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:

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.