Bruce, Santya and Ironin’ Board Sam
Our latest journey had us heading once again to Louisiana to see what this New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is all about, which gave us another opportunity to see our generation’s spokesman, Bruce Springsteen.
There was also another curiosity on the bill, someone called Ironin’ Board Sam that had caught our attention.
The former cheerleader and I met up with pals Randy J. and Patti J. Morgan in Lake Charles and we were off-andrunning.
We had mapped out a plan to avoid the crowds and the long lines that are inherent to festivals and we nailed it.
Finding a affordable parking lot next to the Superdome, we stood out in the middle of the street and hailed a taxi and piled in a SUV that said “United Cabs—prompt, dependable, courteous service” on the door.
It was easy to tell that Santya was an experienced New Orleans cab driver, given his total disregard of the basic rules of driving, like, oh, stopping at red lights and driving in one lane at a time.
Nothing or no one was safe. The narrow streets were filled with parked cars and people walking to the festival, which did not seem to faze Santya.
We made a left turn from three lanes over, horns blaring. At one point, I swear he was going to take the sidewalk. People were diving for cover.
I am happy to report that just one sideview mirror met its demise.
I of course was getting a bird’s eye view of the proceedings, being foolish enough to jump into shotgun.
When Santya was forced to stop because the car in front of us, well, stopped, I begged to trade places with someone in the back which was met with smirks and grins.
When we reached the fairgrounds, which resembled an ant hill, we paid Santya his $20 and as I shook his hand, I encouraged him to look into a second career—as a NASCAR driver. He smiled—and sped off into traffic.
Godspeed (and breaks) my friend.
Sam I Am
Glad to be alive, we set out to hear some great blues music—and there was plenty. The legendary Pete Fountain, Austinite Gary Clark, Jr. You couldn’t find a seat for jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis. Dr. John was opening for Bruce and unfortunately, Al Green was performing at the same time as Bruce.
Honestly, I had never heard of Ironin’ Board Sam until I saw his name on the artist’s schedule a couple of months ago.
You may be wondering how he got his unusual moniker. Well, when he first started out in the early 1960s, Sam didn’t have the dough to buy a stand for his keyboard, so he duct taped it to his ironing board and hit the road.
Now Ironin’ Board knows how to make an entrance. He let his band shuffle though an opening number before he came bounding onto the stage in what can best be described as a gold lame’ leisure suit, loaded with sparkly rhinestones.
Did I mention Sam makes his own costumes?
The 73-year-old Ironin’ Board funked through some blues standards including “Blueberry Hill” and a song called “Cherry Pie”, where all he did was sing the words Cherry Pie for about 10 minutes.
By the way, he does have a proper stand for his keyboard now, which I found somewhat disappointing.
When Ironin’ Board leapt into the crowd during “Have You Seen My Baby?”, the place went nuts as the overflow crowd in the Blues Tent jumped to their feet.
He left to a standing ovation and it was the best show we saw all day (kinda, sorta, up to that point).
You may ask yourself what Bruce Springsteen is doing playing the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Well, Springsteen is the 800- pound gorilla and welcome in all circles and he did his best to jazz things up, bringing a 17-piece band with him, including horn section and backup singers.
Mining songs almost exclusively from his newest folkfest Wrecking Ball and the spiritual, post 9/11 The Rising, Sunday’s offering became a revival meeting with the Right Reverend Bruce leading a festival record 65,000 disciples to the river.
It was an emotional outing, since Springsteen is now touring without beloved sideman and saxophonist Clarence Clemons for the first time since his death last year.
Clemons’ nephew Jake Clemons is filling in and every time he stepped to the front of the stage to play his uncle’s solos, it was an emotional springboard.
Springsteen himself seemed to choke up when during “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out”, with lyrics that say “when the big man joins the band”, he pointed to the sky while holding a sign that said “Clarence.”
It marked the 22nd time I have seem him and it was the most unique show I have ever witnessed from him.
Perhaps Bruce could take a que from ol’ Ironin’ Board Sam and jump out in the crowd. Oh, wait a minute...
Here are the five best blues singer names (not called Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf):
1. Blind Lemon Jefferson
2. Pinetop Perkins
3. Sunnyland Sims
4. Peatie Wheatstraw
5. White Jelly Fungus