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Author: Subject: New Orleans- Interview With George Porter Jr. About Upcoming 60th B-day Jam, New Music Coming, and M

Zen Peach

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  posted on 12/22/2007 at 05:41 PM
Today was a good day, as my New Orleans peeps came through for me. This morning I get the mail and amongst the letters is a care package from PattyG filled full of New Orleans-related items that she found on her recent trip back to the Crescent City. From a very cool book on New Orleans jazz to an authentic Praline, it was another cool package to open. Whether Patty visited my friends at the Tropical Isle on Bourbon Street, I don't know yet. Hopefully so. Thank you, Patty.

New Orleans will apparently be rocking this year end as Dr. John will be playing a couple of nights at the House of Blues after Christmas followed by a New Year's Eve jam by Buddy Guy there as well.

In the same stack of mail I get a cool-looking post card from George Porter Jr., Russell Batiste, and Brian Stoltz of PBS letting me know that new music is coming in 2008.

Then, I walk over to the computer and find an excellent interview today with George Porter Jr. where he discusses it all, life, music, love, fighting addiction, and pushing the Funk forward. Porter, of course, was an original and current member of the Meters, as well as his band the Runnin' Pardners, appeared on the Gov't Mule CD, and the surging funk outfit PBS. Check it out;

quote: e.html

Get down and funky with George Porter Jr. on his 60th birthday

December 21, 2007 5:00AM

On Wednesday at the Howlin' Wolf, George Porter Jr. will celebrate his his 60th birthday and 21st year of sobriety with "Celebration of a Lifetime: The Man and His Music." Expected guests include his PBS bandmates and members of Bonerama and Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk. Fans are flying in from as far away as Hawaii.

For four decades, George Porter Jr. has guarded the Big Easy's groove.

The bassist first joined producer Allen Toussaint's potent mid-'60s studio band as a teenager. That unit evolved into the Meters, the ultimate New Orleans funk band. Post-Meters, Porter has recorded or toured with everyone from Tori Amos to Jimmy Buffett to former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne.

His own bands include the horn-heavy Runnin' Pardners and PBS, his ongoing collaboration with drummer Russell Batiste and guitarist Brian Stoltz. Porter and Batiste still perform occasionally with keyboardist Art Neville and Neville's guitarist son, Ian, as the Funky Meters.

After a brief but lucrative reunion of the original Meters burned itself out last year, Porter is focused on PBS. He hopes to put out a PBS album before Jazzfest. Porter's most recent solo album, "It's Life," features new and old songs, including "I Get High," a cover dating back to Porter's earliest band, Joyride.

The consummate working musician, he pops up all over town, from the Maple Leaf on Thursdays with drummer Johnny Vidacovich's Trio to wherever guitar wizard Snooks Eaglin happens to be.

Porter and his second wife, the former Ara Hawkins, have been married for 41 years. After Hurricane Katrina, they rebuilt their flooded Carrollton home. Their adult daughter, Katrina, lives next door.

On Wednesday at the Howlin' Wolf, Porter marks his 60th birthday and 21st year of sobriety with "Celebration of a Lifetime: The Man and His Music." Expected guests include his PBS bandmates and members of Bonerama and Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk. Fans are flying in from as far away as Hawaii.

Porter checked in recently from a PBS tour stop outside Jacksonville, Fla.

So most of your creative energies these days are devoted to PBS.

My creative energies, performance-wise, are pretty much PBS. There are a few Funky Meters dates coming up next year, but probably no more than 10 or 12. Frankly speaking, it's more advantageous to put 100 percent into this band. And it's not a bad band to put all your energies into.

You're also writing material for a new Snooks Eaglin record.

It's not a traditional Snooks record. I wrote the music originally for (tenor saxophonist) David Lastie. Then he passed away, so this music has sat around for years. A lot of it had a bebop, swing feel. I'm rewriting it to fit Snooks. I'm taking it out of the bebop jazz world and bringing it more into the R&B and blues world for Snooks.

I'm going to bring Snooks in to write (parts), so he will have a catalog of songs with his name on it. His music library right now consists of recording everybody and their grandma's songs; there's nothing out there that Snooks wrote or co-wrote. I'd like to see Snooks have a record that's not the human jukebox, because there's more to Snooks than that.

I wish I could have gotten around to doing this music with David Lastie. But you can't keep people on the earth longer than God wants 'em.

He's let you stick around for 60 years.

Against most odds, for someone who, for damn near the first two-thirds of his life, tried to kill himself unintentionally. I'm very happy. I'm in my 21st year of sobriety and 41st year of marriage.

In other words, your wife endured 20 tough years before you got sober.

She did. She's more of a survivor than I am.

What finally got you sober?

One Sunday morning after a long weekend of hitting it hard, I came home and I was out of my mind. The only thing I can remember was Ara telling Katrina, "C'mon, Katrina, let's go." I assumed that she had had enough and was leaving me. When she came back, she found me on the floor crying and begging for help. She called my mama and they came and got me and took me straight to Bowling Green (treatment center) in Mandeville. I did a six-week program, and haven't relapsed at all.

Drugs were such a huge part of the music scene in the 1960s and '70s. Was it inevitable that you would get caught up?

When I was a kid, drugs and alcohol were just a part of what we did as musicians. I didn't see as much cocaine around the Dew Drop Inn as alcohol and marijuana. That was the early '60s. But when the '70s rolled around and I got introduced to acid, and then cocaine came into play -- being an addictive person like I was, it was only natural that I was going to graduate.

And more than most people, I took my getting high very seriously. I needed to have the best stuff. That may have had a lot to do with why, when I went into treatment and did the medical examination, they said my kidneys and everything were in good condition for the amount of drugs I was doing. I'm not bragging, but it was a fact -- I didn't do junk. I was a connoisseur, but nevertheless a junkie.

Drugs played a role in why the Meters fell apart in the late '70s.

I protected my high more than the band. By protecting my high, I let the band slip through my fingers. When I saw things that were detrimental to the band, instead of arguing about it, I let it go. I was an absentee player.

Years ago, you told a story about coming back from a tour with the Meters late one night and seeing a bear on Haynes Boulevard in eastern New Orleans. Do you still believe you really saw a bear?

(Laughs) I did! I'm gonna stand by that until the day I die. It doesn't matter how much acid was in my brain. I saw that bear.

How has your relationship with Art Neville changed over the years?

It depends on what day he wakes up on. It's a love misunderstanding. We argue, but we don't fight. We get it off our chest and move on. There's got to be something more to relationships than not getting past problems. We've been able to figure that out better than most.

The four original Meters reunited for the 2005 Jazzfest, played periodic shows for tens of thousands of dollars apiece, then disbanded again. Was that brief reunion the most lucrative period in the history of the Meters?

Absolutely. It's unfortunate that it didn't last as long as the money. (Laughs)

Were you surprised by how much you guys could make?

It proved that the demand was out there. But just like most projects, there was too much "more me" than "more us." That is always the determining factor of how long a band will exist.

You're finally receiving proper royalties for the old Meters recordings.

We started getting paid probably 10 years ago when Art, (guitarist) Leo Nocentelli and myself settled our differences with Marshall Sehorn (Allen Toussaint's business partner in the 1960s and '70s). He released his publishing catalogs (which held the rights to many Meters songs). That's when Sundazed Records re-released our original Warner Bros. albums. At that point, bills started getting paid.

So whenever rappers sample those song, you get royalties.

The rappers that actually license them. There are a few artists that have put out stuff and hijacked us. I don't listen to that stuff, so I don't have a single favorite sample -- whatever one's paid me the most.

Sometimes they are big checks, sometimes they are not. But they seem to always come when they're needed. We got no Road Home money -- we did everything out of our own bank account, so we beat the hell out of our savings. Ara got really upset about it.

Then one day she opened the mailbox and there was a nice (royalty) check. She walked out of the dining room with a frown on her face, and she walked back in with a smile. Only thing I could come up with was, "Must have been a check." (Laughs)

At 60, are you satisfied with your life so far?

I've rarely ever complained about where I was in life. I figured that there was a bigger picture that I didn't see anyway. So I was always very happy with how I was living. Even when I was drugged out and messed up, I didn't worry about how bad I was until I thought it was getting ready to destroy my home life. The fact that I was about to lose my wife and daughter -- that got me sober. At some point I found that there was something more important than getting high.

I never whined about, "Well, I don't have this or that." We always knew how to make what we had work. In the '60s, me and Ara stayed on Baronne Street before Katrina was born. It was just me, Ara and a dog. I'd play these little gigs that were only paying $15 a night. I'd come home with $30 on Sunday, and we would go to Krystal burger on St. Charles Avenue and for $3 get a dozen hamburgers. We'd eat that, and give the dog a couple. That's what we had, so that's what we did. We grew into more.

Ara has been the foundation that keeps me centered. I don't think I'd be here if it wasn't for the fact that she's been such a strong person that wasn't afraid to whip my butt if I got too far out of line.

Sounds like you should be having this party for her.

She won't allow it. (Laughs)

What: George Porter Jr. marks his 60th birthday and 21st year of sobriety with a funky concert, featuring members of Bonerama and Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk, Russell Batiste, Brian Stoltz, Tony Hall and other guests.
When: Wednesday at 8 p.m.
Where: Howlin' Wolf, 907 S. Peters St., (504)522-WOLF,
Tickets: $20 and includes buffet dinner from Jacques-Imo's & Mulate's.

[Edited on 12/22/2007 by DerekFromCincinnati]

[Edited on 12/22/2007 by DerekFromCincinnati]



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Peach Master

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  posted on 12/23/2007 at 11:19 AM
The NYC show of this band follows the 12/29 Mule show. I want to go, but my friends think it's too late. Who's going?


When I see you sitting 'cross the room, beautiful as a flowers bloom...


Extreme Peach

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  posted on 12/23/2007 at 12:27 PM
The NYC show of this band follows the 12/29 Mule show. I want to go, but my friends think it's too late. Who's going?

After the post-party was announced, I decided I HAD to travel to NYC to see Mule/PBS. I picked up my tickets at Irviing Plaza box office when I was in the city with my wife last week: $25 each so no crazy ticketmaster fees.
Every year at Jazzfest, for the last 5 years or so, 2nd Weekend Thursday night is Jamakazee at The Howlin' Wolf in the Warehouse District. Its a CRAZY funk jam that goes into the wee hours featuring George Porter, members of Dumpstaphunk, Eric Krasno of Soulive, pure funk insanity. With Greyboy and Soulive at Nokia the same night, I forsee a bunch of those guys getting into the mix. I'm hoping Mule makes an appearance as well.
It is going to be a LATE night for sure, but I'm going to try to get a good night's rest the night before, drink some coffee and take in the FUNK after Mule.


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