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2019 Spring Class

New Orleans R&B: Birth, Decline, Revival

Instructor: Frank Johnson

Tuesdays •  3/19-5/7 • 1:00-3:00 PM

Location: Jewett 190
We will take a musical stroll through the Crescent City’s fertile rhythm and blues heritage from the post WWII period to the present. We will examine what makes New Orleans musical culture unique, the origins of NOLA R&B, and the musicians who have created the pulse of the Big Easy. A prominent part of the course will be the 1950’s and early 1960’s when New Orleans’ recordings formed the epicenter of R&B and early rock ‘n roll. The course will examine the music and careers of New Orleans legends from the famous (Professor Longhair, Fats Domino) to the more obscure artists. We will also consider more contemporary musicians and the current musical scene. A special feature will be a discussion on the tradition and music of the Mardi Gras Indians. Put on your dancin’ shoes. Text: I Hear You Knockin’ by Jeff Hannusch Classroom

The course is designed to feature both prominent and obscure New Orleans musicians from 1947 to the present day. In addition we will discuss noteworthy record producers and the independent labels that were the backbone of the New Orleans music scene. We will also examine the unique history and culture of the Crescent City. The topics by week are listed below:

Selections will include influences Louis Jordan, Champion Jack Dupree and Tuts Washington. The early years of New Orleans R&B (1947-1952) will include: Roy Brown, Jewell King, Annie Laurie, Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, Archibald, Tommy Ridgley, Smiley Lewis, Joe Liggins, Little Mr. Midnight, Paul Gayten, Royal Kings, Dave Bartholomew, Lloyd Price.

Covers 1953-1955 as New Orleans R&B merges with rock ‘n roll with: Lloyd Price, Guitar Slim, Ray Charles, Big Joe Turner, Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, Sugarboy Crawford, Smiley Lewis, Willie Johnson, Billy Tate, The Spiders, Earl King, Shirley & Lee, Big Boy Myles, Bobby Charles, Little Richard.

New Orleans R&B and rock ‘n roll from 1956-1959 with selections from: Paul Gayten, Shirley & Lee, Ernie K-Doe, Smiley Lewis, Roy Montrell, Lil Millett, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Fats Domino, Bobby Mitchell, Huey “Piano” Smith, Little Richard, Dave Bartholomew, Charles “Hungry” Williams, TV Slim, Professor Longhair, Larry Williams, Lloyd Price, Jerry Byrne, The Monitors, Edgar Blanchard, Frankie Ford, Paul Marvin.

The last of the glory years (1959-1966) featuring: Myles & Dupont, Johnny Adams, Eddie Bo, Fats Domino, Irma Thomas, Al Johnson, Snooks Eaglin, Jessie Hill, Joe Jones, Tommy Ridgley, Ernie K- Doe, Martha Carter, Clarence “Frogman’ Henry, Barbara George, Chris Kenner, Prince La La, Warren Lee, Ealr King, Benny Spellman, Barbara Lynn, Betty Harris, Professor Longhair, Lee Dorsey, the Dixie Cups, Robert Parker, Aaron Neville.

The music scene shifts to soul and funk from 1969-1975 plus the resurgence of Professor Longhair. Selections will include the Meters, King Floyd, Margie Joseph, Jean Knight, Dr. John and LaBelle.

Rounder Records introduces the Modern Masters of New Orleans series to revive the careers of veteran musicians who had been under-recorded for years. Selections include: Johnny Adams, James Booker, Irma Thomas, Walter “Wolfman” Washington and Snooks Eaglin.

For the first time Mardi Gras Indians are recorded by significant labels to include the Wild Magnolias, the Golden Eagles and the Wild Tchoupitoulas. The recording of the Wild Tchoupitoulas encouraged the Neville Brothers to form a long-standing band. The recent re-emergence of brass bands is also explored with the Hot 8 Brass Brand, the Soul Rebels, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the Rebirth Brass Band.

The current New Orleans music scene is alive and well as demonstrated by: Deacon John, Henry Butler, Dr. John, Kermit Ruffins, Allen Toussaint, Trombone Shorty, John Boutte, New Orleans Suspects, the Radiators, Marva Wright, Jon Cleary and a visit from Cubanismo!.

Up From the Cradle of Jazz: New Orleans Music Since WW II – Jason Berry, Jonathan Foose, Tad Jones
Rhythm & Blues in New Orleans – John Broven
Blue Monday: Fats Domino & the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘N Roll – Rick Coleman
Talking New Orleans Music – Burt Feintuch
I Hear You Knockin’ – Jeff Hannusch
The Soul of New Orleans – Jeff Hannusch
Under a Hoodoo Moon – Dr. John
Musical Gumbo: The Music of New Orleans – Grace Lichtenstein and Laura Dankner
Why New Orleans Matters – Tom Piazza
The World That Made New Orleans – Ned Sublette
New Atlantis – John Swenson

Other Sources:
Wavelength – a New Orleans magazine published from 1980 to 1991. Wavelength focused on New Orleans rhythm & blues with record reviews, interviews and feature articles on some of the great artists who received little recognition outside the Big Easy. The entire eleven years of Wavelength are available on the University of New Orleans website:

Offbeat – a current monthly magazine of New Orleans music, including record reviews, feature stories and news on live music in the city. If you visit the city Offbeat is indispensable to find out who’s playing where.

WWOZ is a non-profit community-supported New Orleans radio station dedicated to the local music scene. WWOZ can be accessed online

Class size 5-25 students
11 seats remaining


Frank Johnson has a lifelong passion and interest in African-American music: jazz, blues, rhythm & blues, soul, and Afro-Latin. He has a collection of over 4,000 albums covering these genres. In addition, he has a personal library of over 250 books on African-American musical styles, musicians and cultural influences. Frank is a graduate of University of Maine with a degree in Political Science and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Program for Senior Executives of State and Local Government.