September 17, 2007

Saturday Night @ the Mother-in-Law Lounge

With a collectively full head of steam and bellies full of pork, we hit Ernie K-Doe's Mother-in-Law Lounge on Saturday night for the James "The Sleeping Giant" Winnfield show.

The Sleeping Giant gets his name from his relatively late arrival on the R&B scene. As the liner notes to his new album explain, James only brushed up against the on-stage fire in the glory days of the legendary Dew Drop Inn:

"'I was supposed to go on after Joe Tex,' laughed Winfield. 'This was when he did all those splits and tricks with the microphone stand. I ran into his dressing room after his show and said to him, "How can I go on after that?" He just said, "Go out there and do what you do best." So I did. I went home and went to bed!'"

A body and fender man who worked on cars with the great Lee Dorsey, the Sleeping Giant didn't get back into the game until his 50th birthday. Better late than never, though, as we found out when we played his new album, "Lonely, Lonely Nights" on the WTUL blues show this past Sunday. Local bluesman Jay Monque'D called up and informed me that he'd played the CD to friends all over Europe during a recent tour, and people really dug it.

Kim and I enjoyed ourselves royally at the Mother-in-Law, as we usually do. Much of the night was a fierce open mike/sparring session, as different singers took the mike in true Drop fashion, fronting a crack band through renditions of New Orleans R&B hits. One genre that's in danger of being forgotten, N.O. R&B spawned the early Rock n' Roll that began in this city. For a few hours there on Saturday night, that music was king again.

(Note: I'm a little hazy on some of the evening, but I'm certain that the band in the video is a scrambled, pick-up formation of the group that played that night. The Sleeping Giant, for instance, is on drums, and the bass player, who tours with Irma Thomas, was on the keyboard.)

I've been thinking a lot about R&B, and how, as certain pieces of the cultural puzzle are reoriented, we need to get stories straight and the light shining clearly and in the proper directions. New Orleans invented Rock n' Roll, and we oughta brush the dirt off those records and claim the title.

Getting to know someone who truly is getting his chance later in life left us with a hopeful note amid the daily chorus of discord and drama. Buy that album! The Sleeping Giant has awoken!