The Hawketts “Mardi Gras Mambo” (1954)

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**Celebrating the music of New Orleans for Mardi Gras week**

If I had to pick just one song heard throughout the city of New Orleans in the days and weeks leading up to Mardi Gras, that was both the most ubiquitous and the most universally adored, I think it would have to be ‘Mardi Gras Mambo’ by The Hawketts. Everybody loves it. Everybody knows it. But, did you know this:

  • It was written in 1953 by two guys named Frankie Adams and Lou Welsch, and the original version was recorded by singer Jody Levens as a country song.
  • The Hawketts were a 7-piece New Orleans R&B group comprised of teenage musicians, who in 1953 recruited 16-year-old Art Neville to join the band.
  • The song was recorded in January of 1954 in the studio of local radio station WWEZ using just two microphones.
  • It was, in fact, Art Neville – later, of course, of The Meters and The Neville Brothers – who sang the lead vocals.
  • Following the iconic saxophone opening there’s a distinct grunt heard from the band members – which was actually precipitated by drummer Johnny Boudreaux tipping over a platter of jambalaya onto the control board.¹

¹I’m just seeing if anyone’s still paying attention, that’s completely made-up. The rest was legit, though.


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