When the Saints Go Marchin' Out

From The Economist
June 28th

As gigs have become more frequent, musicians have begun trickling back, but many still have mailing addresses elsewhere; the clubs have been rebuilt, but their houses remain ruined. The Soul Rebels Brass Band, a younger ensemble that incorporates funk, R&B and hip-hop into the Dixieland tradition, is now based in Houston. Only two of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band's eight members have returned to the Gentilly neighbourhood, where most of the band lived before the hurricane.

And two years after the hurricane, donor fatigue is setting in. The New Orleans Musicians' Relief Fund (NOMRF), another organisation that helps displaced musicians, is preparing to release an album for the two-year “anti-versary” in August. The album will be called “Redefine 8/29”, referring to the day New Orleans was evacuated. Jeff Beninato, the musician who founded NOMRF, says that the title could not refer directly to the hurricane. “If they hear Katrina, they'll think, ‘I don't want to hear that; that's old news.’”

But spare a thought for that most iconic of New Orleans institutions, the funeral with music. A brass band playing sombre dirges leads the mourners and the body tearfully through the streets, from church to cemetery. The body goes into the ground, and the tone changes: the music becomes upbeat, and the mourners turn to revellers, celebrating the life of the departed. Neither Dixieland nor New Orleans is yet a corpse, of course, but nowhere else is quite as adept at wringing joy from tragedy.


Where You At Mule?

New Orleans’ own Al “Carnival Time” Johnson’s birthday is today, as well as World Refugee Day, and Al has achieved the ultimate musical coup - his song title in his name. New Orleans has its own set of anthems, with “Carnival Time“ as the pinnacle. Al is now an evacuee, (refugee if we take the word at its most literal meaning), among thousands labeled Katricians by Houston’s mayor. As nicknames go, that one is lousy. New Orleans is a town of quality nicknames. Griper, Barbecue Dave, Afro, and Rev. Goat.

Rev. Goat’s name stands for Go On And Try, and he once nicknamed me Foxy Lady. It involved a stalled car, a white shirt and some ass walking by in a thunderstorm yelling, “Hey, Foxy Lady!” Thankfully it never caught on, although he kept it up for 10 years. Goatey is now displaced at Kinky Friedman’s ranch in Austin after staying at Levon Helm’s place in Woodstock. A man of many talents, he just finished writing the mystery novel, “Shallow Graves.”

In 1992, Goat ran for President with the slogan “Vote Goat – We Want Our Money Back.” Joe Walsh was his running mate, and 100,000 citizens did vote Goat. His post-hurricane description of the levee failure, quoted by Dr. John, was “New Orleans didn’t die a natural death, she was murdered.”

Dr. John’s MySpace site says, "I am heartbroken over all of the displaced people from the hurricanes and the NEW ORLEANS disaster. If you wanna help send assistance to the New Orleans Musicians Clinic, New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund, or the Voice of the Wetlands."

The Nite Tripper’s continued dedication to New Orleans is a wonder. His blog also includes a link to “Where You At Mule,” which I will go out on a limb and describe as the most unique New Orleans music video of all time. Everything about it makes me homesick, especially that hat.

“Where You At Mule”’s answering refrain is: “I tell you I’m coming home.” It’s something hundreds of thousands of us would love to say before long. So buy a New Orleans evacuee a beverage today – it’s our holiday.


NOMRF Kicks Off Its Summer of Love Campaign

Our New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund is kicking off its Summer of Love Campaign. All summer long, bands are invited to pass the bucket, contribute a buck a ticket, whatever they can spare for displaced New Orleans musicians.

Forty years after the original Summer of Love, NOMRF.org's pledge drive is helping displaced New Orleans musicians around the country.

The top band supporting New Orleans Musicians will have a song added to the NOMRF Download Project, and will be invited to our Anti-Versary commemoration in New Orleans on 8/29. The NOMRF Download Project, almost ready for release, includes "How's Your House" by Ian Hunter ("All The Young Dudes"), and other amazing tunes.

NOMRF operates with no rental overhead, and keeps expenses to a bare minimum to stretch each donor's dollar. We've helped hundreds of displaced New Orleans musicians with cost of living grants since the levees broke with the 501c3 charity founded by and for displaced musicians.

Some recipients use their grants to get home, purchase instruments or replace recording equipment - others use the funds to survive wherever they are now. The New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund has been supported by Amos Lee, Wilco, the dB's (founder Jeff Beninato's former band), Dr. John, Jesus H. Christ and the 4 Hornsment of the Apocolypse, REM and many other New Orleans music lovers.

NOMRF benefits continue to come from locales including Helsinki, DC, L.A., NYC, Chicago, Baltimore and London. That's how the Fund continues to help hundreds of New Orleans musicians rebuild their lives.

So show New Orleans the love! Details on the NOMRF Summer of Love Campaign are available at nomrf.org, myspace.com/nomrf, neworleansmusiciansrelief.blogspot.com or by writing jeff@nomrf.org.

Time to Face the Music - Evacuee Scanning Headlines

Reprinted from: the Huffington Post

Today's mainstream headlines are either feast or famine for evacuees. When they are bad, they are very, very bad, but when they are good, they help keep us above the bubble.

The Golden Beignet Of the Day goes to USA Today. One story was on the federal judge who told FEMA to stop trying to take evacuees' money back until the agency can clearly tell people why. FEMA is looking to recoup $485 million. I know people who got these letters. It's one more ingredient in the recipe for a nervous breakdown -- at best.

The other USA Today headline was on the fact that the National Guard is running low on local equipment and probably won't be able to help with hurricanes to the degree it did in 2005.

A third story, posted on NOLA.com, is the failing weather satellite. It means more evacuations with less certainty -- 110 degrees and 12 hours to drive 50 miles with a car full of pets and family photos, if any survived. I would like this story to bring the billionaires who fund weather satellites forward. We need a James Bond-type weather obsessed genius, but in a good way. Dr. Yes.

Fourth, and this headline is a heartbreaker for evacuees whipping out the paper in the coffeeshops of their new towns, "Katrina Evacuee from New Orleans Accused of Child Abuse." Between that and the 10 percent who practiced poor trailer maintenance, how demonized do we as a subgroup need to be by the wires?

Our New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund has received hundreds of applications from around the country, and it's sad to think that each of them is subjected to the increased climate of blaming the victim.

I wonder how residents of tornado alley would feel about "Woman Who Was Once in a Huge Tornado Accused of Something Horrible (AP) A woman, who moved away from an area which has been hit by huge tornadoes, was accused of horrible actions." As a whole, it feels like 8/29 evacuees are starting to be seen less as victims of a catastrophic levee failure and more as Katrina tax dollar talking points. The sad fact is that the Road Home Program has imploded. Thanks for sending down your money. We didn't get it.

The final headline, in Medical News Today, was that catastrophic events can affect the quality of a person's sleep. So watch for my local paper's headline, "Katrina Evacuee from New Orleans Still Having Trouble Sleeping."

In the event of a slow news day.


A Modern Stone Age Family

A few months ago while my dad was still able to leave his nursing home, the family spent an afternoon in our apartment. As Jeff and I were describing our last trip home to New Orleans, Dad spoke up.

"In the south, if you just pull over for gas and they always say, 'Aahm Gawnna Kiillll Yeeeew,' " And he made the most menacing scowl, I had ever seen. For a non-scowler, it was epic. As the the warnings got more dire, we were eventually all in tears.

More tea dad? "Aahm Gawnna Kiillll Yeeeew." My gentle dad was sharing this final cautionary tale against stopping for gas in the south. There is nothing funny about the possibility of getting popped at a gas station. And yes, crime is on the upswing. Everyone I know has been affected in some way. It was just the randomness and the enthusiasm of my dad's final advice.

He slipped away over Mother's Day weekend. This Father's Day I have his legacy of giving to remember him by. It helps inspire us to keep the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund rolling when it seem like no one cares anymore. Dad sometimes offered Thanksgiving Day dinner for anyone in our small town in the lobby of his Christian bookstore. Generally he fed little old ladies who were happy for a day to socialize. He traveled the world with mission work, every continent but Antarctica.

And at the end he fought an admirable battle against the ravages of Alzheimer's Disease. As a doctor, he could figure out all-purpose social phrases like, "How are things at the office?" no matter who he thought you were. Wherever he was, he would tell you his office was in the basement.

In the last year, Dad was finally wheeled in front of enough nursing home television sets to absorb pop culture and it offered him more conversational shortcuts. After a lifetime of reading the Bible, I found him with a People Magazine and he waved it at me angrily muttering, "Celebrity Cellulite!" Then he came across the ultimate conversational shortcut. "How's dinner Dad, do you like the chicken tonight?"

"Yabba Dabba Doo," he answered with a grin.

When the wonderful New Orleans trumpeter James Andrews second lined to dedicate his grandfather's belated gravestone, the band marched behind him playing for no apparent reason, "Flintstones, Meet the Flintstones," as they entered the cemetary. That's when I knew I would probably never see Dad again. We made it back to Illinois too late to visit with him one last time, but he gave me the gift of a lifetime learning from the finest person I have ever known.

So Happy Father's Day wherever you are, Dr. Ray. We were a modern stone age family.


New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund Suggests Direct Flight - Paris to New Orleans

We're thinking Paris Hilton needs to get to New Orleans when they spring her and start giving back.

Huffington Post LINK


NOMRF Adds A Latte Link and Thanks Little Steven

The New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund is adding a latte link - because this summer every dollar counts. So if you're wired enough already, skip today's latte or tea and contribute $5 to a New Orleans musician who needs help getting through a long, slow summer. With half the population still gone, gigs are hard to come by and the rebuilding funds are slow in coming.

NOMRF Latte Link.

Also, thanks to our friend Mike Mills of REM, check out this week's New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund link on Little Steven's Underground Garage.

Feel free to repost this - the $5's could add up to a lot of help for New Orleans muscians.


Why I Won't Be Invited to the State Farm Pool Party

Katrina Billboard Blasts Big Insurance in its Own Back Yard

The New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund, Inc., an independant grass roots nonprofit, has not taken donations from big insurance, big oil or big anything. Just amazing musicians and music lovers from around the world at NOMRF.org.


Remains of Barry Move Up the East Coast

It’s a displacement thing, that NOLA.com can still get a spit take out of me before I read the story. “Five teens killed” was today’s story, but it was a recap from last summer. And “Remains of Barry Moving Up East Coast” was not about Barry Cowsill, found last winter in the Mississippi.

We watched Entertainment Tonight’s child star coverage when Barry first went missing, and tried to identify whether he was the blurred image from the Convention Center while evacuated to a stranger’s home in Milwaukee. We would have followed the search on CNN but the stranger offering her home for a month didn’t have cable. It saved us from staying glued to cable news which probably didn’t cover the story any more than Entertainment Tonight.

Found four months after the storm, Barry was brought up the East Coast to his family home in Rhode Island for a memorial. Accompanying him from New Orleans was his sister Susan Cowsill, Barry’s equal in turning any stage into a living room and making you want to get as close to that voice as possible. She describes the strong wind that blew just as they were scattering his ashes, and Barry blew back in everyone’s face. If you knew him, you would expect nothing less.

Barry has a Wikipedia entry and if I understood Wikipedia, I would add more about his humor to balance out the child star, sudden loss of fame, suicide attempts and pseudonyms. His occasional name change was the smartest thing any child star ever attempted and Barry Scott often pulled it off. It may have bought him a few more years on the planet.

The Partridge Family was originally going to be the Cowsill family but their father pulled the plug when Shirley Jones came on board instead of Mrs. Cowsill. So he sold the rights to their life story of a traveling band and Keith Partridge got Barry’s life. When David Cassidy came to town Barry had a head of steam and wanted to challenge Keith to a rumble. After all, “He thinks he’s me but he just played me on t.v.” A little more Danny than Keith, Barry challenged everyone who loved him. You had to work at it

Like most of the lost souls who find a landing in New Orleans, he would fade away when the town no longer offered a couch, and come back when it did. When it was your turn to put him up, you started to eye the next stopover wistfully. Anyone who has a larger than life Katrina friend on their couch knows what I’m talking about. My husband Jeff, Barry’s former bandmate from The Stragglers, heard the best of Barry if the stars aligned and he hadn’t partied his voice into dust the night before.

It was easy to forget Barry’s contribution to musical history until you saw him on stage, and he would jump any stage he got close enough to. “The Rain the Park and Other Things,” (or “I Love the Flower Girl” if you know it from the commercial), got to #2 on the Billboard charts. Sometimes when he needed money, Barry would sell family photos. One was of the Cowsills all walking up the Vatican steps in their matching outfits to meet the Pope. They are so young it’s heartbreaking. It was at about the time they were singing about long, beautiful hair.

Barry was trying to get sober when Katrina hit. I hoped that he was Barry Scott again, somewhere out on the road. He probably would have liked to fade away like that, but instead was found face down in the Mississippi. Sculptor Jimmy Descant made a beautiful rocketship urn and included things found in Barry’s pocket, like his peace dove. Barry’s death was ruled a drowning from the hurricane. A plaque was anonymously placed on the Tree of Life in New Orleans, “to a true legend who died on the levee.”

We’ve posted his song, “Old Timeless,” on myspace.com/nomrf, and a podcast on nomrf.org as a tribute as the remains of Barry move up the East Coast again.