January 05, 2006

A Golden Crown For Twelfth Night

"Big Chief Got A Golden Crown" (George Landry)
Wild Tchoupitoulas, Island 054, 1976

Mardi Gras' comin' and it won't be long. . . .

January 6th, Twelfth Night, aka The Epiphany, is the traditional start to the festive Carnival season, which ends, of course, with the big celebration on Mardi Gras, after which Lent begins. So, I thought I'd do my part here to get in the spirit at HOTG by pulling out this well-played Wild Tchoupitoulas side, the flip of "Meet Me (The) Boys On The Battle Front", taken from the classic album, The Wild Tchoupitoulas. I've reworked this piece from my post on the album from last year.

Even though this 1976 collaboration between
the Meters, the Neville brothers (Art, Charles, Cyril and Aaron), and the Wild Tchoupitoulas came out after the Wild Magnolias' two earlier groundbreaking albums, which combined Mardi Gras Indian music with New Orleans funk, The Wild Tchoupitoulas became much more well-known, mainly because of the musicians playing on it. Allen Toussaint and his long-time business partner, Marshall Sehorn, are credited as producers, since they supplied Sea-Saint Studio for recording and made the deal with Island Records; but, Art Neville and his brother, Charles, put together the sessions and arranged the tunes. Of course, Art and other brother Cyril Neville were in the Meters at the time, as the Neville Brothers band had yet to form. In reality, this was the first time all the brothers had ever recorded together. Making this album together planted the seed that grew into their own band after the Meters fell apart.

“Big Chief Got A Golden Crown” features on lead vocal George Landry, aka Big Chief Jolly of the Wild Tchoupitoulas from Uptown New Orleans, who was the Neville brothers’ uncle and a big inspiration to them. Most of the tracks are his compositions, based on traditional Mardi Gras Indian songs and featuring their often cryptic chants combining words from various languages of their heritage. With a groove that’s guaranteed to make you move, our feature goes back to the days when African-American groups masking as Indians actually did injury-causing battle with each other as they’d meet on the streets Mardi Gras day. By the 1950’s, those conflicts had become ritualized competitions between “tribes” to see who could make and display the most elaborate, beautiful suits (costumes). But, in their songs you will still hear references to “gangs”, “the battleground”, “won't bow down”, “get the hell out the way”, and other confrontational subject matter. A culturally vital, but unofficial, part of Mardi Gras in the streets of their neighborhoods, the Mardi Gras Indians, once considered troublemakers by the police (and some frightened residents), continually encountered resistance from authorities to their parading and the large crowds that gathered to watch them work their magic. Now, in post-diluvian New Orlenas, this tradition may die out, as its neighborhoods have been destroyed.

Musical backing on the record is provided by the Meters along with the Nevilles, plus Teddy Royal doing some additional guitar. Big Chief Jolly does most of the singing, with Cyril taking his song, "Brother John"; and the ensemble vocals include the brothers, Willie Harper, plus the actual members of the chief's tribe. The arrangements and grooves are funky but lighter than what Willie Tee did for the Wild Magnolias, lending a unique character to the project, colored by Africa and the Caribbean, that resonates with New Orleans cultural history.
The Wild Tchoupitoulas on CD is fairly easy to find, and really should be in any self-respecting New Orleans funk collection.

Mardi Gras Indian Tradition (lots of typos, but still OK)
More on Indian culture

Wild Tchoupitoulas, Uptown Rulers, 13th Ward


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for this wonderful music! Long live New Orleans!

8:03 PM, January 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

San Franciscans that want this on vinyl should go to Amoeba records where there are about 5 of them for about 2 dollars a piece.

9:43 PM, January 06, 2006  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

You're welcome

And, wow, long live Amoeba!

12:02 AM, January 07, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy, The Wild Tchoupitoulas LP was one I purchased long, long ago and played many times. I especially enjoyed playing cuts from it when I was a D.J. at the Mississippi State University student-run radio station back in the early 80's. I definitely had to get (and eventually did get) the CD release of this album many years later.

12:31 PM, January 10, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for your site and for helping keep this music alive. I was listening to the Wild Tchopitoulas tonight and went searching for lyrics -- which I could not find -- so here, in honor of Mardi Gras, 2 of my favorite songs ("Golden Crown" will take a little longer -- northern ears!) . If anybody can correct or fill in, I would be happy to know the right words, thanks and God Bless New Orleans -- emily xyz

LYRICS TO "BROTHER JOHN" and "MEET THE BOYS" by the Wild Tchopetoulas

Brother John Is Gone

Jackomo feena hey – Jackomo feena hey
well baby you don't like what the big chief say you just
Jackomo feena hey

Well my brother, brother, brother John is gone
Hey now, hey now, brother John is gone

Well I remember the morning, remember it well
[brother John is gone]
Well I remember the morning my brother John fell
[brother John is gone]
Well I tol' her(?) he died on the battlefield
[brother John is gone]
and the rest of his gang won't bow they won't kneel

talkin 'bout brother, brother, brother John is gone

He set a mighty good (?) fire on Mardi Gras day
[brother John is gone]
and whoever wasn' ready had to get out the way
He was a mighty brave with a heart of steel
[brother John is gone]
he never would bow and he never would kneel

Brother, brother, brother John is gone

Sing about brother, brother, brother John is gone

He had a mighty coody (?) fire on Mardi Gras day
[brother John is gone]
and whoever wasn' ready had to get out the way
He was a mighty mighty brave and he sang his song
[brother John is gone]
that's why his gang's still to carry on
[brother John is gone]

Let's still sing about brother, brother, brother John is gone
Brother, brother, brother John is gone
Keep on singin about brother, brother, brother John is gone
Brother, brother, brother John is gone

Meet the Boys on the Battle Front

Meet the boys on the battle front
Meet the boys on the battle front
Meet the boys on the battle front
for the Wild Tchopetoulas gonna stomp some rump!

Well the prettiest little thing that I ever see
Mardi Gras Indians down in New Orleans
Sewed all night and he sewed all day
Mardi Gras morning, went all the way!

Meet the boys on the battle front...

Indians comin' from all over town
Big Chief singin, gonna take 'em down
Jackeemo feeno elaa hey
Indians are rulers on the holiday

Meet the boys on the battle front...

Mardi Gras morning, won't be long
Gonna play Indian, gonna carry on
Maskers runnin' up and down the avenue [holler]
"Here come the Indians, let 'em through!"

Meet the boys on the battle front...

I'm a Indian ruler from the 13 Ward
[ ?? patois]
I walk through fire an' I smash through mud,
Snatch the feathers from a eagle, drank panther blood

Meet the boys on the battle front...

Got a itty-bitty spy got a heart of steel
Shank won't get you his hatchet will
Gedde may hocko m'yoo na no [?? patois]
He shoot the gun in the jailhouse door

Meet the boys on the battle front...

I'll bring my gang all over town
Drink fire water till the sun go down
We get back home, we gonna kneel and pray
We had some fun on the holiday!

Meet the boys on the battle front...

11:11 PM, February 27, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah can't seem to find the definative lyrics either.
On Brother John [David Lindley version]:
1st Verse: "Cory" he died...
2nd Verse I have "He sang a mighty goo-d ??Vi-o?? on Mardi Gras Day" Spent an hour in a French English dictionary with no good results.

2:23 AM, May 09, 2006  

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