This is a post from Last December, and NOMRF Founder Jeff Beninato's Santa Looks for Louie illustration is from last year, too. The saddest part of the post is that Freddie "Shep" Sheppard never did make it home from Phoenix. He died not long after the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund benefit.
It's strange to revisit a post from last year. Since then, more Road Home Grants have gone out, but not enough. More tourists are back, but not enough. More assistance is available to musicians, but not enough. Our grass roots Foundation is doing what it can thanks to music lovers who still care enough to donate.
Thank you for that.
A NEW SUIT
(Reprinted From December, 2006)
Last night a New Orleans musician friend got so disgusted after a disappointing gig he threw his suit in the garbage. We can't disclose his name, or at future shows fans would be wondering if he's wearing the garbage suit.
His wife fished it out before any real damage was done, but it's an example of the lids about to blow for many musicians struggling to get by during the holidays.
Promises dangle but are not fulfilled. Most international news agencies have closed their local bureaus. The Road Home Program has now distributed a whopping 65 grants out of 88,000 applicants. Many national assistance groups have moved away from giving grants and have moved on to raising awareness.
You can't eat awareness.
Some gigs are sparsely attended as 60 percent of evacuees (depending on which survey you give credence to) are still not back and a third of the returnees are considering moving away. It's almost as if the (_________) is trying to (__________) the city -- insert theory of choice because there are too many to sort through and most of them are probably true.
Not exactly a party atmosphere if you go by the numbers, but the party is still lurking in New Orleans. We just got to town and in late December friends are already talking about Mardi Gras costumes, concerts, and carnival cd releases.
The musicians who have made it home are trying to hang in there until the world's biggest free party comes back to town. And their out-of-town brethren write us about wanting to come back home if rents start to drop.
A.J. Piron's was one of the many jazz greats who made his way from New Orleans to the north in the 1920s. When his band members got tired of the cold and the changes in lifestyle, they voted on whether to go back home.
Piron lost the vote and his band left Harlem in the heyday of jazz. New Orleans music has that kind of pull. And it hasn't thrown away its gig suit just yet.
To help keep the music rolling tonight in Boulder, his friends are hosting a NOmrf benefit for Freddie "Shep "Sheppard" of recent Studio 60 fame. Shep started playing music while still a junior high student in the late 1950s.
He bought his first saxophone coin by coin, with his mother who then worked as a maid, chipping in a dollar for every quarter he earned. The result was a $200 horn from Werlein's Music Store on Canal Street. "It was old and raggedy," he says, "but I didn't know it. It looked so good to me." Shep now lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
Since the year is winding down, we would like to pay tribute to legends we have lost recently including Timothea Beckerman who I wish I had met sooner, Warren Bell, Sr., Charlie Brent, Marshall Seahorn and Mike Frey, Jr. - the 28 year old bass player killed in the French Quarter on the way home from a gig.
All are gone too soon.