New Orleans Musicians

  • Michael Urban
Part of the Pop Music, Culture and Identity book series (PMCI)


I got into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame as its youngest member. That makes me proud. But the highlight of my career, you know, was being in the Olympia Brass Band when you got your red pants. And I got my red pants with my yellow stripe.—Glen David Andrews

The title of this chapter refers to a group of people distinguished from their counterparts elsewhere by both a shared, self-referential narrative and an attendant set of individual and collective practices. The former is immediately observable in the fact that no other city in the US has generated such a robust signifier for those making music within its borders as has New Orleans. Of course, it is possible to speak of, say, Los Angeles musicians or Nashville musicians, but the connotation in these instances is a pale one. We learn from these terms where the musicians reside and not much more. We are little informed about the music that they play there. Do they play something called “Los Angeles music” or “Nashville music”? The latter might suggest country music but that is as far as it goes. There is no such commonly recognized thing as “Nashville music”. As for “Los Angeles music”, that signifier would be even more elusive if not entirely empty. Not so with something called “New Orleans music”, which gestures toward a variety of musical genres—jazz, R&B, swamp pop and zydeco—through which run the common and distinctive threads spun on the city’s musical sound-scape. For instance, when speaking about the various jazz styles that had emerged in one or another quarter of the US nearly a century ago, the legendary Sidney Bechet pointed out that their variety simply reflected the fact that they all stemmed from the jazz created in New Orleans, but that differentiation occurred because these musicians were not New Orleanians and thus there were things in the New Orleans Sound that they were unable to hear and feel, but plenty in their own experience that could be substituted.


Musical Genre Live Music Rolling Stone Musical Community Piano Player 


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Copyright information

© Michael Urban 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Urban
    • 1
  1. 1.University of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA

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