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'Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans' by John Broven

At long last! John Broven, a consultant with Ace Records between 1991 and 2006 with many of his CD compilations still in catalogue, has updated and revised his history of New Orleans R&B, originally titled Walking to New Orleans and now known as Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans. He discussed the major changes in the introduction to the new edition, published by Pelican Publishing Co. of Gretna, Louisiana:

“An original study of New Orleans R&B when first published in England in 1974 – and inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame as a Classic of Blues Literature – the book chronicles the exciting rise and dramatic fall of the city’s rhythm and blues era from the 1940s through the 1960s, by focusing mainly on the history of artists known and little-known on phonograph record based on the recording studios of Cosimo Matassa. The story is enhanced by first-hand interviews with many of the leading exponents of the local music scene, including musicians, producers, songwriters, disc jockeys, jukebox operators, and studio and record label owners.

“This ever-fascinating era encompassed the rock’n’roll revolution, which transformed the music business globally. In turn, rock’n’roll owed much to Crescent City artists and musicians, from the best-selling Fats Domino to tenor sax supremo Lee Allen and drummer Earl Palmer, whose soubriquet “king of the backbeat” said it all. International stars such as Ray Charles and Little Richard found their stylistic way inNew Orleans. 

“For this revision, I have been able to add my post-1974 interviews with luminaries such as Danny Barker, Dave Bartholomew again, Harold Battiste, Roy Brown, Bobby Charles, Otis Ducker (with Jay Bruder), Frankie Ford, Paul Gayten, Smokey Johnson, Joe Jones, Cosimo Matassa twice more, Earl Palmer, Warren Parker, and others. As such, the content of this new edition is improved considerably.

“In reviewing the original text I find there is much that holds up, especially the marvellous, timeless oral histories. My interviewees were relatively young at the time with comparatively recent history still fresh in mind—even better, few had been interviewed before. As I review their commentaries, I am struck in particular by the perceptive insights of Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack, Earl King, Cosimo Matassa, Deacon John Moore, Al Reed, Marshall Sehorn, Allen Toussaint, and Alvin “Red” Tyler. It is salutary to think that as I write only Rebennack and Moore survive, making the interviews even more precious. 

“Refinements have been made to the appendix, notably a greatly enhanced biographical section, thanks mainly to brilliant research undertaken by Bob Eagle and Eric LeBlanc that saw the light of day as Blues: A Regional Experience. I have revamped the chart data by including two new sections featuringNew Orleans records that were No. 1 R&B hits, and those that made the national top 10 pop instead of the previous unwieldy listings. Crucially, there is a recommended CD section to replace the outdated LPs. Numerous footnotes have been added.”

In fact, the new edition looks and reads like a new book! Available from