Ponderosa Stomp (The Sixth One) held on May 2 at the House of Blues in New Orleans. It is subject to some editing.
The Ponderosa Stomp is a multi-genre evening of wild rock and roll put on by the non-profit, Mystic Knights of the Mau Mau, who mission is “rediscovering and celebrating America’s overlooked musical pioneers, and re-educating the community about their impact on music.” Returning to New Orleans after being relocating to Memphis in 2006 after Hurricane Katrina, the Stomp was held at New Orleans’ House of Blues, where music was presented with performances in the main room, The Parish and HOB’s outdoor patio.
The artists at this year’s Stomp included ex-Thirteen Floor Elevator, Roky Erickson and The Explosives, master arranger Wardell Quezergue and the New Orleans Rhythm & Blues Revue with Tony Owens, Robert Parker, Jean "Mr Big Stuff" Knight, and Dave Bartholomew; vocalist Little Jimmy Scott, Deke Dickerson and the Eccofonics, Dennis Coffey, soul songwriter supreme Dan Penn, Dale Hawkins, Texas Tornado co-founder Augie Meyers, Herbert Hardesty, Barbara Lynn, Lazy Lester, Lafayette Soul Show Houseband Little Buck and the Top Cats w/ Stanley "Buckwheat Zydeco" Dural on Hammond B-3, Willie Tee, Rockie Charles, Jay Chevalier, Roy Head, Joe Clay, Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, Blues Piano Master Henry Gray, Eddie "The Hawg" Kirkland, Duo of Guitarist Kenny Brown and Bobby Rush, Ralph "Soul" Jackson, "Guitar Lightning" Lee, drummer Matt "I'm Movin On" Lucas, Little Freddie King, Skip "Hoochie Coochie Man" Easterling, Ernie "DapWalk" Vincent, and David "Funky Soul" Batiste. There simply is too much music for anyone be able to catch every performer.
Arriving at the House of Blues at 5:30, I headed to the main stage where Lil Buck Sinegal and the Top Cats were holding forth with Lil Buck’s guitar, Stanley Dural’s B-3 and a tight three horn section. Emceeing this portion was Dallas dee-jay, soul-blues singer and songwriter, Bobby Patterson, who, after several numbers by the Top Cats, brought up Motown session guitarist and Funk Brother , Dennis Coffrey. Coffrey played several fine instrumentals including revisiting The Temptations’ “I Wish It Would Rain.” Lazy Lester followed with a set that included some of his Excello recordings including the instrumental that gave this event its name “Pondarosa Stomp,” (this is the spelling on the Excello single) and “Sugar Coated Love.” He also had a nice rendition of Merle Haggard’s “I’m a Stranger.” Lester was followed by David Batiste (of the legendary New Orleans funk band, The Gladiators, and father of drummer (David) Russell Batiste Jr.). While his set certainly had a funk core, he included some strong blues. Barbara Lynn was up next with a varied set that included her hit “"You'll Lose A Good Thing." (Herb Hardesty joined the horns for her set), and was followed by the energetic Texas rocker and blues shouter Roy Head who did his “Treat Her Right” and renditions of Bobby Bland numbers with a definite stage flair. I ventured to the Parish Stage during some of these performances and caught Eddie Kirkland (with a trio) and Henry Gray solo on the piano, giving solid, representative performances. After a short break, drummer and WWOZ announcer Bob French introduced Jimmy Scott, who was backed by piano and bass. This may have been the single finest performance of my New Orleans vacation. Scott’s was simply spellbinding, delivering a lyric in a manner suggestive of Billie Holiday in how he phrased the song. His performance was on the same time as Bobby Rush and Kenny Brown whom I heard were excellent.
After a break the main HOB stage was set up for the Wardell Querzergue New Orleans Rhythm & Blues Revue. The legendary producer and arranger, Querzergue, lost his vision several years ago and was this program was the first in several years to feature him and his arrangements. He opened with a bright, funky rendition of Smokey Johnson’s “It AIn’t My Fault.” Up next was soul-singer Tony Owens who reworked several of the recordings Querzergue had produced for Cotillion and other labels, including “Confessin’ a Feeling”, and he was followed by Robert Parker who did “Barefootin’” and a couple other songs, and Jean Knight, who sang a lively “Don’t Mess With My Toot Toot” and “Mr. Big Stuff.” During Knight's performances, Allen Toussaint played the B-3 for a couple songs. Conducting the band, Querzergue also could be seen greatly enjoying the performances. The longest stretch of this Revue featured Dave Bartholomew whose segment included a funky rendition of “The Monkey Speaks,” and some of the other classic songs he helped write and make musical history with. There was plenty of space for his trumpet to be featured along with guitarist Charles Moore and the members of the horn section including saxophonists Herb Hardesty and Amadeé Castanell.
After this revue closed I went back to the now packed Parish stage where Dale Hawkins (backed by Deke Dickerson and the Eccophonics) was winding down with “Suzy Q.” Downstairs on the mainstage I caught most of Dan Penn’s set, accompanied by his guitar and by Bobby Emmons on keyboards, which concluded with a fine “The Dark End of the Street.” It was after midnight and feeling the effects of traveling that day I left the Stomp had started at 5:30 and kept going for at least another two hours) although I saw Little Freddie King and a harmonica player on the Patio stage (King also had a set with his band), so I did not see Joe Clay, Rory Erickson, Augie Meyers, Willie Tee and Al ‘Carnival’ Johnson (who I also heard was outstanding). For those seeking an evening of straight, no chaser blues, frantic rockabilly, deep funk and southern soul with a dash of psychedelia and uptown R&B, one will find no more exhilarating concert than the Ponderosa Stomp.
For images from the Ponderosa Stomp, please visit: Ron's Ponderosa Stomp Pics
If the Ponderosa Stomp was not enough, Padnos and the Mystic Krewe helped produced a free “Legends of Swamp Pop” show the following evening outside the Cabildo on Jackson Square with Little Band of Gold (C.C. Adcock, Warren Storm, Steve Riley, David Egan and others) who brought on Tommy McClain, Rod Bernard and Lazy Lester (with Roy Head also singing a few numbers) for a marvelous evening featuring this important but usually overlooked Louisiana genre.