Tuesday, June 14, 2011

End of an Era: The Radiators and Fish Head Music make a last stand By Patty McGehee

All photos by Patty McGehee except the last one:

One cool Sunday night in the winter we drove  over to Lafayette to go to The Blue Moon Saloon to see The Radiators play one of the last shows that they were ever going to perform. They had been in the news and giving interviews telling the public that they were disbanding after all these years. Dan and I had been following them from way back when. We followed the musicians in their various groups BEFORE they had formed The Radiatiors. (Gosh, Dan  and I are getting old!)

On the long ride over we talked about our love of following the band members during their various incarnations:

Dan recalled following  them when they were The Dogs.  I don't recall The Dogs, but I followed  Dustwoofie around during my senior year of high school (1972) because my then boyfriend Phillip Richardson was in the band with Dave Malone.

I have vivid memories of Dustwoofie playing just before a concert at Tulane University to open for Chuck Berry. I was able to stand right in front of Chuck Berry and if I had wanted to, I could have reached forward and touched him because there was no stage. The band was set up at floor level against a wall.

I remember being impressed that Phillip was so talented. He was playing a steel pedal guitar in that band. He was a very good drummer as I recall and he played piano around his house just to please his mother. He had a sort of music studio set up in the above ground basement in his parents Old Metairie home. There was a drum kit, guitars, the steel pedal set up, and a kick ass stereo system down there.

Lots of jam sessions were held there. It is a great probability that Dave Malone was one of the musicians that jammed there.  I have no recollection of any of the names of the people now except one.  That is acoustic  guitar player/vocalist Garland Ogden. I got to know him very well because he was the boyfriend of my favorite friend, Wanda. Phillip went off to Austin Texas in 1973 to study music.  I lost track of him over the years. I believe I saw I him on Austin City Limits one time playing the  steel guitar backing up a woman vocalist. Garland is a policeman  these days.

I first saw The Rhapsodizers at Luigi's Pizza Parlor out near UNO on weekends when I went down to NOLA from Hammond where I was attending school at SLU. I was fascinated by Becky Kury, their Bass player. I started to look for their shows just to see Becky. I recall some shows at The Dream Palace. I went there with various dates, being more interested in the band than the boys I convinced to take me. Becky was so fascinating to watch.  When Dan and I got together, we went to see The Rhapsodizers at The Red Lion Tavern  in Hammond, La and at a "ain't dere no more" place in Abita Springs, La.  named "The Barn." It was close by where The Abita Brew Pub is now, as I recall. I was stunned and very unhappy to learn of Becky's death. She died of complications of her asthma. I walked around for about a week in shock. She was so alive and vibrant on  stage I could not imagine her being gone.

Four years after Dan and I got together, we moved to NOLA, got married,  and we spent a lot of time running around at The Maple Leaf, Tipitina's, The Dream Palace, and Jimmy's. By that time, The Rhapsodizers had disbanded and among lots of other performers, we saw The Radiators play a lot of gigs. Of course, we attended MOM'S Ball, also.This was the time of our lives when Dan and I seemed to dance together a lot and I have a lot of memories of us dancing to The Radiators. We were officially called "Fish heads " by our friends and of course were well versed in "The Laws Of The fish  philosophy:" Big fish eats little fish, so the little fish better run away or outsmart the big fish...... We spent Mardi Gras at The Dream Palace watching the band and all of the crazy goings on that went along with Mardi Gras back in those days.

Back to the show at The Blue Moon:
It was a very low key show for the Rad's that night. It was like being at a private party since The Blue Moon was filled up with only about 75 people.  The air was a bit damp and I found myself get very cold as the night went on. The band spent a lot of time hanging around  eating Jambalaya that was cooked in the kitchen. The show was sponsored by "Let's make it totally clear" and Dave Egan sneaked me out a bowl of it to to eat because I was starving.

Michael Juan Nunez
Dege Legg

Opening up for The Radiators was my good friend Michael Juan Nunez. He was  paired up for this gig with Dege Legg. They played an acoustic set that was astonishingly good. Right after they finished playing, Juan was headed out the door. I tried to get  him to stay, but he claimed that Sunday night at his home was special family time for Sunday dinner and he would not miss it for anything. His wife and girls were waiting dinner on him.

Catch Dege's latest news at  http://degeleggnews.blogspot.com/         
Catch Michael Juan Nunez at   http://www.michaeljuannunez.bandzoogle.com/fr_tae.cfm           

Talking with Frank:

We got to talk a while with Frank Bua about the band's breakup. He was sad that it was happening, but he assured us that he was not about to put up HIS drum sticks and he had every intention of forming some new venture as time passed, but at that point in time, he was unsure as to what that project would be. He said that Ed was just unable to continue. It was too exhausting for him at this point. I asked him to see that they played the song "Red dress." He said, "No way that's gonna happen. Ed hates to play that song." I said, "Well, then  that is a shame 'cause everyone LOVES it." He gave me a hug and then asked us to come visit his restaurant in Mandeville, La. "Man, I have the best food there. Ya'll come eat over there soon." He went on describing the menu and Dan promised to go one day soon.

Camille Boudoin and Dave Malon, Reggie Scanlan on Bass
Dave Malone and Frank Bua on drums

The Radiatiors put on a show that was probably the shortest Rads show ever played, but it was tight and clean. Dave did not seem to be enjoying it much. Frank smiled all night long. I especially loved when they played Dave's song,  "I don't speak Love," and "Where was you at?"  "Screwloose," was my favorite song of the night.  I did not leave disappointed. I had to work the next day so as soon as they stopped playing we had to get in the car and run for it.

His Holiness Ed Volker Preaches The Law Of The Fish at The Blue Moon Saloon

At Lafayette Square
Wednesday at The Square:

Later on in the Spring, at Wednesday At The Square, they put on an incredible show. It was a cool, rainy day and most people shunned WATS because they thought it was going to rain. It sprinkled a tiny bit but not enough to stop the show. We arrived early to put up some chairs. After being there for a short time, I realized I had under dressed and I was flat out cold. I was wearing flip flops, and a tank shirt.  I went back to the car and was happy to find that there was pair of socks and  my Aspen Crocs in the trunk along with a shawl and an extra shirt  I had left in there from the weekend before. Once I was dressed a bit warmer, I went back to find that a crowd of minimal size had come. It was a wonderful performance with the highlight that they performed "Red Dress." The crowd went wild screaming and jumping up and down. Of course, I was rail  hugging up front for a while screaming along with the die hards! We were with friends that we had met up with and we really enjoyed the afternoon.

The Rad's at Jazz Fest:

Later on in the Spring, people kept asking me if I was going to The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. I had been shunning it for years due to the fact that I just can't take hours in the heat and sun. I kept telling everyone, "No. I am not going." Well, to make a long story short, an old friend provided a close friend of mine with two tickets and a invitation to dinner with him after the last day of Jazz Fest. So, since it was supposed to be the last time the Rads played Jazz Fest I said, "Yes." Off we went to Jazz Fest and I don't regret it after all, but I did have to plan our strategy to not get heat stroke.

We survived the day by going to see most of the music that day in the Blues Tent.(I will blog about that later.) We left the tent in time to catch the close out show featuring The Radiators and we were amazed to find that we could actually walk up and rail hug up to the area for Brass Pass ticket holders.  We were as far up front as one can get without Brass Passes! The crowd was very excited and friendly.

The highlights of the show was the appearance of guest performers that enhanced the Rads prowess. Michael Doucet was playing  fiddle when they played  Dylan's "You ain't going Nowhere."  I was floored! It just kept getting better and better. Warren Haynes came up. Then a Conga player, who's name I don't know (Someone clue me in here!) and then the horn section from Bonerama.
Dave Malone  with Bonerama

Ed Volker

Warren Haynes, Camille Boudoin  and Dave Malone

Warren Haynes

I think the best thing they did that day was "Never let your fire go out," or maybe "River Run." But it knocked me out when they played "I like it like that," an old tune co written by Chris Kenner  and Fats Domino. Of people of a certain age, raised on New Orleans music, that songs speaks to the memory of the birth of Rock N Roll, NOLA style. The day was ending and my friend was weary and exhausted. So we slipped off to go eat our rendevous dinner At The Port Of Call with the man who gifted us the tickets.  The day's music was  ringing in our ears. I phoned Dan  while waiting for the entree's to arrive. I gushed to him about the show. He said he was cool as a cumber "lying on the sofa."
It was a wonderful day and I am glad I survived the heat and the sun to witness the goodbye, for me,  of special musical friends. The Last Watusi show was sold out and I did not have tickets, so this was My farewell. Goodbye, gentleman. It has been a fascinating time. You hold the top place in my memory banks as the best party band in my time.
Patty and Lana

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