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According to Jason Berry’s New Orleans music history, , it was the photographer Jules Cahn, who had been shooting second-line parades and jazz funerals since the ’50s, that invited young Davis to a White Eagles Indian practice at a small Central City lounge.
Davis brought a reel-to-reel tape recorder, and as he later listened to the chants and clattering percussion he’d captured, he found himself drawn in again and again by one element in particular: Dollis’ raspy, powerful, soulful voice.
“It was probably the first time that Mardi Gras Indian music had been done outside the culture,” Davis told magazine’s David Kunian in a 2011 interview. He got up on piano and started playing with them and he went in and out and way in and way out, and it just happened.” Dollis went and wrote that new Indian song, and Davis put together a band led by Willie Tee, which included Snooks Eaglin on guitar, Alfred “Uganda” Roberts on congas, Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste on drums and a murderers’ row of New Orleans sidemen rounding it out.
As master accordion maker and Cajun music expert Marc Savoy writes, “[Cajun music] is a people’s music that expresses…an entire cultural history. It makes no difference if the songs are in a language that the rest of the world can’t understand.It’s been the topic of a 2008 PBS documentary, a 2017 New York Times article and photo essay, and certainly plenty of good-natured arguments between Alabamians and Louisianans over the decades.On the Saturday preceding the Courir de Mardi Gras years ago, I found myself winding through an early-morning street party towards the sound of an accordion ringing out bright and tinny from a tiny nearby bar. But instead of a bunch of masquerading rich folks tossing baubles and beads from floats to the crowds assembled in the streets below, Barkus is a gathering of costumed four-legged friends trundling through the streets of the French Quarter and generally making a spectacle of themselves. During those frantic times, nobody had the means, time, energy or money to actually save all those pets. But she’s still my spirit dog, the one with the omniscient eyes, incandescent stare, indefatigable mischief and uncompromising loyalty. They also require quality mixers, bitters and syrups. Born of a 12-pack and a clever idea, the krewe’s name is a play on the name of the famous New Orleans super-krewe, Bacchus. She was one of thousands of strays rescued in those weeks and months after the two storms, hauled off to a temporary shelter and, after failed efforts to locate her owner, scheduled for the euthanasia line. But quality cocktails don’t consist of spirits alone.
And in 1711, the first Mardi Gras parade rolled in Mobile.