Yesterday, a great musician and a sweet and kind man died.
There have been tributes written from all over the world. Because, at the heart of it, he started rock n roll. Without him, the guys who came a little after him — Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and even The Beatles — might not exist. At least as we know them today. It started with “The Fat Man” a song that was a reworked of a drug user’s song called, “The Junker’s Blues.” It rocked. It rolled. His music only grew from there. His legend did too. You can read that all over the internet today. There’s no point in me rehashing it.
At the heart of him was a New Orleans man. A 9th Ward guy. He lived there. He built his very modern mansion there. And, his last studio was there. Yesterday, the media of which I was one, descended on those old buildings. Local television stations used the studio as a prop for the evening broadcasts about his death. I was gone by the time that they got there, chasing other things and places.
I took the time to drive around the 9th Ward with a friend. So many changes. So many passings.
And, that’s what I thought about.
Passings. The past couple of years have been rough if you like music.So many have passed on. On personal level, they’ve been rough because a lot of my old friends have left the planet. Or, gotten very sick. As I drove around the 9th Ward, I saw so many changes. More buildings rotting. Things still falling down.
But, there was more.
Things were getting better. The rotting strip along St. Claude Avenue is being restored. Many homes that were storm damaged and left for dead have come back. Including one that I’ve posted here a couple of times. The one with the destroyed interior and American flag hanging in the background. I almost couldn’t find it. It has been restored to its proper shape. Painted in the “right” colors.
Even though I documented the rotting of that lower end of New Orleans in the past, I’m happy to say that I liked what I saw yesterday. I didn’t get to stay long, but I’ll be back. There’s a lot for me to do.
And, that’s a good thing.
This place. Club Desire. History tells us that Fats Domino first played some in a little bar in the Desire area called the Hideaway. As he started to gain a little fame, he moved to Club Desire, which was a very well-known club throughout the segregated 1950s, 60s and 70s. Eventually, it fell out of the “chitlin’ circuit” and then fell out of use in the late 1970s except for occasional events. That was an unintended consequence of desegregation. Black musicians could play in what were White clubs. There was no need to take a 45 minute streetcar ride out to the ends of the city. Hurricane Katrina about tore Club Desire apart. It was finally torn down last year. The Hideaway hasn’t existed in years.
Goodbye Club Desire.
Rest in Peace, Fats Domino. You certainly made my world a better place.