Young Tuxedo and the Sheik

A vintage record store find

 

Back in the fog of time, when the music industry shifted to compact discs, I held onto the “stereo” with vinyl records for a spell, then wilted before the revolution. I soon fell in love with the cd component, domestically and in the car, which positioned me for a hard crash in December at Louisiana Music Factory. A sea of vinyl records. “More than half our sales,” said a clerk. I stared, agog. My old turntable, safely stored, went down in the flood of ’94.

And so, I made pilgrimage to Peaches on Magazine Street with an aging $50 gift card from my daughter (for Christmas 2017) and in mid-December ’18 forked over $200 plus to get a turntable with speakers. I set it up only to find a problem with the needle. Peaches sent a technician, on a Sunday, who fixed it in five minutes. No charge. I am pro-Peaches. This is not a paid endorsement.

The joy that followed! Buddy Holly, vintage Linda Ronstadt, a bevy of rare discs bought on a 1983 trip to Africa, including guitar music by the great Francis Bebey of Cameroon and Paris, each one ringing out waves of the near-pristine.

We turn now to a Louisiana Music Factory sale, the LP Jazz Continues: Young Tuxedo Brass Band (the 504 label 1984.) Founded in 1938, the Young Tuxedo was in its second generation under the alto saxophonist Herman Sherman, who has since passed when this recording was made. Sousaphonist Walter Payton Jr., trombonist Clement Tervalon, snare drummer Lawrence Trotter are gone as well. Trumpeter Gregg Stafford leads the band, with clarinetist Michael White his counter-melody maker on clarinet, and various musicians of recent vintage.

Songs like “Lily of the Valley” and “Down in Honkey Tonk Town” are played by fewer and fewer of the marching bands these days. The Young Tuxedo under Sherman’s tenure performed at the White House in 1978 and a range of festivals, in America and abroad. The photographer Armand “Sheik” Richardson began following them in 1973. “I ran into a remarkable trumpet player named Gregg Stafford, and he started inviting me to come with him to funerals and gigs,” writes Richardson in the cut-line to a 1979 photograph of the band in A Fire in My Lens: An Insider’s Look at New Orleans, a new release from Pelican.

Richardson earned his chops the old-fashioned way by following the streets of Carnival, music venues, sports events and rituals of the city, getting enough to yield the prime moments for a book. A beaming “Uncle” Lionel Batiste, in a hoist-like move with the big snare drum emblazoned The Treme Brass Band (with phone number) pays homage to one of his running buddies.

Richardson roamed the years to find Pete Fountain on clarinet while marching with the Half-Fast Marching Club on Mardi Gras, and saxophonist Teddy Johnson seated on stage at Jackson Square, sleek in a brown suit and white shoes.

Of a gauzy twilight at Holt Cemetery, he writes: “I sometimes walked through there at night to drop off film at Moldaner’s Camera Store, and often I heard what sounded like voices singing along with the wind in the trees. I would walk very fast when that happened.”


 

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