by Scott Schinder
On April 28 and 29, the House of Blues in New Orleans will host the eighth edition of the Ponderosa Stomp, the annual marathon throwdown that showcases the surviving originators of R&B, soul, rockabilly, garage-rock, swamp pop and country. Since 2002, the Stomp—the brainchild of Big Easy anesthesiologist/music fiend Ira "Dr. Ike" Padnos, kingpin of the shadowy Mystic Knights of the Mau Mau—has hosted performances by a dazzling array of vintage cult legends, forgotten geniuses and one-of-a-kind visionaries, many of whose careers stretch back more than a half-century.
Now in its third year at the House of Blues (following a long run at the vibier but worse-sounding Rock 'n' Bowl and a one-year post-Katrina exile in Memphis), the Stomp's 2009 lineup may be its most impressive and diverse to date, offering a typically tantalizing mix of old favorites, regional heroes and timely rediscoveries.
Along with such Stomp regulars as blues harmonica titan Lazy Lester (whose eponymous 1966 instrumental provided the Stomp's moniker) Louisiana rockabilly legend Joe Clay, R&B/blues guitar masters Li'l Buck Sinegal and Classie Ballou, '60s soul auteur Bobby Patterson, garage pioneers ? and the Mysterians and Bo Diddley's guitar-slinging distaff sidekick Lady Bo, the 2009 bill includes trailblazing rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson, Boston garage legends the Remains, resurgent '60s soul standard-bearer Howard Tate, blues iconoclast Jerry "Boogie" McCain, Detroit rockabilly exponent Johnny Powers, influential Motown session guitarist Dennis Coffey, durable New Orleans vet Robert Parker, pioneering outsider-country space cadet the Legendary Stardust Cowboy and the brilliant Memphis songwriter/producer Dan Penn.
One of the Stomp's most endearing features is Dr. Ike's knack for unearthing obscure and/or long-missing-in-action performers and coaxing them back to the live stage. Among this year's promising rediscoveries are California rock 'n' roller Roddy Jackson, Sun Records cult fave Carl Mann, fabled boogie-woogie pianist Little Willie Littlefield and Lil Greenwood, the former Duke Ellington Orchestra vocalist who also recorded numerous memorable R&B solo sides.
As is often the case at the Stomp, the backup bands are as stellar as the featured performers. For instance, Hi Records' fabled '70s studio combo, led by guitarist Teenie Hodges, will reunite with soul stalwart Otis Clay, while seminal rockabilly guitarist James Burton will accompany his former boss Dale Hawkins. In one of the fest's most eagerly anticipated sets, beloved slop-rock anti-geniuses the A-Bones will do backup duty for Flamin' Groovies founders Roy Loney and Cyril Jordan, who haven't played a full set together since Loney exited the Groovies three and a half decades ago. The A-Bones will also back Texas R&B/rockabilly hybridist Ray Sharpe. Also providing quality support will be ace retro-country-rocker (and frequent Stomp presence) Deke Dickerson and his ace combo the Eccofonics, Memphis soul instrumentalists the Bo-Keys, and Mississippi soul traditionalists Wiley and the Checkmates. And it's not unusual for the likes of Alex Chilton and original Fats Domino sideman Herb Hardesty to turn up as Stomp sidemen.
As if all of the above wasn't enough to keep music nuts occupied, the Stomp is also sponsoring a daytime music conference on April 27, 28 and 29 at the Louisiana State Museum's Cabildo museum in Jackson Square. The conference will feature interviews and panel discussions with such figures as Dave Bartholomew, Dr. John and an impressive roster of behind-the-scenes movers and shakers, along with some music-themed exhibits and screenings of new documentaries about Bo Diddley, the Remains and Wanda Jackson.
"The Dark End Of The Street" mp3
by Dan Penn, 1994.
available on Do Right Man
by The Remains, 1966.
available on The Remains
"Yesterday's Numbers" mp3
by The Flamin' Groovies, 1971.
available on Teenage Head
"Geronimo Rock 'n' Roll" mp3
by Jerry McCain, 1955.
available on That's What They Want
"Hey! Pardner" mp3
by Classie Ballou, 1958.
out of print
"I'm A Lover, Not A Fighter" mp3
by Lazy Lester, 1958.
available on I'm a Lover Not a Fighter
"Long Blonde Hair, Rose Red Lips" mp3
by Johnny Powers, 1958.
available on Long Blonde Hair
"Up, Up and Away" mp3
by Jivin' Gene and the Jokers, 1959.
available on Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
"Trying to Live My Life Without You" mp3
by Otis Clay, 1972.
available on Hi Masters
"The Midnight Hour Was Shining" mp3
by Little Willie Littlefield, 1953.
available on Going Back to Kay Cee
top photo: Bobby Emmons and Dan Penn © 2009 Jacob Blickenstaff