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New York Times: Into Byways of the Past (Stomp No2 Review)

Excerpt from New York Times Article "Closing the Hipness Gap in New Orleans" By JON PARELES, May 6th, 2003


Into Byways of the Past

Clarence Frogman Henry happily told his audience on Thursday, "It's all frogs tonight." He was exulting that he had been asked to sing only songs from his own recorded catalog, not the cover versions that pepper his regular sets for tourists. No promoter had ever asked him to do that before, he announced. Mr. Henry was performing at the second annual Ponderosa Stomp, a festival that in its own way was as ambitious as Jazzfest. Where Jazzfest seeks out continuity and connections, the Ponderosa Stomp plunges into the obscure byways of rock's past. It is named for a single by the harmonica player Lazy Lester, who performed on Wednesday night.

Held at the club called Mid-City Lanes or the Rock 'n' Bowl (the stage is alongside a bowling alley), the Ponderosa Stomp was attended by a few hundred people rather than tens of thousands. But its lineup of five dozen musicians, performing from 5 p.m. to dawn for three nights, was a dream for the kind of record collector who takes note of backup musicians and cherishes regional hits and eclectic combinations. Audience members surprised some musicians by proffering vintage vinyl singles for autographs.

"It's like programming a jukebox," said Dr. Ike, the event's pseudonymous organizer; ... "To have the Sun Ra Arkestra and Sam the Sham on the same bill — that makes it all worthwhile."

Along with Mr. Henry, the Arkestra and Sam the Sham (singing "Woolly Bully" and the blues), Thursday night's show included a jazz set by musicians who had backed up countless New Orleans rhythm and blues hits, including the drummer Earl Palmer and the saxophonist Herb Hardesty. It also featured an all-star revue of swamp-pop, the 1960's South Louisiana phenomenon, with a superb band behind Phil Phillips singing his "Sea of Love" and John Fred singing "Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)." And musicians from the New Orleans modern-jazz alliance AFO ("All for One") reunited with the singer Tammy Lynn. Wednesday's show was a rockabilly summit, including both of Elvis Presley's longtime lead guitarists, Scotty Moore and James Burton; Tuesday featured blues, soul and funk.

Dr. Ike searches out musicians who have virtually disappeared from sight and persuades them to resurrect their best material, not always the case on the oldies circuit. He is willing to jog their memories when he finds them, providing them with individually compiled CD's of their old songs. He seeks out "everybody that lays a path or might have been ahead of their time," he said. "A lot of these guys don't get credit."

2003 New York Times
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