Frankie Ford

Ooh-wee, baby. Frankie Ford – the city of Gretna's most famous son, immortalized in rock history for 1959's rollicking "Sea Cruise" – has set course for the 2011 Ponderosa Stomp.

Penned by Huey "Piano" Smith and featuring his driving piano, "Sea Cruise" has been hailed in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll as "the finest example of pure romping, stomping New Orleans rock ever made." In 1959 Ace Records kingpin Johnny Vincent tapped Ford to sing lead vocals over the prerecorded backing track in lieu of Smith himself (or Clowns frontman Bobby Marchan). According to Ford: "Huey sat at the piano and sang parts and taught me the lyrics written on a sheet of loose-leaf paper from my high school binder. It now hangs in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland." With overdubbed foghorns providing "the perfect embodiment of the sound New Orleans hornmen had been after for years," the song, paired with "Roberta," catapulted Ford onto the national charts.

Ford's other notable tunes from that era include "Alimony," "Cheatin' Woman," and "Last One to Cry," and he later signed with Imperial and scored another smash with "You Talk Too Much," produced by Stomp favorite Dave Bartholomew. But Ford continues to make waves locally even to this day with two cult classics of the New Orleans canon that also feature his distant cousin, Mac "Dr. John" Rebennack: "Morgus the Magnificent," a spooky paean to the beloved TV horror-show icon played by Sid Noel, and "Chinese Bandits," which paid tribute to the Louisiana State University football team's legendary defensive squad of 1959.

In the 1970s and '80s, Ford logged a now-legendary decade or so playing solo-piano gigs on Bourbon Street at notorious lounges like Lucky Pierre's, showcasing his penchant for comic one-liners, his love for opera and show tunes, as well as keyboard skills he picked up from Smith and fellow West Banker Clarence "Frogman" Henry. He has toured the country playing in rock 'n' roll revue shows, made a famous cameo in the movie "American Hot Wax," and reigned as king of the Krewe du Vieux Carnival parade.

He continues to release CDs, including a sultry standout from 1995 called "Hot and Lonely," which reunited him with Johnny Vincent of Ace Records and proved that his vocal powers remain formidable. Oddly enough, he finally won a Grammy when polka star Jimmy Sturr recorded "Sea Cruise" on his "Shake, Rattle and Polka!" CD. In 2009 he also reteamed with Cosimo Matassa to release a "lost tape" from 1962 titled "On the Street Where You Live," a collection of songs featuring the cream of New Orleans session players (Rebennack plus Waldron "Frog" Joseph, Clarence Ford, Alvin "Red" Tyler, Ellis Marsalis) and arrangements by another Stomp favorite, Wardell Quezergue.

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