By pure luck I had appeared on the Ernest Tubb “Midnight Jamboree”, but that’s not the reason Dudley Bernard, Reilly Pitre, Leonce “Fee-Ran” Duet, Harry Simoneaux, Sr., and I were in Nashville in March of 1952.
Through the years I have been asked many times: “Have you ever tried Nashville?”
Been there, done that, and as Paul Harvey used to say, “Here’s the rest of the story.”
On February 9, 1952, Mardi Gras week, Harry Simoneaux, Sr., and I were walking on Bourbon Street at 5 a.m. The only logical reasons to be there at that time was to be drunk, working on getting drunk or lost. Actually, it was none of the above and although I was dying for a drink, Harry kept saying, “No! We must be cold sober when we meet the man.”
The “man” was Troy Martin who was coming from Nashville by train to meet us and had requested we book him a first class hotel room which had not happened.
About Harry Simoneaux, Sr.
Harry was my manager and Postmaster in Golden Meadow and his son Harry, Jr., was a saxophone protégé. I had successfully helped them build a Glen Miller style teenage orchestra of 10 members named “The Bayou Blue Boys” who played for weddings and social functions.
Harry Jr. grew up to become a legend when he played sax on what is arguable the first Swamp Pop hit record, Bobby Charles’s “Later Alligator”.
He moved to Lafayette where he became Swamp Pop King Johnny Allan’s right hand man for over 30 years. He also played sax on my first 45 rpm recording “Keen Teen Baby” in 1957 which was recorded at Golden Meadow radio station KLEB with my sister Betty’s girl trio, Harry Anselmi on lead guitar and co-producer Henry Vegas, Jr. on trumpet.
The session was successful, but the Texas pressing company flawed the master and therefore not many were sold. The song was recorded years later by several artists and they were minor hits.
About Troy Martin
Troy was an executive with Peer Music Publishing Company, Nashville’s biggest. After hearing a demo of me that Harry sent him, he had agreed to meet us acting as a scout for Decca (now MCA) Records.
They were seeking a Country/Cajun artist like Vin Bruce, who was recording for Columbia Records and was showing great promise. As his publisher, he had gotten Vin on the Grand Ole Opry and Vin had recommended me. A true friend! Remember Decca was seeking Vin’s competitor.
A Miracle in the Big Easy
It was 5 in the morning, and Harry and I were exhausted and unsuccessful in booking him a room because of Mardi Gras week. We had been told over and over from desk clerks, bellhops and managers that only a miracle would enable us to find a room this week.
We heard that so many times that at one hotel, Harry slipped the room clerk a $10 dollar bill. He smiled and said:
“I really don’t have any rooms, but if I had, it would take a lot more than that to get it.”
The train would arrive at 7 a.m., so we went to radio station WWL and watched the live “Dawn Busters” show with Henry Dupre, a 12-piece orchestra, singers and comedians, and network affiliated. It had started in1937 and would last until 1959. Radio was that powerful in those pre-TV days and WWL was number one.
At 6:30, we met Troy and told him the bad news. He smiled and called a cab. He shook the driver’s hand and suddenly there was a vacancy at the Roosevelt Hotel.
With eyes wide open and an expression of amazement on our faces, the naïve country boys walked to the cab … awesome!
Harry and I had never seen a miracle before and I looked to see if a star appeared on the horizon. But in the middle of New Orleans, there are no horizons, just buildings of which Hibernia Bank was one.
I’ll tell you about that high rise as I continue my story next week.
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Posted on Tue, January 26, 2016
by Leroy Martin, Contributing Writer