**Celebrating the music of New Orleans for Mardi Gras week**
Their recording output was exactly one record. Not one album, mind you, but one song – a 45 single. And yet, last week Leigh Harris, aka Little Queenie, was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame – at a benefit in her honor¹ at the funky little Canal Street club Chickie Wah Wah – so lasting was the impact of that one quintessential New Orleans song. She performed it all the way back in 1981 as leader of Little Queenie & The Percolators, who flashed into being in the late ‘70’s, played everywhere in town including once, quite memorably, at my frat house, and then disbanded in 1982, just 4 years after their first gig and with but that one iconic single, ‘My Darlin’ New Orleans’, to mark their meteoric local rise.
What a song it was, though, a stylistic blend of marching band, jazz, waltz and hip-hop, masterfully presented by Harris – sorry, I’m gonna stick with Little Queenie – a pixieish singer with close-cropped hair and a flashing smile, who within this short single’s time span modulates from smoky torch balladeer to fiery rock ‘n roll screamer. The irresistible anthem-to-be, which Queenie co-wrote with help from Charles Neville, rapidly name-checks a variety of prevalent and familiar city themes and paints images that immediately conjure New Orleans in one’s eyes as well as ears – “Praline hometown”, “Magnolia melancholy”, “In corner bars, on streetcars”, “Carnival calliope”, “On patios, in my funky clothes”, “Jazz bands and ceiling fans”, “Politicians, done gone fishin’”, “Frog legs, dance on Dixie kegs”, “Oyster kiss and crawfish bliss”, and “Playing Mardi Gras in my ear.” Now that’s some Big Easy poetry. The Guardian, in their recently compiled list of “Songs about New Orleans”, called the tune’s many provincial citations “New Orleans on a bun.” That’s good, but sorry, wouldn’t that have to be New Orleans on a Po-Boy? Crescent City royalty like Little Queenie deserves nothing less.
¹Sadly, the 64-year-old Harris is deep in a multi-year battle with cancer.