Unsung Heroes of Rock 'n' Roll
PONDEROSA STOMP “UNSUNG HEROES” EXHIBIT AT THE LOUISIANA STATE MUSEUM’S CABILDO
The Ponderosa Stomp Foundation, in partnership with the Louisiana State Museum, curated an exhibit that took a sweeping look at the rich musical heritage of Louisiana.
“Unsung Heroes: The Secret History of Louisiana Rock n’Roll” is a much-belated celebration of the state’s formidable contribution to American music. “The exhibit showcases, for the first time, the rich – and largely unknown – musical history of Louisiana’s blues, R&B, soul, rockabilly, swamp pop and garage artists, who played a significant role in shaping popular music and culture for the last 60 years.
The exhibit takes a close look at the Louisiana’s post-war geographic music capitals – Shreveport, Lake Charles, Crowley, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and of course, New Orleans. With profiles on the entrepreneurial studio owners, the A&R men; and the key musicians, arrangers and producers who made the classic recordings.
“The purpose of the exhibit is to show the cultural importance and influence of Louisiana music,” said Ira “Dr. Ike” Padnos, founder and ringleader of the Ponderosa Stomp organization. “It illustrates how the various regions of the state developed their own sound, while at the same time they influenced each other.”
“Unsung Heroes: The Secret History of Louisiana Rock n’Roll” is the first freestanding, continuously accessible physical repository of the Ponderosa Stomp’s extensive (and arcane) body of information about obscure and influential Louisiana music history. Surprisingly, it’s also the first museum exhibit of its kind – a much-belated celebration of the state’s formidable contribution to American music.
“Too often, American music history is the history of the ones who ‘made it.’ ‘Unsung Heroes’ integrates some of the missing pieces into that history, revealing a fuller, more accurate account of the seminal role Louisiana played to the public.”
Many panelists and interviewees from the Stomp 2009 Music Conference toured the exhibit between sessions. Classie Ballou, Dave Bartholomew and Cosimo Matassa were among those who were able to locate their names and albums on the walls – in the famously modest Matassa’s case, it was a whole wall dedicated to the achievements of his world-changing studio.
“Unsung Heroes” takes visitors inside the record collections, photo albums and memories of the Ponderosa Stomp’s brain trust, including founder Dr. Ike, historian John Broven, and former Louisiana Hayride engineer Bob Sullivan.
“The exhibit peels back the paint and trimmings to show you the real foundation of where Louisiana rock n’roll came from,” according to Dr. Ike.
“Where else would Homesick Homer, T.V. Slim, Lil Buck and the Top Cats, Lazy Lester ,and the Sha-Weez be celebrated in a museum?”
Artifacts from the Louisiana State Museum’s collection include James Black’s drum set; Fats Domino’s piano; Louisiana blues legend Lazy Lester’s harmonica; Earl Palmer’s drums; Dave Bartholomew’s trumpet; a Shirley & Lee concert poster from 1955; a sign from Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Cosimo Matassa’s historic J&M Record Studio (where Fats Domino, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Dr. John, and others cut groundbreaking sides) and nearly a hundred original 45 rpm records and LP’s unearthed from Dr. Ike’s personal collection. The exhibit’s video station plays original interviews with noted New Orleans musicians – Rockie Charles, Joe Clay and Steve Staples.
In typical Stomp fashion, an entire wall celebrates the famous eccentrics of New Orleans music, including Emperor of the Universe Ernie K-Doe; outsize personality Guitar Slim, who dyed his hair to match his suits; the wing-wearing electric guitar evangelist Utah Smith, and the flamboyant rock n’roll piano pounder Esquerita.
The exhibit remains on view at the Louisiana State Museum’s Cabildo on Jackson Square. The Arsenal, 601 St. Peter Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
A traveling version of the Unsung Heroes exhibit is now being displayed at the Louisiana State welcome center.