Airs Friday, February 28 at 9 p.m. Crescent City Blues takes listeners to the hidden world of New Orleans corner joints—bars far from the French Quarter, in neighborhoods like Central City, Treme, and Pigeontown. These clubs, patronized almost entirely by locals, nurture a resilient blues and rhythm-and-blues scene that is often overshadowed by the Crescent City’s legacy as a jazz town. They are an essential part of New Orleans’ cultural history, but they are struggling—because of the recession, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and potentially the BP oil spill.
This hour-long music-rich documentary features four talented musicians: Tommy Singleton, a vocalist who until recently drove an oyster truck for a living; John T. Lewis, a former appliance repairman who now plays R&B guitar full-time; Ernie Vincent, a bandleader and guitarist who learned to play at the neighborhood fish fries of his childhood; and Deacon John Moore, a bandleader and guitarist who played on hundreds of R&B recordings in the 1950s and ’60s. Also interviewed are bar owners Betty Fox (Mother-in-Law Lounge) and Guitar Joe Daniels (Guitar Joe’s House of Blues), along with other veterans of the city’s music scene.
The program takes readers back into history. They’ll visit bars like the Dew Drop Inn, with its female impersonators and all-night jam sessions, the Green Room, with its smells of spilled liquor and spittoons; and the Sportsman’s Lounge, where an underaged Deacon John witnessed police raids and back-room gambling.
Crescent City Blues is the second of a two-part series, called “Still Singing the Blues,” about older musicians in New Orleans and South Louisiana. Part 1, also called Still Singing the Blues, was released in June. The two hours can be broadcast separately and independently. Accompanying this series is a web site, http://stillsingingtheblues.org, which features additional audio clips, photographs, a blog, and links for readers who want to obtain CDs, find music venues, and learn more about non-profit organizations that promote Louisiana's music and support its musicians. The producers will add audio and photos to the site throughout the coming year.
Producers Richard Ziglar and Barry Yeoman have been interviewing older Southern blues and R&B musicians for the almost two years. Their first blues documentary, Truckin' My Blues Away, was commissioned and distributed by AARP's Prime Time Radio and broadcast on 340 stations.