Allen Toussaint (1938-2015) was a huge figure in New Orleans music: a producer, songwriter, arranger, musician, and sharp-dressed man. To even begin to give a sense of who he was, we need more than just one hour. So, in this program, part one of a two-hour tribute special, we hear Allen Toussaint’s own voice, from interviews preserved at the Archive of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, as he talks about his early career, in the years leading up to his time in the Army in the mid-1960s.
And in this first part we’ll also hear an exclusive live performance of Allen Toussaint, recorded in 2005 at WWOZ Piano Night, an annual benefit for the radio station where this program is produced. Allen has been a supporter of WWOZ since its inception, and we’re proud to share this recording, which has not been heard in ten years.
As Allen Toussaint said: “Once you have said ‘yes’ to music, it says ‘yes’ back to you.”
This program could not have been produced without Ben Sandmel‘s original interviews with Allen Toussaint at the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Ben also had several conversations with us (and one nice lunch), discussing Allen Toussaint’s life.
From Ben’s bio: Ben Sandmel is a New Orleans–based journalist, folklorist, and drummer. Sandmel wrote the critically acclaimed, award-winning Ernie K-Doe: The R&B Emperor of New Orleans (The Historic New Orleans Collection, 2012) and collaborated with photographer Rick Olivier on Zydeco! (University Press of Mississippi, 1999.) Sandmel’s articles have appeared in numerous national publications including The Atlantic and the Wall Street Journal. He has played on/produced four albums, including the Hackberry Ramblers’ Grammy-nominated Deep Water, and co-produced the PBS documentary film Make ‘Em Dance: The Hackberry Ramblers’ Story. Sandmel is currently completing a Master’s Degree in Musicology at Tulane University.
In addition, longtime WWOZ engineer Damond Jacob was invaluable to this program, locating a recording of Allen Toussaint performing at WWOZ Piano Night in 2005. “Man, this is so hot, this sounds incredible!,” he said on the phone, when he listened to the two-track mix. This performance has not been heard since it was originally broadcast on WWOZ in 2005, with the exception of one excerpted track “All Of It,” which was released to WWOZ supporters exclusively on the promotional CD Music Ready 4 Ears, Vol 24, in 2006. (For more about WWOZ’s annual Piano Night benefit, click here.)
TO LEARN MORE:
The KnowLouisiana.org website, produced by the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, has a wealth of additional information about Allen Toussaint:
KnowLouisiana Salutes Allen Toussaint includes interviews with Toussaint you can listen to online — including a complete Ben Sandmel interview which is featured prominently in this episode of New Orleans Calling.
One Southern Night: Remembering Allen Toussaint is a beautifully written recollection of Toussaint by Brian Boyles, LEH’s Vice President of Content.
Yes He Can Can: Allen Toussaint perpetuates New Orleans’ unique musical style is a 2010 cover story for Louisiana Cultural Vistas (a magazine published by LEH), written by Kathy Finn.
Allen Toussaint – “Bono” (music bed)
Professor Longhair – “Longhair’s Blues-Rhumba” (Music bed)
Fats Domino – “The Fat Man” (music bed)
Fats Domino – “I Want You To Know”
Earl King – “Those Lonely, Lonely Nights”
Huey Piano Smith – “That’s All I Can Say” (music bed)
Shirley & Lee – “Let The Good Times Roll”
Allen Toussaint – “A Blue Mood” (music bed)
Allen Toussaint – “Whirlaway”
Ernie K-Doe – “A Certain Girl” (music bed)
Ernie K-Doe – “Wanted $10,000 Reward ”
Ernie K-Doe – “Mother-In-Law”
Benny Spellman – “Lipstick Traces”
The Stokes – “Piecrust” (music bed)
The Stokes – “The Fat Cat” (music bed)
The Stokes – “Whipped Cream”
The Stokes & Allen Toussaint – “Go Back Home”
The Rubaiyats – “Tomorrow”
Allen Toussaint – “Happiness” (recorded live at WWOZ Piano Night 2005)
Allen Toussaint – “A Certain Girl/Mother In Law/Fortune Teller/Working In A Coal Mine/A Certain Girl” (recorded live at WWOZ Piano Night 2005)
Allen Toussaint – “Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues)” (recorded live at WWOZ Piano Night 2005)
Allen Toussaint – “Happy Times” (music bed)
Allen Toussaint – “Whirlaway”
NEW ORLEANS CALLING is a production of WWOZ, listener-supported community radio in the Crescent City.
George Ingmire is the host, writer, editor, interviewer, audio engineer, intrepid field recorder, and co-producer.
Dave Ankers is the producer.
Melanie Merz is the supervising producer.
National distribution managed by Russell Shelton and Carmen Connor Post.
Web support by David Stafford.
Executive Producer is WWOZ’s General Manager David Freedman.
Very special thanks to the family of Allen Toussaint, especially Reggie Toussaint, for giving us permission to use the archived interviews and performances heard on this program. And special thanks to WWOZ Program Director Dwayne Breashears for arranging it.
This program could not have been produced without the assistance of Rachel Lyons and Dolores Hooper of the Archive of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, where the recorded interviews with Allen Toussaint are preserved. Also, special thanks to journalist and musician Ben Sandmel, who conducted many of these original interviews, in addition to advising us on this program.
And special thanks to Romy Mariano and Brian Boyles at Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities.
The live recording of Allen Toussaint performing at WWOZ Piano Night in 2005 was produced by Damond Jacob.
Special thanks to:
Sally Young and Melanie Merz for their voice talents.
New Orleans Calling volunteers Catey Boyle and Doug Marshall.
Photo courtesy Ryan Hodgson-Rigsbee rhrphoto.com.