Diary of a Mod Man
DJ Matty discusses his favorite Louisiana music
By day, Matt Uhlman creates dramatic replicas of flaming swords and bloody severed heads as prop master for the New Orleans Opera—one of, if not the oldest opera in the U.S. By night, when not playing guitar with his garage punk band the Royal Pendletons, Matty can be found in any number of bars making people dance to selections from his vast record collection. He co-hosts both the Alligator Chomp! Chomp!, which specializes in Louisiana music, and the Mod Dance Party, an evening of ’60s worship that this week celebrates 10 years of hot and sweaty all-nighters.
As an ode to the Gulf Coast on the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we asked Matty to share some of his favorite Luzianna-born tracks. Behold the jackpot of musical excellence below.
New Orleans Soul
1) "Tipitina" • Professor Longhair • Tipitina: The Complete 1949-1957 New Orleans Recordings (Important Artists)
"How cool is Professor Longhair? Cooler than you and I can ever be in 100 lifetimes. What a song! From the rolling mambo-rhumba piano intro that sounds like it’s in two different time signatures at once—kinda like the piano itself might be drunk—to the crazy (perhaps Creole) lyrics, this song pretty much sums up New Orleans."
2) "Reconsider Me" • Johnny Adams • Reconsider Me (Collectables)
"I used to go see Johnny Adams every chance I could get over at the Rock 'N Bowl or wherever. Why? Because he was the most amazing singer I have ever seen. With all due respect to everyone else on this list, Johnny Adams—the ‘tan canary’—could sing rings around all of them, and they would admit it gladly. Always wearing a white suit and shades, Johnny was the coolest. I'm getting goose bumps just hearing this song. Listen to those high notes. It is soul-shattering."
3) "Here Come the Girls" • Ernie K-Doe • New Orleans Funk (Soul Jazz Records)
"What can you say about Ernie K-Doe, self proclaimed ‘emperor of the universe’? He was an extreme character, but one that was 100 percent dedicated to keeping the traditions of New Orleans alive. I used to take visiting guests to Ernie's Mother-in-Law Lounge and Ernie would put on a show, even if there were only four of us. He would put on a show as if it were a stadium of thousands. The man was golden.”
4) "Rockin' Pneumonia and Boogie Woogie Flu" • Huey Piano Smith & The Clowns • High Blood Pressure (Aim Records)
“An amazing, hard-hitting yet loose-as-can-be sound that just makes you want to get up and dance. Rock and roll with the emphasis on the ‘roll’ part.”
5) "Sea Cruise" • Frankie Ford • "Sea Cruise" (Ace Records)
"Backed by Huey Piano Smith & The Clowns, this is another example of the rollicking fun sound of Huey's band. This was recorded live in probably one take at the legendary Cosimo Matassa's recording studio, where virtually all the greatest New Orleans sounds were recorded."
6) "Who Shot the Lala" • Oliver Morgan • "Who Shot the Lala" (GNP Crescendo)
"What a great, loose, devil-may-care sound—just sounds like it was recorded live at a party somewhere in a shotgun house down in the Ninth Ward? Amazing."
7) "Breakaway" • Irma Thomas • Soul Queen of New Orleans (Mardi Gras Records)
"Yow! And double yow!"
8) "Down Home Girl" • Alvin Robinson • "Down Home Girl" (Red Bird)
"Wow. I dare you not to dance to this one. Double dare.”
9) "Mathilda" • Cookie and the Cupcakes • Legends of the Swamp Pop Era: Cookie and the Cupcakes (Jin Records)
"Swamp pop was, and still is, New Orleans-style rock and roll reinterpreted by the bands from the bayous and small towns of the Cajun country. This type of music is still very much alive, and there are whole radio stations in Louisiana that play nothing but this! It mostly consists of ballads of heartbreak that sound like a cross between Fats Domino and Hank Williams. If ‘Mathilda’ comes on a jukebox in any small town in south Louisiana people will get up and dance. It's like some sort of unofficial anthem. Another favorite of mine by Cookie is ‘Got You On My Mind.’ "
10) "Don't Start Crying Now" • Slim Harpo • "Don't Start Crying Now" (Excello Records)
“This is a funky Louisiana-style of blues, and Slim Harpo is my favorite of this style. His sound influenced The Rolling Stones, The Pretty Things and many other English bands. Oh, and Creedence Clearwater Revival, of course. And it doesn't get any funkier than Slim's ‘Ti-Ni-Nee-Ni-Nu.’ "
Rock and Roll
11) "Lights Out" • Jerry Byrne • "Lights Out" (Specialty)
"There were some great white rock and roll bands in the ’50s and ’60s. This is total mayhem by wild man Jerry Byrne and his running partner, cousin Mac Rebennack."
12) "Morgus the Magnificent" • Morgus & The Three Ghouls • Mos' Scocious: The Dr. John Anthology (Rhino Records)
"A solid rocker and ode the New Orleans late-night horror host Morgus, a mad scientist whose lab was in the French Quarter. Blistering guitar solo by Mac Rebennack (later known as Dr. John).”
13) "Pass The Hatchet" • Roger & The Gypsies • "Pass The Hatchet" (Seven B)
"A great slice of New Orleans groove produced by Eddie Bo, who also provided the vocals. It might surprise some that Roger & The Gypsies was a white garage band fronted by guitarist Earl Stanley—they were also known as Earl Stanley and the Stereos. The ‘hatchet’ theme kind of lends a Mardi Gras feeling."
Punk and New Wave
14) "Almost Ready" • The Normals • "Almost Ready" (Lectric Eye)
“New Orleans actually had a very active punk and new wave scene in the '80s and late '70s. This is one of my favorite punks songs ever from New Orleans' biggest punk band, released in 1978.”
15) "You" • The Cold • Three Chord City (Top Pop Records)
“This is great, bouncy, surfy power pop from New Orleans' No. 1 new wave band (Ellen's brother Vance Degeneres was in this band).”
16) “Bounce Baby Bounce" • Everlasting Hit Man • “Bounce Baby Bounce” (Mr. Tee Records)
“When I think of bounce I think of this song. All of the names he says you should bounce for are projects—St. Thomas, St. Bernard, Desire, Florida, Magnolia, Calliope, etc. Bounce was born, for the most part, in the hallways of the massive, densely populated uptown projects of the Third Ward. None of these projects exist anymore. They were all shut down after Katrina and torn down a couple of years ago. Also, note the reference to second line parades.
“I don't DJ bounce but I love a lot of it, and have since it first appeared in the early ’90s. The lyrics are about eating chicken from Popeyes, drinking Pepsi, going to second line parades and various, less savory aspects of street life, interspersed with endless lists of projects, wards, streets and ’hoods of the greater New Orleans area. The songs command the girls in audience to do certain dance moves such as ‘walk it like a dog’ and ‘shake that thing like a salt shaker.’ This is all delivered over the mind-numbingly repetitive ‘triggerman’ beat (all of the hundreds of bounce songs sampled the same beat), and accented by video game noises and samples from the soundtrack to John Carpenter's film Halloween. It was funny, very un-PC and very street level. A song would come out, and the next week another song would come out to ‘answer’ or even make fun of the the hit from the week before. A lot of it was cassette-only. It all sounded very cheaply produced and several years out of date with what was going on in hip-hop at the time. I loved it. To us it was like the ‘Louie Louie’ or ‘Wild Thing’ of rap: simple, crude and effective. Serious fans of hip-hop absolutely hated it, and the WWOZ / OffBeat / Jazz Fest crowd totally despised it (if they even knew it existed at all?), which was a shame because it was New Orleans to the bone. All of the bounce rappers had uncles and cousins that were in brass bands or were Mardi Gras Indians. Bounce rap is having a resurgence with ‘sissy bounce,’ a gay/transsexual bounce (Katy Red, Big Freedia, etc.). They were on cover of the New York Times magazine this month.”