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SXSW ’07 PREVIEW: PONDEROSA STOMP

The Ponderosa Stomp, the annual celebration of the unsung heroes of the blues, soul, rockabilly, swamp pop and New Orleans and Gulf Coast R&B, returns to the Crescent City on May 2 at the House of Blues after a year in exile in Memphis, Tenn.

“The Stomp is the ultimate jukebox — all killer, no filler,” says festival founder and producer Dr. Ike (Ike Padnos). “Everyone comes to play. The musicians see each other after 40 or 50 years. [Or] they have been hearing about each other for 50 years and never met. Where else would Oliver Morgan and Marshall Allen of Sun Ra‘s Arkestra be hanging out?
“The shows at SXSW were amazing. It was way too much fun. We got rave reviews. We definitely wanted to do it again but with a different look.”

To preview the show, it is once again hitting the road to Austin, Texas, for a SXSW showcase. Ponderosa Stomp’s SXSW showcase is March 16 at Opal Divine’s Freehouse. It will include 14 acts presented revue-style, one after another, backed by Lil Buck Senegal‘s killer Lil Band O’ Gold, which includes organist Stanley Dural (a.k.a. Buckwheat Zydeco). Among the Stomp stars in Austin will be Barbara Lynn, Archie Bell, Harvey Scales and Bobby Patterson.

Medleyville: With the Stomp returning home, I take that as a good sign that things are improving in New Orleans>
Dr. Ike: “Things are better in New Orleans. From fall 2005 to now, things have improved. The problem is things aren’t moving fast enough: the school system, justice system, health care, lots of infrastructure as well as large swaths of areas of New Orleans need to be fixed. Due to general inability of the city, state and federal governments to work together, it will take a few years for everything to get fixed.

“A problem is that New Orleans is under a microscope so that anything bad is magniified. While there are problems with crime, the schools, and health care, many of these things were there before Katrina. Katrina just made these things worse and opened them up to the public. These things will hopefully improve over time.

“Many people have tried to write New Orleans off. They write stories that there is no more culture. New Orleans is far from dead. There are still great musicians living here. The city pulled off a great Mardi Gras. People need to come visit New Orleans and support a truly unique and great city. More of the positive needs to be emphasized. We felt the Stomp had to come home and now it is back for 2007. The stomp has to be in the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll — New Orleans. People need to visit New Orleans and not be scared off.”

What are your reflections on the festival’s year away in Memphis?
Dr. Ike: “Mounting of the Stomp in Memphis was quite challenging but it went off very well. There were many things that really made it great.
“One — all the Memphis musicians coming on board and doing special things: Eddie Bond playing with Travis Wammack; Matt Lucas playing with James Burton and Travis; Syl Johnson backed by the Hi Rhythm Section; B.B. Cunningham singing “Let It All Hang Out” backed
by Burton; William Bell singing “You Don’t Miss Your Water”with Marvell Thomas playing piano.

“Two — the tours of Sun and Stax studios with the artists.

“Three — getting Jerry “The King” Lawler and Nate the Rat to emcee.

“Four — the record show. We never had the space to do this in New Orleans

“There were many other highlights. The people of Memphis were fantastic. I definitely want to try to mount some shows there again. The show in Memphis was a benefit — we raised [more than] $30,000 for New Orleans and Gulf Coast musicians.”

The Stomp moves from the Rock-n-Bowl to the House of Blues. How are you going to cram last year’s three nights into one?
Dr. Ike:Sonny Schneidau of the House of Blues had been trying for years to get me to put the Stomp there. It had not worked out in the past. I liked the bowling alley, but we had outgrown it and had to find a new venue. Sonny made us a great offer, but the catch was he could only give us one night. After three nights of insanity last year, I thought everyone could use a little less craziness. I wanted two nights, but all I could get at the House of Blues was one.

“The challenge is everyone that plays the Stomp wants to come back. In addition, most of the performers last year donated their performance for the benefit and I wanted to be able to reward them with a paid gig. Lastly, we have to balance things out by bringing in new artists to keep it fresh. These pressures created havoc as I wish I had another night. All said, I think the lineup is pretty strong.”

One notable new addition this year is Roky Erickson.
Dr. Ike: “Truth is stranger than fiction. I had always hoped we would one day get Roky to play the Stomp. . . . One day I was awoken by a voice on the phone telling me it was Roky Erickson’s drummer and was I interested in having Roky play the Stomp? Unfortunately, Roky wasn’t ready for an out-of-town gig yet. While Roky made progress, he and his brother Sumner chose Ten Pin Management, Darren Hill‘s firm, to manage Roky. Darren was a fan of the Stomp and a friend of a friend. He went out of his way to make things happen. Two years later, Roky is finally playing the Stomp. I can’t wait. He has been amazing every gig I have seen.”

Who else is new for 2007?

Dr. Ike:Dan Penn and Bobby Emmons — on the wish list for years. Little Jimmy Scott — very honored he’s playing. Augie Meyers — can’t wait to hear “She’s About a Mover” on the Vox organ. Wardell Quezergue and his New Orleans Rhythm and Blues Revue — the great arranger with a super band with special guest Jean Knight. Tony Owens — an amazing soul singer that never plays out . . . Bobby Rush with Kenny Brown — Bobby playing blues with just Kenny on guitar. This will be a rare treat for people to see what a great musician Bobby really is. He played harp with Elmore James in the early ’60s.”

— By Joe Belock