The Wild Tchoupitoulas
If you’ve spent time in New Orleans – or watched the HBO show Tremé — you may know about one of the most idiosyncratic customs of that highly idiosyncratic town. The Mardi Gras Indians are African-American social clubs that take on the names of fictitious Indian tribes. They each have their own special expressions, rituals, and costumes: “lots of brightly colored feathers, sequins, and beaded suits,” describes Offbeat Magazine’s Jan Ramsey. It’s a tradition that dates back into the 19th century.
In 1976, a record came out that brought the music of the Mardi Gras Indians to a wider audience. The Wild Tchoupitoulas featured all four Neville Brothers and the Meters, an all-star New Orleans backing band. The album was chosen for the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry this year.
The Wild Tchoupitoulas were, for a time, led by George Landry, known as Chief Jolly — an uncle to the Neville brothers — and the album was made as a tribute. “He was, as far as I’m concerned, a giant,” remembers Cyril Neville, “and one of the people who put New Orleans culture on the map.”
Voices: Jan Ramsey, Big Queen Rita, Cyril Neville