R&R Repast: WLAC & James Brown

Posted: May 19th, 2023 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Rock & Roll Rewind, Ruminations | 1 Comment »

This is a remembrance of my first college concert.

James Brown Revue.

Fall ’63. In Doremus Gymnasium at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.

For the full story we need to go back to where the story starts. The winter prior, my senior year in high school. When my pals and I discovered WLAC 1510 AM Nashville. (We were far from the only ones. Such as the Brothers Allman — Greg and Duane — have spoken of the station’s influence. So too, Robbie Robertson up north of the borderline.)

It is a 50,000 watt clear channel station, which means its signal carries long and far after dark. Which is when the station’s otherwise pro forma programming shifted into soul and blues. That which had not so many years prior been dubbed “race music.”

I fell in love, we fell in love, regaling each other in the mornings with tales of the evening before’s programming.

The DJ that we most loved was a fellow who on the air went as Big Hugh Baby. Hugh Jarrett had once been a member of the Jordanaires, backing Elvis often.

For us, he was the raucous guy whose patter was full of sexual double entendres, aimed it seemed directly at us and frat boys across the land. Though his primary sponsors were Royal Crown Pomade, baby chicks and Randy’s Record Shop in nearby Gallatin.

Guys would call in, advising Big Hugh on the air, they were in the midst of reverie, and needed some help. (As I did once during spring break in Florida.) Read the rest of this entry »

JazzFest ’23, Wknd 1: Friends, Fine Tuneage and a Turducken Po Boy

Posted: May 7th, 2023 | Filed under: Food, JazzFest, Music, New Orleans | 8 Comments »

So after entering on Day 2 of my 34th JazzFest, I was on my way to grab a Crawfish Strudel before heading to the Gentilly Stage.

Because nothing bellows, “Good Mornin’ JazzFest!” like a Frozen Latte and that unique Crescent City delight.

I got a text from an old JF pal Mitchell, whom the Film Babe and I met with his bride Suzette a dozen or so years ago as we were all on way the Day Before for some in store performances at Louisiana Music Factory. They’re yearly regulars now, this year herding a group of 13.

We’ve been able to hook up just about every year, to catch up, etc, etc. Many of his gang were where I was headed, so we hung for awhile during Johnny Sketch.

It was just one of the blessings of this year’s Fest, where sharing with friends enhances the experience,

Indulge me for a second while I explain why that’s important for me.

My first Fest was a half century ago. I’d been introduced by an old college chum Marc, and hung with him. For years I’d go down alone, come home and in a a display of ego-driven musical oneupsmanship would lord it over my friends. Like, “I’ve got this goin’ on, and you don’t.”

Then one year in the early 90s, I was sitting in a smaller tent, listening to a sublime solo set by Aaron Neville, distraught at myself because I Didn’t Have Anybody To Share The Moment With. Since then, on purpose, I’ve been able to share the experience with pals from home, pals I’ve made through the years from New Orleans and elsewhere. Read the rest of this entry »

My Favorite JazzFest Moment: Aaron Neville 1988

Posted: April 22nd, 2023 | Filed under: JazzFest, Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, next week I’ll be at my 34th.

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

I write about JazzFest. I talk about JazzFest. My walls are adorned with JazzFest posters and photos I took there decades ago with one of those cameras where you had to take the film to Walgreens to get developed.

JazzFest is the gravitational pull of my year, has been the epicenter of my musical fixation for decades.

Such has been my incessant preaching about it, more years than not I’ll get a call from someone going to their first who wants a primer on what to expect.

There are a couple of questions I get asked. On a yearly basis, who were my favorite acts?

My answer to that one follows a pattern. I’ll advise that I’m more interested in local New Orleans performers, Third World groups and acts I’ve never heard before than mainstream headliners such as 1/2 of The Who, whom I heard in ’70 when they were whole.

Which is to not disregard that this year, I’m looking forward to Tedeschi Trucks Band, my faves, as well as Robert Plant & Allison Krauss.

The other question, and my purpose here, what is my favorite JazzFest moment ever?

There have been so so many great ones.

Frankly, just walking in on the first morning each year is a thrill.

There’s the moment Richard Thompson defined it all from the Gentilly Stage while tuning his guitar between songs.

“Where else would you possibly want to be right now, except in New Orleans at JazzFest?

Where else indeed.

As for music. Professor Longhair at my first Fest. Mighty Chariots of Fire once in the Gospel Tent on an Easter Sunday, when it felt like we were levitating. Legendary Ernie K-Doe at a Dew Drop Inn Revisited night show. Allen Toussaint too many times to count.

Ali Farke Touré and Ry Cooder on the Congo Square stage. New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars about a decade ago at the Lagniappe Stage. Randy Newman singing “Louisiana 1927” when it was pouring, the raindrops as big as softballs.

Mahalathini & the Mahatolla Queens in ’90 when I danced so much, I sweated through all my clothes including socks and shoes. Topsy Chapman and Doreen Kechens and Tuba Skinny in the Economy Hall tent.

The Fats Domino/ Dave Bartholomew reunion.

But there is THE moment.

In 1988.

Not sure why I didn’t make it back down until ’81 after my first one in ’76. I do know why I didn’t make it back after that until ’88. I had to clean up my act, move on from some debilitating habits, and become secure with all that before returning.

When I made it back, I was a mad man for the music. Literally. I couldn’t get enough, charging from stage to stage trying to make up for lost time.

Oliver Morgan and Jesse Hill and Leo Nocentelli and the Hackberry Ramblers and Bobby Cure and Los Lobos and the Radiators and Little Feat restart (with Bonnie Raitt playing Lowell George slide parts) and Sugar Minott and Buckwheat Zydeco and Hank Ballard & the Midnighters and Salif Keita and Al Green and Henry Butler.

As they did for decades, the Neville Brothers closed Fest on the biggest stage. (Dr. John was at the other end of the track. Choices have to be made.)

Cyril, Charles, Art and Aaron were then at the top of their game. They were everything wonderful about New Orleans music and more.

Midway through the set, everybody left the stage except Art on piano and Aaron at the mic.

He sang “Arianne.” Honest, I just teared writing that sentence remembering the joy.

It was so beauteous and transcendent, The trills, swoops and swirls of his voice carrying me to a blissful space I’d never been.

Such that I had enough even though their set was far from over. For the first time in my life I was totally sated. At the end of the tune, I turned, walked to the car and awaited the others.

I vowed I’d never miss another JazzFest. But for ’91 when I was recovering from a car accident, I have not.

— c d kaplan

Rock & Roll Repast: Eric Burdon at Portland Neighborhood Fest

Posted: April 9th, 2023 | Filed under: Rock & Roll Rewind | 2 Comments »

I’m a lifelong rock & roller. I got stories. Lots of ‘em. Here’s another.

It was the fascination of the moment.

There on a lovely summer’s evening, in one of the town’s nether neighborhoods, at a street fair on a makeshift stage in the middle of the street in front of a few hundred locals was a legit rock & roll Hall of Famer.

It was too sweet.

As for the lore behind Eric Burdon’s appearance (with estimable Brian Auger on organ no less) in June 2000 on Northwestern Parkway during the Portland Neighborhood Festival, well, we’ll get to that in a moment.

There’s a reason it resonated so deeply here.

As an adult, I’ve always fantasized about hosting a big bash. Inviting all my friends from all walks of life going back to my childhood. Send out invites, advising it would be a dance party, but not revealing who would play.

I wanted it to be a gotcha. Taking in the gasps of the assembled when whoever walked on stage.

At different stages through the years, the daydreaming went to, oh, Springsteen, a doo wop spectacular, Fats Domino, Dion, others.

Came close once. When Joanie the Film Babe and I were going to marry in ’06, she bought in to the grandiose idea. We rented a big room. Started to plan the whole boffo wedding reception like no other. Read the rest of this entry »

“Succession” & “Ted Lasso”: Final Seasons Reviewed

Posted: April 7th, 2023 | Filed under: Film Reviews Podcast, TV | No Comments »

The other night, while breaking matzoh with some folks, we eventually got around to chatting about TV series we watch.

And telling each other about ones they had never heard of but “had to watch.”

No matter apparently to one of my pals that he and I have totally different tastes.

Soon enough the discussion got around to a a couple of national faves, both in their final season.


“Ted Lasso.”

What do I think of the last go round of the former on HBO and the latter on Apple TV+?

Listen below and find out.

Audio MP3

Rock & Roll Rewind: Elvis ’76

Posted: March 21st, 2023 | Filed under: Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

I’m a Rock & Roll lifer. I’ve got stories, lots of stories. Here’s one.

By the summer of ’76, it was long past due.

Seeing Elvis live in concert, that is.

The King of Rock & Roll had been through town any number of times, both early on and in the years after the Colonel realized he could pay off his gambling debts quicker pushing his money maker hither and yon on tour after tour. But I’d never gotten around to paying my respects.

I missed Elvis in ’56, when he played the Armory. At age 11, my allowance wouldn’t have covered admission. Besides, I was not going to get keys to the car. My folks bought me Elvis’s first RCA album as consolation.

One other Elvis moment from my youth. Happened the night in November ’56 he was on Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. I could hardly eat Sunday dinner from excitement. My dad checked if I’d done my arithmetic homework?

I lied.

When I couldn’t explain multiplication and division of fractions, I was banned to my room, forced to do all the problems in the chapter during EP’s first song on the show. I was released from purgatory for the rest of his performance that night.

One week in July ’76 I was all rocker all the time. Yes, even more so than usual. Read the rest of this entry »

History of World Part II

Posted: March 19th, 2023 | Filed under: Film Reviews Podcast, TV | No Comments »

For some of us, Mel Brooks has been a national treasure.

(I actually had a conversation the other day with a friend, who has never found Brooks especially funny. Go figure. Well, to each his/her own, I suppose.)

Frankly, he should be heralded if only for the fact he stole Anne Bancroft’s heart at first blush. Mrs. Robinson. You go, dude.

Anyway, even though he’s 95, the fellow who got his start as a writer on the iconic Show of Shows from the early days of black & white TV in the 50s is back.

There’s an 8 part Hulu series, a sequel to an earlier Brooks work. It is “History of the World Part II.”

Here Brooks has help from 15 or so other writers with the sketch comedy.

Does it work?

Ah, for that, listen to my podcast below:

Audio MP3

“Tár” & “Mrs Harris Goes to Paris”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: March 10th, 2023 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

On consecutive nights I viewed these two completely different movies.

Both worth considering if you haven’t seen them already.

“Tár” features award-nominated Cate Blanchett as the very intense conductor of the Berlin Symphony.

Over two and a half hours we get to watch her fall apart from her own flaws.

“Mrs Harris Goes to Paris” stars Lesley Manville in 50s Britain. She’s an eminently decent cleaning lady who dreams of heading to the fashion capitol of the world and purchasing a Dior gown.

The latter was for obvious reasons an easier and more enjoyable watch.

Though Blanchett who is always on her game is captivating, if her character is not very likeable.

For more, listen to my podcast below:

Audio MP3

Rock & Roll Rewind: My Man Otis

Posted: March 8th, 2023 | Filed under: Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

I’m a a Rock & Roll lifer. I got stories, lots of stories. Here’s one.

This is a fully corrected — hopefully — and somewhat expanded version of this recent remembrance.

Oft asked. Never answered.

Best concert I’ve ever been to?

Not going there.

That’s some dangerous quicksand masking a rabbit hole too long, deep and winding.

My favorite?

Too many. It would be easier to name the handful when I didn’t find something to enjoy.

Ah, but most memorable?

Easy Peasy. Read the rest of this entry »

Stones, Springsteen, Dylan: 1st Time Through Town

Posted: February 27th, 2023 | Filed under: Rock & Roll Rewind | 1 Comment »

I’m a rock & roll lifer. I got some stories, lots of stories. Here are some.

Rolling Stones.

Bruce Springsteen.

Bob Dylan.

Rock icons, they.

One of the blessings for Derbytown rock & rollers through the decades has been several appearances by big name acts. Including these Hall of Famers.

Their first times through town are “legendary” in one way or another. Especially when one is playing rock & roll smackdown, and can say “I was at that show.”

Which your inveterate historian cannot invoke of the Stones initial visit through town.

November 14, 1964. Memorial Auditorium.

I was away at college. Besides, we didn’t quite know at that early stage they’d become as many believe, “the best rock & roll band in the world.”

My pal, long time Elvis documentarian Alanna Nash was in the house. Read the rest of this entry »

“Hello Tomorrow”: Review Podcast

Posted: February 24th, 2023 | Filed under: Film Reviews Podcast, TV | No Comments »

How odd is this new Apple TV+ series featuring Billy Crudup?


Such that I spent a bit more time explaining or trying to explain it in the podcast below.

Crudup leads a band of traveling salespeople town to town in a marvelous to look at retro futuristic 50s.

What are they selling?

Places to purchase to live on the  . . . moon.

Not a bad premise, but . . .

. . . after watching the first four episodes, I’m not sure what the point here really is.

It’s incredible to look at, worth a peek just for that.

As for the rest, uh, listen up.

Audio MP3

“Take Me To The River: New Orleans”: Review

Posted: February 12th, 2023 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Knowing my affection for the Crescent City, and its music, as you regular readers do, you’re thinking for sure that I am obsessively inclined to love any documentary which examines New Orleans music.

Truth: Yes.

Truth: There are several however that have left me cold.

Including the recent on about JazzFest. I mean, too much Pit Bull, for heaven’s sake.

But this one, this one, “Take Me to the River: New Orleans,” is a keeper.

Top shelf.

Well conceived.

Well executed.

One of the better docs about the musical creative process I’ve seen.

Now available to be streamed at Amazon Prime and Apple TV.

I explain in detail why in the podcast review below.

Audio MP3

— c d kaplan