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New Orleans Music

It’s Carnival Time in New Orleans

If you go to New Orleans, you ought to go see the Mardi Gras. And it’s Carnival Time, and everybody’s havin’ fun! And you have to do the Mardi Gras Mambo. If you live in New Orleans or visit during Carnival, you cannot escape  hearing the basic soundtrack-these three songs are played on the radio and at parades constantly.  “Go to the Mardi Gras,” by Professor Longhair; “Mardi Gras Mambo,” by the Hawkettes; and “Carnival Time,” by Al “Carnival Time” Johnson. Of these, it’s interesting to know that Al Johnson, the pianist and singer who was born in 1939 and still looks closer to 50 than 72, wrote and recorded that incredibly catchy little tune when he was only 20. He walked into the legendary Cosimo Matassa’s studio (the place where Fats Domino’s hits were made) in December 1959, and producer Joe Ruffino recorded the song.  Its tricky first section still makes musicians who try to play it miserable, but it worked well enough to become a Mardi Gras anthem. It’s tricky because in the first section, right before the chord change, Al added an extra measure, tripping up the uninitiated musician.  Al still complains that often they don’t get it right. Doesn’t matter, it’s still eminently ear-worm material!

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