There are countless musicians in New Orleans, yet only a few make it to the “top”. Locally, musicians gain their own tier of fame, and most New Orleanians gauge this to be the only method of measure necessary and important. Anything outside is well, outside. A lot of it’s based on a ladder scheme, wherein you become better known based on where you play or whom you’ve jammed with – and if you play your cards right, you step up a rung once in a while. It all starts with the first question New Orleanians ask when greeting a stranger: “What high school did you go to?” – (We’ll get to that in a later post).
Yet reaching the “top” outside of New Orleans (or southeast region) is another story. Not many ever want to leave, and for some that do, they discover an audience that exists outside the carnival-in-a-go-cup mentality that [we] New Orleanians embrace the world with. Here it doesn’t matter if the band is good – it matters that you can dance to it, that you can drink to it, that the beat adds lagniappe to your day. Locals can dance jovially to a brass band build of middle school kids who each have less than an octave range on their instruments and the tone-quality of what folks outside of the city consider a ‘first-year-player’. Yet that doesn’t seem to happen elsewhere. What makes New Orleans different? Secondly, when New Orleanians leave here and become famous, what have they done differently that other local greats have failed to do?