Wolf's Annual Mardi Gras Ball is focused on funky old music from New Orleans. We focus on the rhythm and blues music which burst onto the scene in the late 40's and 50's, and reached its zenith by the early 60's.
By the start of the 1950's, there was an explosion of small regional recordings from all over America. Musicians straight out the juke joints, dance halls, or churches, seemingly not at all self-conscious about their particular individual or regional styles, marched into small recording studios to set their music down in wax. This was the original era of underground pop music. It is a veritable gold mine for music fans.
The music to come out of New Orleans was one of the more distinctive and successful of those regional scenes. A collection of pioneers (including Ray Charles, who honed his early work in New Orleans), began to blend the new Rhythm and Blues music with the Caribbean-styled dance music already native to the city. The result is an amazing collection of songs, ranging from Professor Longhair's piano boogies to Lee Dorsey's smooth funk-soul in the 60's.
At its core it's often irreverent music—copping an attitude easily compared to, say, garage rock; as much as Sam Cooke's soul (who also honed his early skills in the city). More often than not New Orleans R&B of that era is way more ragged ("country") than the black music from other parts of the country, and is often bursting with dark double-entendre and otherwise quirky, (ok, sometimes downright bizarre), lyrics.
Most musicians are aware of this stuff (and many fans are as well) but other folks generally don't know about it, or tend to confuse New Orleans rhythm & blues music with Cajun or zydeco music—both of which have very different grooves and use the accordion as the main instrument. In my experience most music fans outside of Louisiana are not familiar with Professor Longhair, Ernie K-Doe, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, et al., never mind the more obscure acts like the early Hawks, Pelicans, Sugarboy Crawford, the Party Boys, and so on.
So it's our great privilege for two decades running—as serious fans of this music—to try to bring a pretty damned good version of NOLA R. & B. to the Boston rock scene, and to introduce this irreverent, wonderful music to new audiences.
(Photo: Jim Curran)