One of the Mississippi Gulf Coast's beloved rock bands can trace its roots to a book club, of all things.
- Story and photos by Pat Murphy
Fast forward about ten or twelve years. I started hearing good things about a new band in the area named the Electric Sheep. I discovered that my architect friend, John Anderson, was a member of the band, along with a physician named Sanjay Chaube whom I did not know.
A short while later I began seeing the band billed as Phil "Smooth" Williams and the Electric Sheep. I knew from the music business that Phil Williams led the St. Rose Men's Gospel Ensemble.
Since I had been a member of the Men's Ensemble and worked with Phil in the ensemble for a period of time, I knew he was a powerful gospel singer and vocal force to be reckoned with.
Eventually Williams branched out from gospel looking for opportunity and started working with local bands like the Relative Unknowns (who were responsible for his moniker "Smooth") and later Jesse Loya and his band.
Eventually Williams found his way into the Electric Sheep.
Phil Williams performed with the Electric Sheep for a couple of years before being diagnosed with terminal cancer. He succumbed to the disease about a year ago. The band values their experience working with Williams for a time, and they continue to move forward, honing their skills and their sound, and just having fun.
Today, the Electric Sheep is made up of guitarist John Anderson, bass guitarist Sanjay Chaube, drummer Landon Parolli, and Parolli’s wife, Jamie, on vocals and harmonica. The band in its present form has been together for about two years.
Singer Jamie Parolli's vocals are deeply rooted in the female rock vocalists of the 1980s and 1990s, and she’s been influenced heavily by performers like Alanis Morrissette, Lita Ford, Joan Jett and Pat Benatar.
Songs from this genre play a big part in the Sheep's repertoire and are regularly included in the band's live performances. This band isn't timid about approaching other male dominated music like Nirvana and Gary Clark, Jr.
The Electric Sheep’s songlist also includes some classic rock tunes by the Doors, Fleetwood Mac, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Animals and Bob Seger.
The Electric Sheep can be seen live occasionally at Bacchus on the Beach in Pass Christian and the Beach Bar under the Silver Slipper Casino Hotel. If you get the chance, check the Electric Sheep out at one of their local gigs – you will be glad you did.
Our local music historian waxes nostalgic about the Bay St. Louis of his youth, and how local bands influenced his life.
- story by Pat Murphy
This local musician's talents are woven into the fabric of our American musical heritage.
- story by Edward Gibson, photos courtesy the Moran family
At twenty years old, he joined a band led by Werly Fairburn. Fairburn, the “singing barber,” is a lost legend of rockabilly, one of the few that successfully transitioned from country to the “new” music. This was in 1953, before Werly turned away from country.
“Werly was a good songwriter and a good singer. He was serious about it,” said Tommy.
Tommy moved to New Orleans, and along with his brother, Ola Gene, backed Fairburn. They recorded Werly’s music and played live fifteen minutes every day on WDSU.
The group earned extra money playing dances and barrooms. Soon, Fairburn and Moran landed a gig on the Louisiana Hayride. There, they shared the bill with Johnny Horton and Elvis Presley. From there, they went to the Grand Ole Opry, playing alongside the royalty of country music, most notably, the great Webb Pierce.
But music is always changing, and country was giving way to rock 'n' roll. Tommy played a bill at Pontchartrain Beach with Presley. Tommy said, “They wanted to tear his clothes off of him. That always baffled me.”
By the late fifties the Bakersfield sound was catching on, and Fairburn wanted to move to move west and cash in.
“I wouldn’t go,” Tommy said. “I figured I had never lost anything in Bakersfield, and so I didn’t have to go out there to find it.” Besides, it was the old-timey music Tommy loved, “Fire on the Mountain” and “Billy in the Low Ground.”
For the next ten years, Tommy also became a popular session musician. He recorded in Nashville and at the Studio in the Woods in Bogalusa. Along with the many unknowns, he recorded with Loretta Lynn and Don Price. He played with Dolly Parton and George “Possum” Jones.
But the recording artist has enjoyed performing as well. Early on, Tommy formed the Moran Family band with two brothers and two sisters (listen to one of their recordings at the end of this story). Along with his talented son, "Little" Tommy Moran, he toured with Moe Bandy. And he took home numerous top prizes from fiddling competitions through the years.
But mostly, he cut timber. He worked oxen long after the mechanization of the timber business. Tommy said he cut less timber, but he could make more without the cost of skidders and tractors. He could feed an ox for a dollar a day. They never broke down, and I think he liked the quiet of the woods and the company of the animals.
We talked about the players he liked, consummate session and side men like Don Rich, Roy Clark, Jerry Reed and Glen Campbell. A good player, he said, isn’t out front. He is there in a way that you hardly notice, but if he wasn’t there, the song would be missing something.
Two of his sons, Tommy and Gene, are carrying on the family tradition, currently playing together in "Monsters at Large" (catch them at 100 Men Hall, June 21, 2019).
Years ago, I had an opportunity to play at church with Tommy Moran and his wife Annette. He came out day or two before. We ran through the number I picked, Doc Watson’s “I am a Pilgrim.” I asked him if he wanted to run through it again.
"That’s all right,” Tommy said, “I got it.”
Yes, he did.
In the recording below, Tommy Moran's brother, Doug Moran (now deceased) sings lead.
Tommy Moran plays in this 2012 video by BSL singer-songwriter Rochelle Harper
Special thanks to Tommy Moran's daughter Michele Seal for photo/video assist for this story!
A riff, a lyric or a chorus can transport us to a time long gone, to a place far removed, as we choose.
- story by Rheta Grimsley
I filled my glass, put my feet on the leather ottoman bought on the cheap 30 years ago at a Jackson department store, and mentally strapped down for serious time travel. The shuffle feature made the trip more kaleidoscopic than chronological.
Bob Dylan, for instance, carried me ‘way back to Loachapoka, Ala., where oddball friends often gathered on old bedspreads in tall grass to solve the world’s problems. My back pages are in braille, a stubble of memory and meaning that feel good to touch.
Aretha took me to a dorm room in Auburn where a steam radiator hissed and, without irony, we sang “Natural Woman” while wearing electric rollers in our hair and cold cream on our unlined faces. Collegiate independence came with a safety net – “I’ve overdrawn my checking account, Daddy, and I don’t know how it happened.” – a sweet spot in life.
The inimitable John Prine put me on the pristine banks of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River on an early June raft trip. We weekend adventurers ended each night around a campfire listening to Prine’s soft picking and the recitation of Robert Service poetry.
Before that trip, I didn’t know anything about either Prine or Service, two poets you discover you need while negotiating what Lewis and Clark called The River of No Return. Try bookending Prine’s “Souvenirs” and Service’s “Yellow” and your boat will float.
Music is lightning. Every listen might just bring to your life something you didn’t know you couldn’t live without.
Speaking of rivers, Emmylou and Mark Knopfler sang Hank’s “Lost on the River” and reminded me that I come by my passion for music honestly. My father played Hank again and again on the first piece of furniture he ever bought: a Crosley record player, one with a lid that had to be cleared of Mother’s knickknacks to use.
Hank has been to my life what calcium is to women; you need more and more Hank the older you get.
I was enjoying myself immensely, feeling better and wiser with each selection, when suddenly Patty Griffin weighed in with her “Mother of God” song. “I live too many miles from the ocean,” she sang, “and I’m getting older and odd….”
I’m definitely getting older and odd, but thank goodness the first part of that lament doesn’t apply to me any more. I no longer live too many miles from the ocean.
Each time I go to the grocery or the bank I make a point to get at least a glimpse of the Gulf, the reason I’m here, the reason almost all of us are here.
I try to remember what a great gift it is to live on the edge of the sea, whence we came. Life and politics and aging may make us blue, bring us down, and send us running to the stereo and our most dependable old tunes.
But as long as I have what Jimmy Buffett called “Mother, Mother Ocean” a few steps away, there should be a smile buried somewhere in my wrinkles and a song in my flinty heart.
This New Orleans-based Country/Rockabilly band that will be performing in Bay St. Louis on March 10th defies all stereotypes.
- Story by Pat Murphy
Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue will be performing at the 100 Men Hall in Bay St. Louis on Sunday, March 10, from noon - 4pm. Advance tickets are only $15 ($20 at the door). Buy yours online now.
This music would encompass the likes of Webb Pearce, Hank Williams, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and George Jones. My Dad's family were rural farm people, and when I was a child he would sing me to sleep at night with old Jimmy Rogers songs.
Several months after hearing about Gal Holiday's performance at Jazz Fest, a number of us made a road trip to Ruby's Roadhouse in Mandeville to see the band perform live. Anyone who isn't familiar with Ruby's should know that it is a roadhouse in every sense of the word. That night at Ruby's I discovered that Gal Holiday was much more than Patsy Cline and that this band could rip through old honky tonk country and rockabilly music with the best of them.
About nine months ago I saw Gal Holiday (real name Vanessa Niemann) when the band performed for an open air concert series sponsored by the Pass Christian library. Though I wouldn't have thought it possible, the band was even more diverse at this event, performing a broad range of tunes from John Prine and Johnny Cash to Leona Williams.
I was extremely excited to learn that the band would be bringing its diverse brand of self-described "punkabilly music" to Bay St. Louis's historic 100 Men D.B.A. Hall on Sunday, March 10, at 1pm for a live performance. Tickets are $20.00 at the door.
The band was founded in 2004 by Vanessa Niemann, and their popularity has steadily grown with regular performances at clubs, roadhouses and concerts in the New Orleans area. The band is regularly featured at The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. They continue to perform and tour both in the U.S. and abroad in Europe.
The Honky Tonk Revue is comprised of talented, seasoned musicians armed with powerful songwriting capabilities. The musicians who make up the band are as follows:
Vanessa "Gal Holiday" Niemann handles the job of bandleader and primary vocalist. She arrived in New Orleans in 1999 from the Maryland area and put this band together five years later.
Justin LeCuyer handles acoustic rhythm guitar and vocals for the group. He came to New Orleans in 2012 to explore the music scene and has been there ever since.
Corey McGillivary is the group's very talented Acoustic upright bass player, and she also sings background vocals.
The lead guitarist for The Honky Tonk Revue is Jimbo Mathus, who I really like because of his ability to play in that single picking country and rockabilly twang style of guitar.
Tony Frickey plays drums for the band and does a really great job.
When Gal Holiday & the Honky Tonk Revue roll into the 100 Men Hall, you can expect an afternoon of great old-style country music in the vein of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Leona Williams and Webb Pearce. Also look for a generous helping of the band's original material showcasing their individual songwriting talents. Armed with this kind of versatility, they put on a show that I promise you won't forget.
Their latest CD is entitled "Lost & Found." The band's performances never grow old and continue to delight everyone, from rowdy roadhouse two- steppers to new country music listeners as well.
While the music of New Orleans is most often thought of in terms of funk and jazz, Gal Holiday and the Honky Tonk Revue continue to prove that the Crescent City always celebrates its musical diversity with a lot enthusiasm. Country music is alive and well, and you'll know it when you experience this band. I hope to see you at the show.
Folk pianist George Winston brings NOLA inspiration to his concert at Hancock PAC on February 25.
- story by Lisa Monti
Click here to purchase tickets online!
Winston’s rural folk style is unique, but those who attend his Kiln concert will recognize the musical inspiration he draws from New Orleans R&B pianists Henry Butler, James Booker, Professor Longhair, Dr. John, Jon Cleary and his good friend, Allen Toussaint.
Winston has recorded 14 piano solo albums and has three awaiting release. His resume includes the solo piano soundtrack for “The Velveteen Rabbit” and the soundtrack for a Peanuts episode. The Kiln also audience can expect to hear some Vince Guaraldi-inspired Charlie Brown and gang pieces as well as Winston’s solo guitar and harmonica talents. He plays exclusively on Steinway pianos, and one is being brought in for the Kiln show.
Winston, a Montana native, has a Mississippi connection: he attended junior high in Jackson, and he has played at venues in Ocean Springs. “It’s great to get back there to Mississippi,” he said, calling the state “an island all its own. It’s definitely not Tennessee, Louisiana or Alabama.”
His upcoming local performance came about as “a happy accident,” according to Catherine Tibbs, HPAC coordinator. When Winston couldn’t get an Ocean Springs venue booked, his agent found the HPAC’s website and got in touch. Winston, Tibbs said, “likes going to new places because he’s played so many different venues.”
Winston said he’s “heard very good things” about the Hancock County facility which has 842 seats, state of the art equipment and brag-worthy acoustics and lighting. Proceeds from this concert will benefit the Hancock High School Education Foundation. Guests are encouraged to bring a donation of canned food to the concert to benefit the Hancock County Food Pantry.
Tibbs said the foundation supports Hancock High’s arts programs. “We have so many talented students in the district and the building was created for those underserved students. The proceeds will provide funding to purchase instruments, fund theatrical master classes to prepare the performers and to get the choir started up again.”
Tibbs is hoping for a good turnout for Winston’s performance “to show we have and appreciation for his music and we want him to return.”
Winston’s Hancock High performance will consist of two one-hour sets though he doesn’t yet have a set list. “I won’t know the song titles until that day or until I do it,” he said of his concert sets. “I have to really want to play the song. Otherwise, “I can’t do it.”
An evening with celebrated solo pianist
Monday, February 25 7-9 p.m.
Hancock Performing Arts Center
7140 Stennis Airport Drive, Kiln
General admission seating: $25
Tickets available through Eventbrite or the Hancock PAC Facebook Page
For more info, or help buying tickets, call (228) 255 6247
Some of the coast's top musicians come together in this band, beloved on the coast.
- story by Pat Murphy, photos by Ellis Anderson
The members of The Monsters At Large are Tommy Moran on guitar, Sam Brady on keyboards, Chuck Lofton on vocals, Casey Lipe on saxophone, Regan Taylor on bass and Gene Moran on drums.
Sometime in 1971 I was playing in Gris Gris and I became aware of another local band named Corruption. The guy on lead guitar was only about seventeen years old but already playing with the seasoned experience of a much older musician. The young musician's name was Tommy Moran and he was from Lakeshore.
It turned out that his family was very musical and that he had been playing from an early age onstage with his father and uncle in a country and western band named The Dixie Revelers. Tommy really made an impression on me and would become my friend and occasional bandmate from that point on.
Tommy and I would begin playing together when I was asked to join Corruption in 1973. Later we became known as Catahoula, traveling and performing together until early 1975 with Tommy always being the dominate musical force in the band. There was never any doubt in any of our minds that Tommy would go on to greater musical things.
By 1977, Tommy was on the road playing pedal steel guitar with country superstar Moe Bandy. This was during the height of the Moe and Joe (Stampley) "Good Ole Boys" popularity. He later toured with John "Rose Colored Glasses" Conlee beginning in 1985.
Tommy was also a member of Jerry Fisher's Dock of the Bay Music Company. Later he went on to record and tour with New Orleans superstar Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack for seven years. Tommy also served as staff guitarist and pedal steel guitarist at Bogalusa, Louisiana’s, Studio In The Country from the late 1970s through the 1990s.
The Monsters' saxophonist, Casey Lipe, lives in Oxford and is a graduate of the Ole Miss music school and studied jazz education at the University of North Texas. He is a member of the Ole Miss Jazz Hall of Fame. Casey has played since 1977 when he began playing with a band named Struttin' at Rossario's in Gulfport.
My first experience with Casey Lipe was when my friend George Reed brought him out to jam with my band at Bennie French's around 1980. We were playing country rock at the time and Casey was a jazz guy and so far over my head musically that he intimidated me greatly. He was a monster way back then and still is. I always enjoy hearing him play.
The keyboardist for The Monsters, Sam Brady, has lived and played in the Jackson (Madison) area since 1979. He has recorded and toured with R&B diva Dorothy Moore along with Jo-El Sonnier. In addition to playing gigs with The Monsters At Large, Sam plays with Mr. Sipp, "The Mississippi Blues Child.”
Monsters vocalist Chuck Loftin lives on the coast but began his career while living in Hattiesburg. He has worked with Rochambeau, Mutharoux, Chuck and Johnny's Spectacular and The Smoke Patrol, among others. Chuck's vocal talents bring to mind Gregg Allman and Joe Cocker, and he is a very popular, talented vocalist.
The combination of Regan Taylor and Gene Moran on bass and drums make up the area's go-to rhythm section. They play with everybody in addition to Monsters at Large. Regan began playing piano at 10, quickly branched out on guitar and bass and has settled in primarily on bass, although he is a talented keyboardist as well.
Regan grew up in Bay St. Louis and played with Shea Michael Ladner for a long time. One of the things I always enjoyed watching as he was coming up was how much his parents always supported him in his music. They would always be out there at his gigs, proudly listening and having a good time.
Gene Moran plays drums for The Monsters and although he is a pretty talented guitarist, the drums seem to be his forte. Gene is Tommy Moran's half brother and grew up within that same Lakeshore musical family background. Gene also played with Shea Michael Ladner for many years and performs with an abundance of different bands both alone and with Regan on bass.
One of Gene's real talents is his timing, which is really solid. That sense of meter coupled with the length of time that he and Regan have played together, equates to a quality, in demand rhythm section.
Although Monsters at Large prefer to work with the larger six-piece band, they do perform as The Chuck Lofton Band in a four-piece lineup with Chuck, Tommy, Regan and Gene. The Moran brothers along with Regan also perform with Hancock County's own America's Got Talent winner Michael Grimm whenever he does appearances here on the coast.
Whether it be the full Monsters At Large band or the smaller Chuck Lofton Band, this band always sounds great and has a good following. I strongly recommend that you check them out when you have the chance.
Aidan Pohl is a young singer/songwriter/musician from a talented family who grabs every opportunity to perform. He’s fresh out of the recording studio and is shopping around his new demo, hoping to make music his career.
- story by Lisa Monti, photos by Ann Madden
Playing music isn’t new to Aidan - he’s being doing since he was a toddler when Santa brought him a tiny piano one year and a small drum set the next. He also took violin lessons at a young age and took piano lessons in elementary school, earning the highest marks in competitions. In addition to piano, he plays the ukulele and guitar.
You may have seen him with The Pohl Family band, playing in Old Town on Second Saturday. It features all of his siblings - Aubrey, Marion and Sadie - and dad, Richard. Their set list leans heavily toward bluegrass.
Aidan has also been a member of the WINGS Performing Arts Group at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center. He entered the Bay High talent show every year and was named Most Talented his senior year. On a recent trip to New York for a Broadway audition, he drew a crowd at Grand Central Station while playing for a music promoter.
He's performed at the Mockingbird Cafe and other local and nearby venues and events. Recently he has been playing with the RENEW praise band at Main Street Methodist.
Songwriting, though, is something Aidan just started doing when he was attending college in New Mexico and found “an amazing music scene there.” The environment inspired him to write his own songs.
“I think moving away to New Mexico just had a big effect on me and part of it was feeling lot of things I never felt before that pushed me over the edge to write.”
In October he competed in Gulf Coast Idol, singing an original song. Judges compared him to Harry Chapin and other heavyweights and called his storytelling impeccable. He was voted a Fan Favorite winner with the second highest vote count.
Aidan finds the makings of songs just about everywhere. When he worked as a waiter at the Buttercup, he would use his iPhone to save ideas he got from his observations and interactions with customers. There were “endless notes of so many things” that lead him to write in lyrics.
His conversational lyrics have a “soft rock-ish” sound that falls somewhere between John Mayer’s songs and pop punk rock artists.
His favorite artist is Ed Sheeran, who’s singing/songwriting talents and performance skills he admires.
When Aidan resumes his studies in the spring at the University of Memphis, he’ll major in musical theater. And now that he’s got some songs recorded, he’s hoping to draw some attention in the professional music world so he can record more music with a band of his own and shoot video versions.
“I’m really ready to move to a city and play music on the street or wherever I can,” he says.
In this new Shoofly Magazine column, veteran coast musician Pat Murphy writes about the local music scene - and kicks off by introducing the members of the Dave Mayley Band.
Mayley's also passionate about music and is the namesake and bandleader of the The Dave Mayley Band. The five-piece musical group is creating quite a big splash on the musical scene in Hancock County. Playing "Radio Rock Hits From The 1960s Forward,” the group proclaims itself to be a "true fun loving radio cover band.”
David Mayley has been dabbling in music since the age of twelve when he began playing drums in a "real garage band" named Black Granite. Later, in college, Mayley went on to play with Roger Dodger & The Darts, and he founded Kool Breeze in 2005. Kool Breeze would morph into The Dave Mayley Band of today.
The other member of Kool Breeze was Australian-born lead guitarist Richard Pohl. Pohl, another very talented multi instrumentalist, joined Mayley shortly after Hurricane Katrina and shares vocal duties with the other five members of the band.
Pohl covers songs from The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and beyond, while David sings rocking numbers like "Taking Care of Business" and "Wild Thing.” David and Richard also play in a Christian Rock ensemble for a weekly Sunday evening service at the Main Street United Methodist Church (162 Main Street) in Bay St. Louis at 6:30 PM.
Leslie Henderson began playing music as a young child both for her own enjoyment as well as in church, and she is also a multi instrumentalist. She has been playing with Mayley and Pohl for about five years. Currently she is playing bass and sharing vocal duties with the other members of the band.
Leslie's vocals include tunes by John Prine, Chrissie Hynde and Tommy James and The Shondells among others. She previously played in a bluegrass duo with Walt Moskal and continues to play Christian music at the Diamondhead United Methodist Church. She and husband Mark are the principals in Hancock County's successful Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company.
Keyboardist David Sallis was raised in Jackson and has lived on the coast for over twenty five years. He is a software engineer at Stennis Space Center. Sallis is another multi instrumentalist playing piano, cello and drums.
David has played keyboards with The Dave Mayley Band for well over a year and sings some of the band's more soulful numbers with his covers of Bill Withers, Dobie Gray and Ray Charles songs.
Rounding out the band is rhythm guitarist and vocalist Kevin Estrade who, although born in Gulfport, has lived in Bay St. Louis his whole life. Kevin holds a degree in theatre from the University of Southern Mississippi and is the branch manager of Keesler Federal Credit Union in Waveland.
An extremely talented musician, Kevin is on his maiden journey as a professional musician with The Dave Mayley Band. His vocal talents are utilized on songs that run the gamut from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Van Morrison and Tom Petty.
This band's repertoire encompasses straight ahead cover material from the 1960s through the 1990s. It's all middle of the road (MOR) FM radio rock which is always well received by theiraudiences.
The Dave Mayley Band is working a good bit locally, playing mostly private parties, weddings and concerts in the parks. The band also continues to be in rotation with several other musical groups playing in the new Beach Bar venue at The Silver Slipper Casino at Bayou Cadet.
The group is a true fun-loving cover band whose members all get along and complement each other's styles. Collectively, the band seems to aspire to nothing more than enjoying themselves while making music and improving their sound as they continue to play dates.
The members of The Dave Mayley Band all seem to stay so busy with family and business careers that they aspire only to make music whenever they are able. Their personal enjoyment along with that of their audience seems to be their main goal. This band plans on rocking Hancock County and the Mississippi Gulf Coast with their cover tunes for a long time to come.
The band has a Facebook page titled The Dave Mayley Band. Check the band out at one of their upcoming Silver Slipper Beach Bar gigs. David Mayley can be contacted at (228) 380-0285.
10/25 - Silver Slipper - 5:30 - 8:30pm
11/9 - Bay Town Inn, Five Year Anniversary and benefit for Brenda's House - 6pm - 9pm
Shoofly Magazine publisher Ellis Anderson looks back to the first Cruisin' the Coast event in 1996 - and her introduction to the Pat Murphy Band.
- story and photos by Ellis Anderson
It’s a classic car show that takes place in Biloxi, they tried to explain. But it’s in Gulfport as well. And it’s even coming to Bay St. Louis. There’ll be live music too! Do you have a poodle skirt I can borrow?
It was very confusing to me. An event takes place in a single location, right? And hey, even though I’d moved over from New Orleans with several costume boxes, I was sadly lacking in poodle skirts.
Later, we’d all learn that Cruisin’ was sort of like a progressive dinner party, drive-thru style. A large part of the fun for participants was, well, cruising. Antique or vintage car owners would register in Biloxi and have their passes stamped at each of the participating coast cities.
They’d all roll down the coast road in their antique cars, enjoying the scenery and getting a good gander at other collectible cars in the process. Slews of vintage automobile fans from around the region were expected to attend. They’d have the opportunity to time-travel back to when car seats rumbled and fenders had fins.
Except, there weren’t that many cars to look at in 1996. In that inaugural year, only 374 vehicles participated. Spread out across 70 miles of coast, the showing didn’t make an enormous visual impact. But I didn’t care – the festival was a huge success to me: I’d gotten to hear the Pat Murphy Band for the first time.
My neighbors had also clued me in about the band. I listened to them rhapsodize about Pat (you can’t help but dance!) and his wife Candy (Lord, can she belt ‘em out!), and the other musicians (those horns, the rhythm, the lead!).
I found out first hand when the Pat Murphy Band kicked into its first set on Saturday afternoon of that inaugural Cruisin’. I was helping a customer in the gallery, when the music from the courthouse stage slid in through my open French doors. The boogie beat beckoned.
I rushed the customer out, stuck a note on the doors and locked them. Next door, a large crowd had already gathered before the stage. With the courthouse as a backdrop, people swung and swayed and the burden of responsibilities and cares that every one of us shoulders got dropped to the ground as we danced.
When the first Cruisin’ was over, organizers might have been disappointed, but participants sure weren’t. They returned home to Hattiesburg, or Baton Rouge or Mobile and told their friends. Who told their friends. Who started polishing up their cars for 1997.
From 1996 – 2004, I watched each one of the Crusin’ events from the front porch of my Main Street gallery. The rest of the year, I rarely looked twice at the design of a ride, but during that week, the car craze proved to be contagious and I oogled with the rest of specators. For one whole week, Bay St. Louis, drenched in a lovely 1950s charm straight out of Mayberry, RFD, became a movie set from the past.
But seeing the Pat Murphy Band was always the highlight for me. Although the stage got moved eventually so it wasn’t right next door, I was always swaying in the crowd when they played.
The event's grown past anyone's expectations. According to the official Cruisin’ the Coast website, in 2017 more than 8,300 vehicles registered. Participants hailed from forty states. Antique car enthusiasts flock to the coast by the thousands, to catch the chrome, the costumes and the brightly colored cars, glistening under coats of paint so rich and syrupy, you can almost taste the fruity flavors.
Pat’s band has morphed into “Sippiana Soul” these days. John Bezou is still tearing up the lead, while Pat’s cranking on the keyboards and Candy’s reminding us all that while heartbreak is inevitable, music and movement and great friends make it all worthwhile.
Catch “Sippiana Soul" during the 2018 Cruisin' at the Beach/Court St. stage, on Saturday, October 6, 1pm - 2pm.
Poodle skirts not required.
For a full Cruisin' schedule of Bay St. Louis/Hancock County events only, click here for the Shoofly Magazine's Upcoming Events page!
A band of seasoned jazz performers continues to make their merry mark on the coast with music from bygone days that somehow never grows old.
- story by Lisa Monti, photos by Ellis Anderson
The repertoire of this talented team is mainly the traditional variety of jazz, but they also showcase the sounds that were popular during the 1930s through the 1950s.
Consider their collective resumes: They have played in supper clubs, on Bourbon Street, in elegant hotels in New York and Miami, aboard cruise ships, in the Catskills, London pubs, at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. They’ve played with Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson and the Dukes of Dixieland.
A few of the original members are still playing with the Stompers, including Schnur, a retired professor and dean, who plays the tuba, upright bass and sings.
Ron Simpson plays guitar and banjo. He’s performed in clubs in London, Chicago, Toronto and plays every year at the New Orleans Jazz Festival.
Drummer Hugh Barlow has played jazz, fusion and rock across the country and has earned raves from top drummers for his recordings.
Sadly, the band’s piano player, Ralph Martin, who played in Miami and New York hotels, as well as cruise ships in the Mediterranean, passed away recently.
But band continues to evolve with the addition of top notch musicians.
Chicagoan Chris Krueger, a retired Marine Corps band leader, plays trumpet, cornet, fluegelhorn and sings. John Hester, a retired chief bandmaster who had a career in the Navy, sings and plays trombone.
“It’s a great group,” Schnur said. “I’m really pleased with the musicianship of the group.”
Schnur, who played trumpet early on and and got back into music playing the tuba, said he and the other band members have so much experience performing that they forego any practice sessions.
“We just get our instruments out and we play,” he said. “It’s all in our heads.”
The Stompers songbook is heavy on traditional jazz, big band sounds and old standards with some contemporary music in the mix. Fans can easily find a lot to like when the group performs such favorites as St. James Infirmary, Fly Me to the Moon, the Girl from Ipanema and Stardust. Songs by Miles Davis are in the mix as well.
Schnur recounts an endorsement given to the Stompers by a successful local businessman who said, “I’ve got to go to New Orleans to get some of my friends and bring them here so they can hear some real New Orleans jazz.”
The Stompers recently unveiled their first CD with a celebratory release party. The 11 tunes on “Do You Know What it Means” are all instrumentals, leaving the door open for a followup with vocals. “We’ll save that for the next one,” Schnur said.
If you want to buy a CD, that’s easy, Schnur said. “You can come to the Silver Slipper to hear the Coast Stompers and we’ll be happy to sell you one.”
The Coast Stompers perform at the Silver Slipper Jubilee Buffet from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the first and second Sundays of each month (see the Shoofly Magazine Community Calendar for exact monthly dates).
The group also is available for special events such as weddings and parties, and you may have heard them play at a Second Saturday artwalk. They prefer to perform with all members, but “sometimes we break into smaller groups, as the occasion presents itself,” Schnur said.
To book the Mississippi Coast Stompers, contact:
Celebrate the summer in Old Town during the Second Saturday Artwalk on June 11th - with Hot Spots California Drawstrings (216 Main Street) and Twin Light (136 Main Street)!
- stories by Grace Birch
And don't miss the popular BSL Trio, playing at the Mockingbird Café (110 S. Second Street) from 6pm - 9pm. It's an outside, family-friendly venue and it's free!
216 Main Street,
Bay St Louis
A CLEAVER SPONSOR - please thank them!
Owner of California Drawstrings Linda Keenan will tell you her boutique specializing in cotton, linen, and silk doesn’t have much to do with California. And that’s partly true — her company has been firmly rooted in the Gulf South since 1984.
But California borrows its motto from Archimedes, the famed Greek mathematician, whom according to legend exclaimed "Eureka!" after he discovered a method of determining the purity of gold.
Keenan had her eureka moment as a young entrepreneur coming to New Orleans for the 1984 World’s Fair.
“I was working in real estate in North Carolina when I saw this fabulous line of linen clothing at a boat show,” said Keenan. “I knew I wanted to continue my real estate career and move to New Orleans, but I thought people visiting for the World’s Fair weren’t going to understand the heat and humidity. I thought I could earn some extra money by selling this cool clothing line in the French Market and it just really took off.”
Keenan quickly outgrew her French Market booth and moved into the French Quarter. Today her store on Royal Street in New Orleans is a well-known spot for both men and women to pick up the best in resort wear — shirts, pants, shorts, dresses, skirts, outerwear, accessories — California Drawstrings has something for everyone to be comfortable and stylish, no matter how high temperatures rise.
California Drawstrings has also expanded to a Magazine Street store, as well as an outlet location on the North Shore in Covington.
“One day Nancy Moynan of Lulu's called me saying the mayor of Bay St. Louis told her about my shop and they thought it would be a good fit for Bay St. Louis,” Keenan said. “I went to see her space at Maggie May’s and opened a Bay St. Louis branch in 2012.”
Just as Keenan faced the familiar problem of outgrowing the space a couple of years later, she heard of a business for sale on Main Street. She saw the building and immediately made an offer.
“I just know Bay St. Louis is a place I want to spend the rest of my life,” Keenan said. “I’ll never really retire, but the pace is so much easier here than in New Orleans. And after a while you just appreciate not having to worry about things like parking.”
Keenan said that besides being a picturesque beach town, what she loves about Bay St. Louis is the people. And Keenan knows people.
“I feel like I have the greatest sales team and the greatest managers,” Keenan said. “They look after the stores as if they were their own. The greatest compliment you can give me is that you love my staff. They are truly like family to me watching out for what’s best for all of us. I can’t be in three places at once. And to think I literally started with two tables and $1500 at the French Market.”
When she’s in Bay St. Louis and not at California Drawstrings, chances are you’ll find Keenan at her favorite place to eat: the Sycamore House.
“Their food is very consistent, very good, and they have a great bar and bartender,” Keenan said. “It’s the kind of place where they know your name when you walk in.”
You could say Keenan has struck gold again by moving to the Bay.
Twin Light Creations
136 Main St
Bay St Louis
Twin Light Creations isn’t just the a shop, it’s a home. Located in one of Old Town’s iconic bungalows, the 1890s building is listed on the city’s historic tour as the Angeline House named for a family from Sicily who once lived in it.
Today the proud business owners and residents are Pam Collins and Joy Panks, who have created a colorful, whimsical paradise where they live, work and play. Each day they welcome people in and when they lock the shop doors at night, they simply walk out the back door into their apartment in the evening.
Collins and Panks love having visitors come through the shop and admire their unique home and garden offerings. Shoppers are wowed at the variety of items. It’s easy to see that this shop is a literal dream come true for the owners of Twin Light.
“We started renting a cottage in Bay St. Louis in 1999 and it just got harder and harder to leave,” said Collins. “We knew one day we wanted to have a shop, but we also knew we wanted it to be something different.”
At the time Collins was working in the hotel business in New Orleans while Panks was a draftsman, drawing deep water structures.
“I jumped out of the frying pan with hotels and into the frying pan of retail,” smiled Collins.
“It’s a lot like having a farm,” Panks added. “Our days start incredibly early and go incredibly late. It makes it hard to travel sometimes.”
Their whole Twin Light adventure started with travel. While they were still working their former jobs, they took two 6 week trips - one up the East Coast and one to the West Coast. Along the way they met families and artists that made unique goods. By the end of the trips they had a list of 50 vendors they wanted to work with.
“Some people said we would never make it because we don’t feature many local artists, Collins said. "But we're still proud to be here."
Twin Light does feature local artist Julie Nelson, well-known for raku pottery, but the rest of the items are unique to Old Town Bay St. Louis.
Lots of wind chimes. hand-blown glass, specially lighting, metal artworks and wine-themed decor items line the walls, shelves and ceilings.
The bungalow keeps going with beautiful bird fountains near the back and a whole section dedicated to garden and house flags.
Out the French doors in the back of the shop, Twin Light Creations continues onto an outside deck and stunning garden. The outdoor walls are filled with vibrant Haitian art and spinners blow in the Bay breeze in the backyard.
Each unique piece has the story of the artist or family behind it, which Collins and Panks are all too happy to share.
There are many unique lights and lanterns in the shop, which fits the name Twin Light Creations perfectly. The true meaning of the name Twin Light is even more illuminating.
“We have friends who always call us twin because Joy and I look so much alike,” said Collins. “And the Light is for God.”
Indeed, images of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary hang above the front window, rescued after Hurricane Katrina from their former shop location right across the street.
The Sacred Hearts and special twins have found their true home at 136 Main Street and their light is shining bright in Old Town at Twin Light Creations.
Also: Don't Miss Smith&Lens Gallery Pop Up Patio Show
While legendary musician Gregg Allman is headlining Bay Harbor Fest (July 17, 18, 19) and the slate of performers features bands like Jimmie Hall & Friends, Jaimoe's Jasssz Band and Frank Foster. The spotlight will also fall on three local performers.
While each of the three have achieved the icon status in Bay St. Louis, they've also built enormous and fiercely loyal fan bases across the region. Receiving Lifetime Achievement Awards on Saturday night are Pat Murphy and Bo and Dee Bridgewater Darensbourg - the latter two best-known simply as “Bo & Dee.”
Talk of the Town
4th Sunday at Four
- photos and story by Ellis Anderson
One of the most popular music and arts events on the coast actually had its beginnings in Kansas City.
Margene Dawson, long-time coordinator for the 4th Sunday at Four at Christ Episcopal Church in Bay St. Louis explains how the hit series traveled south.
Margene and her husband, Father Ted Dawson, spent several years in Kansas City, helping a small mission church become a full-fledged parish. The city is renowned for its enormous art festivals.
Flash forward to 2011. The new Christ Church building, replacing the one destroyed by Katrina, had been sanctified. Yet the church vestry wanted the spacious facility to be used for community events, as well as congregational ones. The Dawsons, who had been attending the church for several years, shared their Kansas City 4th Sunday experience. The concept was met with enthusiasm. The first event took place in January 2011, making 2015 the fifth year of the series.
The event begins with a musical performance in the sanctuary starting at 4pm. Favorite past performers include Coast Chorale (a Christmas tradition), Laura Leigh Dobson, J.T. Anglin, Walter Chamberlin’s jazz ensemble, and Father Ron & Friends (who just performed in May). Other much appreciated performers have been the N.O. Quarter Shanty Krewe (who performed Irish Sea Chanties) and Heather and the Monkey King.
The musical programs range from classical to folk to jazz. The performers are paid only what the audience donates as they’re leaving. But Margene says that people are generous, so it works out well for both performers and the audience. She also says performers love the venue – the building is lovely and uplifting, while the audiences are quiet, attentive and appreciative.
After the one-hour performance, the crowds stream across to the community hall next door. The large room is set up like a gallery each month, to showcase everything from photography to paintings to pottery. All the artwork is for sale and since refreshments and hors d’oeuvres are served, the affair takes on the feel of a swank big city gallery opening.
The artists keep all the proceeds from the sales – the church doesn’t collect any commission.
Artists with coast-wide reputations that have shown at the series include Tazewell, Kat Fitzpatrick, Lori Gordon and Neil Untersaher. Watercolorist John McDonald was the featured artist for the May event.
As the reputation of the series spreads, attendances have been building. Margene says they're at least double what they were five years ago.
4th Sunday at Four take place nine months a year. April is skipped because of Easter activities, while school openings and the heat in August and September combine to make the events difficult to coordinate.
“The only way I’d do it in August is if we could get Neil Diamond,” Margene says, laughing.
The Mississippi Blues Trail
Along the Coast, Part 2
- This month - Complete our virtual tour of the Mississippi Blues Trail along the coast, stopping in the Pass, Gulfport and Biloxi!
Read Part One of this series by clicking here.
Blues and jazz music also has an illustrious history at our neighboring town across the Bridge, Pass Christian. The Pass’s most famous “native son” was alto saxophonist Captain John Handy. (The “Captain” moniker reportedly was earned from Handy’s authoritative band leadership style.) With the Louisiana Shakers, Handy and his brother toured throughout the region. In the later part of his life, Handy recorded several albums and played often at Preservation Hall in New Orleans, in addition to touring worldwide.
Among the local Pass clubs that featured blues, jazz, and R&B were the Dixie, the Savoy, and the P. C. Club. In 2011, a Blues Trail marker was dedicated along Highway 90 to commemorate Blues and Jazz in the Pass.
Every May from 1999 to 2005, the Pass had celebrated its rich African American musical heritage with its "Jazz in the Pass" festival. Temporarily discontinued for several years after Hurricane Katrina, “Jazz in the Pass” has been back in business since 2011!
Gulfport – especially the North Gulfport area - once supported vibrant blues/R&B venues. In fact, New Orleans jazz legend Jelly Roll Morton used to play played the Great Southern Hotel in the 1900s. Gulfport was also an occasional stop for rambling bluesmen and women such as Robert Johnson and Ma Rainey, the famous “mother of the blues.”
Gulfport has been fertile territory for musicians who not only turned the Coast into a hotbed of blues and R&B, but also impacted popular music on an international scale. Allman Brothers Band members Johnnie Lee Johnson (better known as Jaimoe) and Lamar Williams both were raised in Gulfport and performed in many clubs along the Coast during their early years. Other Gulfport residents included pianist Roosevelt Sykes, guitarist Blind Roosevelt Graves, pianist Cozy Corley, and singer Albennie Jones.
In those days, the scene at the Hi-Hat Club and other North Gulfport blues hotspots like Ebony and Night Owl, was known to be on the wild side, as the clubs then all were outside Gulfport police jurisdiction.
Gulfport was also an important location for disseminating the blues to the rest of the world by radio. After World War II, the African-American community across the country relied on radio for entertainment and news, and Gulfport radio was taking the lead in “Broadcasting the Blues.” In 1994, blues promoter “Rip” Daniels launched WJZD radio in Gulfport, making it the first African American-owned FM station on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In 2000, Daniels took the blues concept further using satellite and Internet technology to launch the American Blues Network (ABN) to listeners around the world. In 2007, the Blues Foundation dedicated a “Broadcasting the Blues/ABN” Blues Trail marker in Gulfport.
The “Four Corners” intersection in north Gulfport, at the intersection of Arkansas Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., was a central blues location in the decades when the African American communities in and around north Gulfport supported many nightclubs that operated outside the old city limits. Now, it is the site of the most recent Mississippi Blues Trail marker to be dedicated on the Coast, installed in January of this year.
In Biloxi, the stretch of Main Street that catered to the African American trade in the years during and after World War II has been designated as “Biloxi Blues.” Biloxi’s musical culture was particularly influenced by that of New Orleans. (Indeed, New Orleans jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton lived in Biloxi in the early 1900s). During the war years and after, airmen from Keesler Field often participated both as audience members and musicians. Local blues musicians from Biloxi included Cozy Corley, and Carl Gates and the Decks. A Blues Trail marker was dedicated in 2010 in Biloxi at the intersection of Main and Murray Streets.
Other notable sites along the Mississippi Blues Trail that are only a short drive from the Gulf Coast include Hattiesburg, which rock historians have credited as being one of the birthplaces of rock and roll music, and which is home to a number of important historic blues venues, and Laurel in Jones County, home of Blind Roosevelt Graves, and the Laurel Mother's Day Blues Festival every May since 1987.
In Hattiesburg, the original Hi-Hat Club was built in the 1950s and was an important stop on the “chitlin circuit” for famed African American blues and soul performers such as B. B. King, James Brown, Otis Redding, Ike & Tina Turner, Sam Cooke, Al Green, Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, Louis Jourdan, Guitar Slim, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and many others. One of the largest clubs in Mississippi, the Hi-Hat sometimes drew crowds of over one thousand reveling blues lovers.
In addition, Mobile Street in Hattiesburg was a historic African American business and entertainment district where many of the blues musicians lived and worked, and the center for several blues and gospel record labels. One studio on Mobile Street was the site of a 1936 historic series of recording sessions by Mississippi blues, gospel, and country performers, including the Mississippi Jook Band and the Edgewater Crows.
In Europe Too?
Interestingly, the Mississippi Blues Foundation has arranged for a few Blues Trail markers not only outside of the state of Mississippi (particularly in Alabama and Louisiana), but also for two markers to have been placed in Europe! One is in Cahors, France, where Blues first reached France in the 1920a and 30s via touring African American groups, and the other is in Notodden, Norway, sister-city to Clarksdale, Mississippi, and site of a hugely popular blues festival that draws top Mississippi-born blues artists. Mississippi blues really gets around!
Whether you're a die-hard blues fan or a casual traveler, keeping an eye out for these Blues Trail markers is guaranteed to teach you new things about the music and its inspirational founders, and to lend a new appreciation for the spots that gave birth to the blues.
To donate to the Mississippi Blues Foundation, or for information on how to purchase a Mississippi Blues Trail license plate, see www.msbluestrail.org. Your money will assist the Benevolent Fund, which helps Mississippi blues artists in times of need, and will help communities pay for and maintain the Blues Trail Markers.
The Mississippi Blues Trail
Along the Coast - Part 1
- This month - take a virtual tour of the Mississippi Blues Trail, with one of the most interesting stops right here in Bay St. Louis!
The Mississippi Blues Trail
The name evokes smoky blues dives, crooning singers, and wailing guitars. Created by the Mississippi Blues Foundation, a nonprofit corporation dedicated to education about the roots of blues music, the Blues Trail commemorates Mississippi’s most treasured archive, the stories of the birth of the blues (and, by extension, the emergence of rhythm and blues, or R&B, and rock 'n’ roll music as well).
The Blues Trail currently consists of 184 iconic locations, mostly in Mississippi, that were endemic to the growth of blues music as a unique American genre (a few sites are in other states with which Mississippi has had extensive musical interchange, such as Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee).
Blues on the Coast
According to Wikapedia, the famed "chitlin' circuit" is the name given to the string of performance venues throughout primarily the southern U.S in which African American musicians and comedians performed during the age of racial segregation. (The name derives from the soul food item “chitterlings,” or stewed pig intestines.)
And from the Blues Trail website, The Mississippi Coast, long a destination for pleasure seekers, tourists, and gamblers developed a flourishing nightlife during the segregation era. Dozens of clubs and cafes here rocked to the sounds of blues, jazz, and rhythm & blues.
Moreover, in the last twenty or so years, the casinos and the Gulf Coast Blues and Heritage Festival (in Pascagoula in September) have added to a grand resurrection of blues, R&B and soul entertainment on the Gulf Coast. A new wave of blues and soul stars have come from all parts of the country to perform at clubs and casinos in Bay St. Louis to Biloxi and beyond.
Here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, there are at least four locations marked on the Mississippi Blues Trail, including spots in Gulfport, Biloxi, and one right here in Bay St. Louis. In fact, one of the most interesting spots on the Blues Trail is the 100 Men Hall, a currently operating blues venue that is drawing exciting acts from the Coast, New Orleans, and elsewhere.
Bay St. Louis
The 100 Men Hall was built in 1922 by the fraternal organization One Hundred Members’ Debating Benevolent Association. (The initials D.B.A. have been known to indicate Death and Burial Associations, and the group provided burial services to its members.) The Hall, along with the local churches, was the center of the African American social scene in Bay St. Louis. Events and fundraisers of all types from plays and pageants to wedding receptions and dances took place at the hall.
During the 1940′s, 50′s and 60′s, many of the region’s greatest blues, rhythm and blues, and soul music artists performed at The 100 Men Hall, and it was a regular stop for many of the artists on the “chitlin’ circuit.” Many of the greatest stars during the heyday of New Orleans’ R&B music scene performed at the Hall, including James Brown, Big Joe Turner, Etta James, Ike and Tina Turner, Guitar Slim, James Booker, Professor Longhair, Ernie K-Doe, Earl King, Deacon John, and Irma Thomas. (In fact, Irma Thomas’ first performance as a paid singer was at 100 Men Hall!) Gulf Coast performers such as Harry Fairconnetue, Carl Gates and The Decks, Guitar Bo and The Claudettes, and the “shake dancer” Miss Dee also regularly performed at 100 Men Hall.
After several incarnations, including as a disabled veterans’ hall and a bingo hall in the 80s, the building was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It was purchased and restored to its original state by Jesse and Kerrie Loya, The 100 Men Hall operates today as an ongoing live blues locale, still drawing crowds to see danceable live music, just like in the 1930s through 70s! In 2011, this local landmark was recognized for its role in the history of the blues, anda historical Blues Trail marker was dedicated at the hall.
100 Men Hall owner Kerrie Loya says she has been thrilled with the success of the Hall since it re-opened, and is proud of its legacy and its inclusion on the Blues Trail. The Hall’s Blues Trail marker, she explained, is one of just a handful of commemorative markers in the state that are attached to an actual building, rather than for example a street corner or area of town. The building itself, restored to its original condition, has much to do with evoking the ambience of the Coast’s blues past, she said.
In the past few years, musicians and acts that have performed at 100 Men Hall have included Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Little Freddie King, Marcia Ball, Deacon John, Eric Lindell, and local favorites Pat Murphy Band and Guitar Bo and Ms. Dee. The Hall also attracts lesser known blues acts to the Coast – for example, an all-female Japanese blues band, Pink Magnolia – in its tradition of increasing the Coast’s exposure to all sorts of blues music.
According to Loya, the 100 Men Hall will release a vinyl LP at the end of May (yes, vinyl!) featuring seven songs recorded live at the Hall in the past three years. With the assistance of a grant from the Mississippi Development Authority/Tourism, the album will be released in a tri-fold cover with original cover art, liner notes and photography from local artists. Loya said that there is already a waiting list for the LP. The 100 Men Hall is planning a listening/premiere party in conjunction with the record release (come back to the Cleaver for more news about that event!) For more information, or to purchase the LP, contact Kerrie Loya at Kerrie@100menhall.org.
Read Part 2! Karen follows the Blues Trail across the bridge to Pass Christian, Gulfport, Biloxi and beyond!
Hancock Medical's Tom Carlton nourishes a muse - with the help of a Rock Star Friend
A Musical Journey
by Tom Carlton
photos by Ellis Anderson
The Shoofly is sponsored by
When I was a kid in the 1970s, I had to make choices of participation. We couldn’t do every activity we wanted to do. I think parents were different then and didn’t cater to our every whim.
I loved and played sports early on growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, and was indoctrinated into ethnocentric sports fandom – including St. Louis Cardinals baseball, St. Louis Cardinals football and St. Louis Blues hockey. Two of the three are still ingrained in me today. Of course I had to switch out the Football Cardinals to the New Orleans Saints. I’m sure you understand.
When it was time for high school, it was time to pick new friends and define my environment. The groups were varied…there were the athletes, the book smart kids, the popular kids, the artists and the stoners. A person could navigate the different groups, but for comfort sake, you picked one in which to belong. I suppose kids are still doing the same today.
That being said, there is probably something inside everyone of us that lays dormant. For me, it raised its head every now and then….playing Beatles’ records my three older sisters had laying around or hanging with my older brother who fronted a garage band. Then in 1978, at the impressionable age of 16, I saw Bruce Springsteen for the first time at the 2,000-seat Kiel Opera House in St. Louis. That was my first concert ever thanks to my older brother. It was eye-opening. The Boss takes no prisoners and my imagination was forever alive with the sound of music.
Ignoring my artistic inclinations and continuing to hang with sports-minded people in college, I managed to meet one guy who played piano. We sang Squeeze and Beatles songs for fun. I specifically remember taking McCartney’s high harmonies on “If I Fell“ and feeling a certain tug. The artist in me was beginning to make some noise. Thank God I discovered a creative writing outlet at Mizzou, a university renowned for its Journalism School.
When I graduated, I was thrust into the real world where I reported, wrote, and marketed and eventually found my way to Mississippi. It was here that I finally bought a guitar in 1993. The guitar sat idol as a decorative item for about a decade in my various South Mississippi living spaces. Then, as a new millennium began, I met my RSF (Rock Star Friend) and my world changed.
I walked into a Mississippi Gulf Coast nightclub to see what the “buzz” was about surrounding singer-songwriter Rochelle Harper. A handful of people were scattered about the room and when the music started, a performance erupted -- no matter that there were only about 10 of us in the room. I remember a feeling in my bones that this was something special. Darned if it wasn’t the same feeling I had when I first saw Springsteen.
So yes, in 2001, I discovered my own local music scene Jon Landeau and its name was the Rochelle Harper Band. I took in every RHB performance – not some performances, I’m talking all performances…from the beginnings of The Shed Barbecue Joint to the comings and goings of Mallini’s Point Lounge and Hurricane Cove to the Casino stages, to ballrooms, to classrooms, to festivals, to children’s hospitals, to charitable causes, to the Blue Gill in Alabama, to unplugged acoustic performances at the Julep Room, to live performances on WCPR’s Home Grown show, to BridgeFests and BayFests to the annual Christmas party at the Bay St. Louis residence of Lee and Liz Bosarge and on and on.…so I witnessed literally hundreds of performances. This was easily the busiest and hardest working band on the Coast and I decided to get involved.
story continued below
Listen and buy Rochelle's new album "Lilt" from I-Tunes now!
For about 10 years I made bootleg recordings, snapped countless photos, wrote promotion for the band and made videos back in the days when film still had to be bought and developed. I thought I might as well document it all, since I was there anyway. That got expensive because I was always in search of an iconic Janis Joplin-like photo of this dynamic performer who was presenting theater-worthy shows basically for free in my own backyard.
I never did capture that iconic photo, but I’ve seen plenty of great photos of Harper and the band by fantastic photographers, especially since we ushered in the digital age. The only thing that surpasses the number of shows performed by Rochelle Harper is the number of photographs snapped of Rochelle Harper. Some are amazing photos that capture the dynamic, the charismatic, and the energetic essence of my RSF.
So you see, after forty years alive on planet earth, I finally discovered that artistic friend that motivated and encouraged me to pick up my guitar and play. Through her encouragement and a certain muse, I finally put music to all the words I had written over the years and discovered that I have an ability for coming up with melodies.
Who knew? I guess that’s the result of a life that spans the history of rock n’ roll and listening to most of it. Writing songs for me now is an important part of my life and I like it a whole lot better than keeping journals. All it took was three chords and the truth (and some encouragement from an RSF).
Down the Road...
I was lucky enough to witness Rochelle’s showcase in Nashville this past September as Moonwatcher Records released her first professionally recorded studio CD. I was up to my old tricks, documenting the showcase performance via iPad video and uploading on facebook. It was exciting to experience.
The CD is “Lilt” and contains eight original compositions, a classic Bobbie Gentry cover and songs written by record producer Joe Taylor and hit songwriter Rob Crosby. I enjoyed writing one of the first record reviews for the production (see below) and I plan to continue contributing promotion as Rochelle’s musical journey continues.
As for my late budding musical itch, I scratch away with my guitar in hand and it feels real good! Thanks RSF.
See y’all down the road.
Review of "Lilt"
by Tom Carlton
“Lilt” is a labor of love, the culmination of a 10-year musical journey for American singer-songwriter Rochelle Harper.
The cover art for the project tells you all you need to know about the artist – lean and committed -bringing it every time she steps on stage in the tradition of classic rock heroes – from Janis to Bruce. Rochelle Harper is not afraid to let people see her sweat. Her lilt is as Southern as an ice cold glass of sweet tea, but there’s a whole lot of lovin’ grit and peaceful determination in her heart.
This Mississippi artist delivers the past, present and future with honesty and respect, singing her original home-spun songs and energizing fans with a heart on fire…proudly representing her sweet home Alabama and the strong roots that have taken hold in the rich soil of Mississippi, home of the Delta Blues.
Yes it’s true…Rochelle Harper sings out with a distinct Southern lilt -- songs that tell stories forged from a burning heart. Her passion for the soul of a song is imminent and her enthusiasm connects with audiences, one by one.
Fans in South Mississippi know the passion of Rochelle Harper. In her neck of the woods, she has been called “The Hippie Chick.” Her mantra is “Peace Within Music.” Her signature venue is “The Shed” barbecue joint. Her fans are young and old. And now the world can hear, thanks to the first studio produced record by Grammy-nominated musician Joe Taylor.
Like the artist, this collection of songs is lean and strong, emotional and true, grounded in love and soaring with hope.
Can you imagine love? That’s what this record wants to do. That’s what this record does.
"Lilt" is available on I-Tunes or Amazon.com
of the Shoofly
Across The Bridge
At Home In The Bay
Beach To Bayou
BSL Council Updates
Casting My Net
Coast Lines Column
Friends Of The Animal Shelter
Growing Up Downtown
House And Garden
Legends And Legacies
Mother Of Pearl
Murphy's Musical Notes
Old Town Merchants
On The Shoofly
Shore Thing Fishing Report
Talk Of The Town
The Eyes Have It