When Sonny Schneidau was the talent buyer for Tipitina’s in the pre-cellular era, he reached out to great New Orleans rhythm and blues guitarist and songwriter Earl King in a roundabout but reliable way.
âIf I wanted to put Earl on a show,â Schneidau recalled recently, âI would call the payphone at the end of the lunch counter at Tastee Donuts in Louisiana and Prytania. This is how I would have it.
King used this particular Tastee, along with the K&B Pharmacy in Louisiana and St. Charles, as his de facto offices. Other clients have failed to realize his esteemed musical pedigree.
King wrote âCome Onâ, which Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan later covered. He composed “Big Chief” and appeared on Professor Longhair’s definitive version of the Mardi Gras standard. He was also one of the most distinctive guitarists in the history of New Orleans music.
He died in 2003, but his songs and legacy endure. To this end, Tipitina’s will host âCovered in Earl! A tribute to Earl ‘Trick Bag’ King ‘, Wednesday.
Produced by Schneidau, and with Meters bassist George Porter Jr. as musical director, “Covered in Earl!” features a who’s who of New Orleans talent spanning King songs.
Featured artists are Ivan Neville, Anders Osborne, Deacon John, Jon Cleary, Samantha Fish, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Stanton Moore, John “Papa” Gros, Tony Hall, Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph and Brint Anderson. The prominent house group includes saxophonists Tony Dagradi and Brad Walker, drummer Herlin Riley and keyboardist David Torkanowsky.
Additionally, former Tipitina emcee Rickie Castrillo, who for many years featured artists, organized the stage, and otherwise served as the personification of the club at the corner of Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas, plans to travel from his time. current home in Alabama to host the show dedicated to his old friend Earl King.
Show time is 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. Tickets start at $ 45. A portion of the proceeds goes to the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic.
That Schneidau hosted this Tipitina flashback event is appropriate.
His older sister Georgia was a member of the Loose Confederacy that opened Tipitina’s in January 1977. Schneidau invested $ 100 to be one of the original 14 co-founders, even though he was still in his final year at Benjamin Franklin High School. . He helped paint the club and, although a minor, donned a mask to serve drinks at a Carnival Meters show.
In June, the club’s sound engineer left the country on short notice and Schneidau was asked to intervene. He has mixed the sound for hundreds of shows, including numerous guest appearances by Professor Longhair.
In 1982, Schneidau became Tipitina’s talent buyer. Earl King was one of the many New Orleans R&B legends that Schneidau brought on stage at Tip’s over the next 11 years.
In 1993, he was drawn to participate in the launch of the New Orleans House of Blues. For 23 years, he filled his schedule with Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Al Green, Ray Charles and Aerosmith alongside local favorites.
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By the time he stepped down in 2016, he was one of the nation’s top talent buyers, having performed over 10,000 concerts.
In recent years, he has mostly kept a low profile. After gradually developing his talents as a pianist – he owns the right that Professor Longhair often played behind Tipitina at the time – he co-founded the rock ‘n’ blues group The Fortifiers.
He also keeps his hand in the booking field by promoting occasional concerts. He booked Billy Strings’ first concert in New Orleans at the dba a few years ago. Since then, Strings’ career has exploded. Schneidau is promoting Strings’ two sold-out shows at the Civic Theater from November 30 to December 31. 1.
This week’s tribute to Earl King is particularly close and dear to him. In his youth, he first saw King perform at an “Alligator Ball” held in a tent near the main sewage and water plant in South Claiborne and Leonidas.
He was struck by King’s idiosyncratic style and intensity, his “presence and his passion for what he did.” Earl would step in and everything else would be gone. He was so inside of what he was doing, like when a shark’s eyes roll back.
King’s recording career rebounded with a trio of albums for New Orleans-based Black Top Records. For his Black Top debut in 1986, âGlazedâ – the title probably referred to his âofficeâ Tastee Donuts – it was backed by veteran horn group Roomful of Blues. He got a Grammy nomination.
The ‘Sexual Telepathy’ that followed in 1990 and ‘Hard River to Cross’ in 1993 also showed their strengths as a guitarist and songwriter. King’s backing group on “Hard River to Cross” included Porter and Torkanowsky, both of whom are part of Wednesday’s tribute.
âEarl was one of the brightest songwriters and dynamic performers New Orleans has ever seen,â said Schneidau. âSongwriters usually have a certain style or form, or more than one way of bringing words and music to life. Earl had a number of different structures in the world of blues and R&B.
In preparation for the next tribute, Schneidau âdived well into the Earl King. Reach and breadth – you’d be hard pressed to find too many other New Orleans R&B cats that have such a comprehensive song catalog.
Schneidau compiled a list of favorites and âmade suggestions on who was best to do them. Everyone had their own thoughts. Everyone is super excited to bring Earl’s songs to life in their own way.
The tribute to Earl King is in the tradition of the two previous tributes that Schneidau had staged at Tipitina. He produced Professor Longhair’s 100th birthday celebration in December 2018, right after Galactic members bought the club. He also orchestrated a tribute to Dr. John on Thanksgiving Day 2019.
âIt’s fun going back to my old playground. Tipitina was kind enough to pick me up. Hopefully we can do more.
âThe night before Thanksgiving seems like the night for these things. The musicians are at home, so we can have whoever we want for these shows.
âGeorge Porter is the glue that holds all of these tributes together. The first time I asked him about Earl, he said, âIt’s easy. It’s a yes. I listen to Earl every day.