Leigh "L'il Queenie" Harris
"My Darlin' New Orleans" (Cuccia-Neville-McLean)
L'il Queenie And The Percolators, Great Southern, c. 1988, orginally on Ignant, c. 1981
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This one was suggested by my wife today. It’s one her favorite songs about New Orleans, and one of mine, too. I actually have two versions. The original appearance of the song was on an album, Ron Cuccia And The Jazz Poetry Group, that came out in 1979. It was a recording of a concert done by the group at the Community Arts Center in New Orleans the previous year. Cuccia led the group and would either just rap his poetic lyrics in a Southern drawl over the instrumental backing from Ricky Sebastian on drums, Ramsey McLean on bass, John Magnie on keys, and Charles Neville on sax, or have Magnie and/or Leigh “Lil Queenie” Harris sing them. It’s a pretty good record of one of the interesting musical combinations going on in the city at that time. Anyway, Cuccia wrote the lyrics to the tune, and Neville and McLean composed the music.
This version of “My Darlin’ New Orleans” was recorded by Harris and her band, L’il Queenie and the Percolators, around 1981 on the obscure Ignant label. The 45 I have is a reissue of that by Great Southern around 1988. For more on this outstanding band that was very popular locally and regionally, but only put out this one single, check out that link I just gave you. My copy of the 45 and its cool sleeve are in storage; and things have been too chaotic here for me to go out and dig for it. So, I am relying on memory for all the players. Correct me if I am wrong. On drums is the great Kenny Blevins from Lake Charles, who went on to be a part of the Goners rhythm section, backing Sonny Landreth for years, including when Landreth backed John Hiatt. I think Ricky Cortes is on bass here. Magnie, who co-founded the group with Harris, plays keyboards. On guitar at the time of this record is Tommy Malone. After the Percolators broke up around 1983, Magnie and Malone formed the original Continental Drifters, and then the legendary Subdudes. As I recall, Fred Kemp, who played sax for Fats Domino for many years, did the solo on this tune. All in all, this is a historic little outfit and a groovin’, good time tribute to some of the idiosyncracies that make the Crescent City unique and sorely missed already.
Miraculously, this song was reissued on CD as part of the huge four volume compilation, Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol’ Box Of New Orleans. If you want one diverse collection of New Orleans music mixed up in no particular order, grab it. I have just about everything on it, but you might not. (Note 09/05/2005, Shout Factory is donating proceeds of this set to disaster relief, accoring to the Gumbo Pages) As we all sadly survey the aftermath of Katrina, I think “My Darlin’ New Orleans” should be in our arsenal of feel good music from back in da day. Thanks, honey, for reminding me. You’re so good at that.
Great Southern 45 sleeve