French Quarter Second Line

Walking the Quarter
Walking the Quarter

“Dis ain’t dat.”

This is not a neighborhood second line. This is a French Quarter second line.

The difference?

Oh, there’s a lot of differences. If you’ve followed Storyteller for any length of time, you see two differences right off. No matter. Often brass bands are cobbled together from whatever musicians are available. This one is led by The Storyville Stompers.

Nooooo… they aren’t related to Storyteller. The wonderful blog site. Heh!

They honor an old neighborhood located in Treme. It was a legal “sporting” district. Eventually, like in 1917, the US Navy had it closed down after twenty years of operation. It was a public health hazard, the navy said. Or, something like that. The army agreed.  That may have been one of the few times that the army and navy agreed on anything.


It gave birth to jazz. Louis Armstrong cut his chops there. Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver too. Those were just a few. Photographer E. J. Bellocq lived and worked there. Maybe you saw his story in the movie, “Pretty Baby.”

Well, I got side tracked. That’s not so unusual.


I have a couple of friends who work in the Quarter. They tell me that there are somewhere around  20 or 25 second lines per day there. Most of them are part of wedding packages. Others are part of corporate packages. You know, come to New Orleans for a convention and see the “real” New Orleans at night. Like that.

They are short parades, led by the musicians. The musicians are usually followed by the wedding party or folks following along from some corporate function. It rolls through a few streets, usually in a very short walk. That’s it. It’s really different from a neighborhood second line, which is led by the social club or krewe hosting it, the other clubs who are paying their respects, the marching band and finally everybody else — spectators who participate — that form what is really the “second line.” These parades ramble though a neighborhood on a predetermined route, but they can last for miles with people dropping in and out along the way.

Big difference.

From my viewpoint, there are other differences. A neighborhood parade is planned for almost a year. I know a week or two in advance. Everybody does. A French Quarter parade, may be planned in accordance with the customer’s wishes, but I never know about them. If I photograph one it is because I was strolling around and happened to stumble upon it. Like the one in the picture.

One more thing. Even though my friends think these French Quarter parades are kind of overdone and not really authentic, I respectfully disagree. First, the French Quarter is a neighborhood. Different from most neighborhoods in America. But, still it’s a neighborhood. Second, with so many musicians struggling to earn a living at least the guys playing for the twenty or so parades per day are making some money. Music is art. All art is important. But, so is putting food on the table.

Published by Ray Laskowitz

I am a visual storyteller. I've been making pictures for some 40 years. I travel the world in search of the right image. in the right light at the right time. You can reach me by phone at 505.280.4686, or by email at or For a quick look at my work please go to

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