When visiting New Orleans, music is usually on the list or at the top of “things to do.” For many locals, music is the compass by which they guide their social lives. There have been so many clubs and music venues, each with a unique piece of history that helps weave the larger picture of New Orleans music history. Some of these clubs became sanctuaries or temples for music. Everyone knew if you were going to one of these clubs, you were in for a one of a kind musical experience. One of these music temples has been accepting new disciplines of music since the late 70’s: Tipitina’s.
Located at 501 Napoleon on the corner of Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas, Tipitina’s has been a place where musicians and listeners come to celebrate music. The club had its humble beginnings as juke joint started by 14 music lovers know as “The Fabulous 14.” The 14 had come together to create a place for the great pianist Professor Longhair, so he would have a place to play in the twilight of his life. If you are not familiar with Professor Longhair, he is one of New Orleans most revered pianists. Longhair’s style of playing merged the different styles of R&B, boogie-woogie and The rhythms of Rhumba creating an infectious new style of music that has become one of the calling cards of New Orleans music. Check out Longhair’s recording “Crawfish Fiesta,” to hear his distinctive style of playing. The name Tipitina’s is named after Longhair’s most iconic and enigmatic songs “Tipitina.” Tipitina’s (Tips) originally consisted of a restaurant, juice bar and traditional bar with spirits. The juice bar and restaurant have faded away and the only remnants of the juice bar is a hand holding a banana in Tips logo.
Tip’s has become a home for so many musicians because it is always a party, with shows sometimes going until sunrise because everyone was grooving. Tip’s closed for a brief time in 1984 but quickly re-opened and has remained open. The owners have changed over the years and the current owners who took over this year are the funk/rock group Galactic.
Tip’s has a distinctive feel and energy that becomes apparent as soon as one steps inside the building. One of the first sights is a bust of Professor Longhair sculpted by the spiritual bluesman Coco Robicheaux. Many folks place their hand on the sculpture and say a prayer to awaken the musical spirits for the evening’s performance. Tip’s reputation has reached far beyond New Orleans with many bands making the pilgrimmage to the Crescent City to play a show at the legendary Tips. Several New Orleans artists have annual shows each year at Tips because there is no place else like it. Anders Osborne 8th annual holiday special is December 20 and 21st. The Radiators continue to do a three night run at the beginning of each year, and Tips has a special show Homegrown Fridays, a free show highlighting some of New Orleans up and coming bands. Even the radio station WWOZ started in one of the original apartments above the club, sometimes even sticking the microphone through the ceiling to catch a performance.
If you are visiting New Orleans, check out Tips’s music calendar or visit the livewire on WWOZ to get a listing of who is going to be performing at Tipitina’s. Make a journey to check out a show, or if you can’t make it to a show, take a tour of the club, and feel the magic of New Orleans, concentrated into one place, a holy ground for New Orleans music.