fare was impressed to have found the most intelligent and musically aware cabbie in all of Minneapolis. It is a small world!
Curt Obeda, June 2002
That was our last performance at Jazz Fest. Earl died April 17, 2003 and his funeral was held in between the two festival weekends. Most of NOLA' finest musicians were in attendance for the service and a large number of family, friends and tourists sent him on with a second line accompanying his horse drawn casket from City Hall, down Canal Street and ending in Armstrong Park.
It is the last time I was in New Orleans...
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