Every year on 24 February I think back to 1996 when I was in New Orleans for Mardi Gras with my friends Jeff and James. Jeff was the perfect person to guide two Gap year kids around the Crescent City. He'd lived there for years as a student, policeman, social worker and cook at the legendary club Tipitina's.
I remember being impressed that after our 14 hour drive from Charleston, SC, where we worked together, he swiftly found us a backstreet parking spot and led us immediately to a parade that had just begun.
Other memories: Zapps crisps, learning how to pronounce Tchoupitoulas, my first oyster po-boy at Uglesich's, going to WWOZ DJ the Governor's block party and later hearing his two-hour tribute to Fats Domino, drinking Dixie beer and eating Popeye's chicken, paying tribute to the infamous Chris Owens and catching a Zulu coconut.
I may have imagined this but I vaguely remember Jeff telling me that he served Professor Longhair his last meal at Tipitina's the night he died in 1980. I'm no expert but no one seems to embody the spirit of New Orleans' melting-pot music as much as Fess. These two tracks are from his 1978 concert at the New London Theatre - just the Prof at a grand piano accompanied by conga player Alfred 'Uganda' Roberts.
MP3: Professor Longhair - Go to Mardi Gras
MP3: Professor Longhair - Tipitina
More Fess: official site | Amazon | 7digital
A few years ago I asked Jeff to send me some recipes from his Tipitina days. After tips on how to make shrimp and andouille creole and a delicious crawfish étouffée he ended his email with this.
"It is Sam the bartender's recipe for sangria. It tastes like Kool-Aid going down, but drink enough and the next morning and you won't remember anything from the night before".
7½ shots grenadine
7½ shots sour mix
52½ shots orange juice
7½ shots soda water
2½ gallons burgundy wine
mix together in large container and refrigerate
If you're lucky enough to be in New Orleans this week have wonderful time. If not I hope these songs and two gallons of booze help conjure up what an incredible experience Mardi Gras is.