64 Parishes

NOLA 300 Music

Bechet, Booker, K-Doe, “You Are My Sunshine”

Musicians, authors, artists, filmmakers and others share their favorite New Orleans songs.

I grew up in Los Angeles, and my father was a huge fan of New Orleans music. One day I was watching Yo! MTV Raps (as I religiously did every week as a teenager) and got hip to Boogie Down Productions’ remix of “Serious” by Steady B. Very shortly after, I bought it on vinyl and heard something very familiar in a couple of the samples. I said to my dad, “Hey, isn’t this part from one of your records?” to which he replied “Yes, that’s somebody [expletive] up a Sidney Bechet tune.” He went over to his collection and played Bechet’s recording of “Weary Blues” for me and walked away. In many ways, that moment was my primary entryway to New Orleans music. I also found out that Steady B’s tune also contained a sample of “Right Place, Wrong Time” by Dr. John. Fast-forward thirty years later, and I’m sitting with Mac in Preservation Hall telling him this story. So there you go. – Ron Rona, creative director, Preservation Hall

From the moment I first heard it, I knew that I had to put the Rachmaninoff/“Taste Of Honey” medley into the film. I believe that everything you know need to know about James Booker is contained in those four minutes. I’ve listened to that track at least three hundred times in my life. Maybe more. And every single time I hear something new. That’s part of the incredible genius of Booker. Not only would no other human being think to put those songs together, but the layers and layers of complexity, nuance, and emotional depth in his music is unending. – Lily Keber, director of the James Booker documentary “Bayou Maharajah”

One of America’s greatest philosophers and magicians. - Elvis Costello on Allen Toussaint
“White Boy/Black Boy” is honestly the K-Doe we knew for our generation—the outlandish, returned-to-the-throne, Sun Ra rhythm-and-blues prophet Ernie K-Doe. And what he produced was pretty remarkable—his themes and concerns were pretty global. “Children of the World” [the B-side] is good, but “White Boy/Black Boy” kicks “Ebony and Ivory’s” ass. That’s the K-Doe I hung out with. And Rico’s [Watts] voice is so remarkable: a black hotel lounge singer doing a perfect Elvis in a song about racial harmony and old people giving knowledge to young people, which is what K-Doe was doing. – Quintron, organist/singer/inventor in Quintron & Miss Pussycat; played organ on “White Boy/Black Boy,” K-Doe’s final release

Happy Talk started playing “You Are My Sunshine” in November 2005 at the Circle Bar. I heard it on the radio as part of an NPR eulogy for Louisiana. That’s when I learned it was written by the former governor Jimmie Davis, and lyrically it reminded me of a murder–suicide kind of ballad—you know, “you dumped me and now I’m gonna blow up the world.” I’d always save it for the end of the set, ’cause it had a bad habit of blowing my voice out. – Luke Allen, lead singer/songwriter for the Happy Talk Band, which closes every set with “You Are My Sunshine”