In 1990 I got a call from Floyd Soileau, my song publisher.
“You’re getting a call from John Brown and Mary Smith (aliases) seeking one A.S.C.A.P. and two B.M.I. songwriters to fly to Washington D.C. to visit your senators and congressman concerning a copyright bill going through Congress. I recommended you and Vin Bruce. Five days, all expenses paid, don’t miss it,” he said and hung up.
They called, I called Vin, arrangements were made and one Sunday two Cajuns were off to Washington D.C.
On arrival a young couple held a sign “Allen Toussaint, Vin Bruce and Leroy Martin.” Deplaning from first class (we flew coach) Mr. Toussaint was the A.S.C.A.P. member joining us. We were in awe of him because he had written so many hits, Mother in Law, It’s Raining, All These Things and Lipstick Traces and Glen Campbell’s national hit Southern Nights.
We took a cab ride to the Ritz-Carlton hotel, registered and were shown to our luxurious rooms. As we entered, Vin said “there it is!”
“That’s a mini-bar,” I replied. “$10 for a beer, $8 for a snickers and who knows what those tiny bottles of liquor cost?”
“I know but Mary said it was free to us.” he answered.
Delighted, I opened the mini-bar, filled one hand with peanuts and a two ounce bottle of V.O. in the other, jumped in the king size bed and shouted to my song writing partner, “Slap me to make sure I’m not dreaming!”
With a big grin, he answered, “No, you slap me first.”
Thus it began.
At 9 a.m. on Monday a cab with John, Mary and Allen arrived and we headed for the Capitol to visit Senator Bennett Johnson who had succeeded Houma Senator Allen Ellender in 1972, who had succeeded Huey Long in 1936. (Too much history? Sorry!) John and Mary consulted with the Senator about the legislation. For or against?
I never knew or asked. Then we were off to the Ici Urban for lunch and later to Le Diplomaté for dinner, both lavish French restaurants.
Tuesday was a holiday so we toured the Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson Monuments, viewed the J.F.K. eternal flame at Arlington Cemetery and the Vietnam Wall then headed back to town. Mary asked us to choose a restaurant and Vin pointed to a McDonald’s.
“Mr. Bruce,” Mary said, “if I ever entertained a guest there, it would be goodbye job”. We went to another French Restaurant, Bernaise. Viva La France!
Vin and I surmised that being Cajuns, and with Mr. Toussaint’s name, our hosts assumed we were accustomed to eating in French restaurants. Who cared why? We just saluted and enjoyed. French wine, like French food – C’est si bon!
Wednesday we visited Senator John Breaux, who had succeeded Senator Russell Long in 1987 who had succeeded Senator John Overton in 1948 (there I go again). That night, dinner at Bristro Francais, another, well you know.
Thursday we visited Congressman Billy Tauzin who had flown me, Vin and our band to Washington for his fund raiser in 1972. That afternoon Vin and I visited the White House where he sat and chatted with a group of war protestors.
“They asked me to march with them tonight,” Vin said. “I told them I’d think about it and let them know.” With Vin, I never knew if he was serious or not.
Our last evening we were picked up at 6 p.m. (We never knew where Toussaint was housed – a fancier hotel? I couldn’t imagine there could be one! We were off to Bistro Francais. Mais oui, cher!
Next day at the airport (now Ronald Reagan National) we were in a long line and Allen was in a much shorter one “Give me your tickets, I’ll get your passes” he said, which was nice of him. We boarded in the coach section and watched Allen Toussaint enter first class. As I said previously, “there are song writers and there are song writers”.
It was goodbye Pate du Fois Gras with truffles and hello red beans and rice, which to Vin and I was a step up.
We never found out if the bill passed or not.
Posted on Tue, April 21, 2015
by Leroy Martin, Contributing Writer