Who Dats @ Da Mardi Gras. . . & Everywhere
Back in 1983, two New Orleans musicians, Carlo Nuccio and Steve Monistere conspired to make a Saints' rally song based around a chant they heard a local high school marching band doing, "Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say they gonna beat them Saints?" They wrote it using the music of the traditional jazz standard, "When The Saints Go Marching In", which conveniently is Public Domain, and recruited jazz pianist David Torkanowsky to play and round up other local musicians for the session - Nuccio was the drummer. For the vocalist, they snagged the great Aaron Neville. You can read the whole story at Offbeat. But, to sum up, the 45 was a local sensation and has spawned an entire Who Dat Nation over the years. So, this season, they did an updated version, "Glory Bound", when the team appeared to be indeed headed that direction.
Not mentioned in the article was a second 45 Monistere (and maybe Nuccio - not sure) produced in 1987 with Neville again on vocal, "Who Dat? (The History Of the Saints)". Released on the Who Dat? label, it obviously fared about as well as the Saints themselves in those days. Also that year, Moinstere released an even more obscure Mardi Gras record on Who Dat?, which I also ran across in my collection recently - something I picked up years ago on one of my audio excavation junkets. So I thought I'd dust it off and give it a spin. For lagniappe, I'm tossing in a Mardi Gras-related track Kent cut around the same time for a different project. I'll be back soon with some more musical throws for Carnival.
Who Dat Super Bowl followed by Who Dat World Mardi Gras, 2010 are comin'. Won't be long. Better get ready.
"Who Dat At The Mardi Gras" (S. Monistere)
Luther Kent, Who Dat?, 1987
Luther Kent has been recording and getting paid to sing in New Orleans and beyond, since his early teens. As powerful as his big, rough and tumble vocal instrument is, it has never gained Luther entry into the mainstream of the music business, for better or worse, depending on your perspective. Not that it wasn't possible. He toured as lead singer with Blood, Sweat and Tears back in the 1970s, but couldn't record with them due to contractual problems with another label. Such is da music bidniz. He has always been an engaging, popular live performer on the home front, especially surrounded and augmented by his horn-heavy band, Trick Bag, which has had many great players since its inception in the late 1970s.
Thus, Mr. Kent was a good choice for the vocal duties on this addition to the Mardi Gras song canon. Though certainly not up there with the perennial standards of the season, you can still pass a good time listening to his warm, friendly vocal , as he bounced along on this (big) easy-going groover.
Of general note is the song's reference to the people of New Orleans as Who Dats, which may have been slow to catch on, but has finally become an all encompassing reality at home and everywhere there are fans of the Saints and the city. Also, for you legal scholars, in light of the NFL's recent and seemingly futile attempt to claim the term Who Dat ? on merchandise as their own, I refer your gaze to the label of this record, which shows a trademark symbol dated 1983, 1987 under the WHO DAT? logo. Dem pro-football bigwigs are about 30 years too late!
"Sweet Memories" (Luther Kent)
Luther Kent & Trick Bag, from It's In The Bag, Renegade Records, 1987
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I think this mostly forgotten, long out of print album, which came out on CD in the late 1980s, had a limited release on vinyl several years earlier. If I have a copy of the LP, I cant' find it at the moment. "Sweet Memories" just came to mind as I was writing up Luther's Who Dat? record; so I had to pull it out. If you can find a copy of It's In The Bag, I recommend it, as the singing, playing and arranging are excellent, although the band's true dynamics were hard to capture in the studio. Luther's bandleader for many years up until his passing, face-making guitarist Charlie Brent, was musical director/arranger on the session, including the fine horn charts; and he was responsible for the hip, tight, high energy music of Kent's stage shows, as well.
Although there are scant session credits on the CD, you can be sure Brent was on guitar; and I would venture that the late Big Jonn Thomassie, one of the New Orleans greats, played drums, as he was in Trick Bag for many years, too. I note that two of the songs on the album were co-written with Wayne Devillier , an outstanding New Orleans area keyboardist who spent a lot of time from the late 1960s into at least the 1970s on the West Coast. He played with Thomassie in a short-lived soul-funk band out there, Sweet Salvation, which I featured here back in 2005. So, I'm wondering if Devillier might have been radiatin' da 88's on It's In The Bag.
Since back before this album came out, I have tried to catch Luther and band as much as possible. Though Big John and Charlie are gone, Kent and Trick Bag abide, cool dudes that they are. Another CD I recommend, displaying the old band in their element, is Luther Kent & Trick Bag Live, from 1997; and check out Luther's latest achievement, The Bobby Bland Songbook, with arrangements by Wardell Quezergue. 'Nuff said.
After the nightmares of the past few years, from the Corps of Engineers' Katrina disaster of ineptitude to the botched recovery and clueless governmental meanderings*, New Orleans needs all the sweet memories it can muster; and the Super Bowl, anyway you slice it, will be one of 'em. Geaux Saints! It's now a Who Dat Universe!
*Hope we've turned a big corner today - congratulations New Orleans and Mayor-elect Landrieu!!! Let's stay fired up!