New Orleans is known for its gumbo and the sound of The Meters, the Funk Originators who put New Orleans at the forefront of the 1970s funk style with innovative tracks such as ‘Cissy Strut’ and ‘Hey Pocky A-Way’. The band’s self-titled 1969 debut LP became a blueprint for the decade of funk that followed.
Prior to their success as The Meters, the band were the young in-house musicians for New Orleans record producer Allen Toussaint playing on on hits for local soul legends such as Lee Dorsey.
During the 1970s The Meters built their own career and their own brand of funk with genre-bending classics such as ‘Look-Ka Py Py’, ‘Fire On The Bayou’ and ‘Africa’. Their musical gumbo has defined the modern New Orleans style that embraces the region’s multi-cultural heritage.
The Rolling Stones chose The Meters to open for them on tours of the USA (1975) and Europe (1976) but the group never broke beyond their cult status.
The band split in 1977, frustrated by their punitive recording contract with producer Allen Toussaint and New Orleans studio owner Marshall Sehorn. Art Neville joined with his brothers to form the Neville Brothers.
The Meters reformed in 1989 to 1994 with new drummer Russell Batiste who continues to play in the Funky Meters and in side projects with bassist George Porter, Jr.
The guys must have Louisiana cabin fever as in April 2011 they are traveling downunder to play the Byron Bay Blues Festival and Auckland’s Powerstation.
The legacy of The Meters has grown year by year as the decades have added more fans with the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival focussing on the city’s sound and as The Meters were discovered by the hip-hop community.
The Foundation of Hip-Hop
When hip-hop pioneers went searching for the perfect beat, samples taken from the classic Meters vinyl albums became the building blocks for modern hip-hop.
The music of the Meters has been known to have been sampled over 140 times and the track ‘Cissy Strut’ has been sampled at least 18 times.
The Meters played on:
* ‘Lady Marmalade’ by Labelle.
* ‘Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley’ by Robert Palmer.
* ‘Right Place, Wrong Time’ by Dr. John.
* ‘Working In A Coal Mine’ by Lee Dorsey.
Art Neville a.k.a Poppa Funk, New Orleans legend:
* As a teenager Art Neville joined the Hawkettes and recorded the New Orleans classic "Mardi Gras Mambo" in 1954.
* Art Neville and his brothers with their uncle Big Chief Jolly (George Landry) recorded the classic 1976 Mardi Gras Indians album The Wild Tchoupitoulas.
* Art has also played in the post-Katrina super-group, The New Orleans Social
Club.Art Neville & Hurricane Katrina
On tour with the Neville Brothers, in a Rochester NY hotel room, Art watched on TV, the devastation of his beloved city. His wife Lorraine had to flee New Orleans with their 9 year old daughter, the family photos, their dog and a
chequebook. She wrapped up Art’s Grammy Awards and stowed them in the clothes dryer. Their house was on the edge of the most devastated area and remained standing, but looters did more damage than the storm and the flood. Art’s Awards were safe as the intruders did not open the clothes dryer. After three months Art returned to his home --“You know it's going to take at least 10 to 15 years before you can say, ‘Yeah, this is something like the old New Orleans’. But some people are never going to be able to come back here again."
George Porter, Jr. on Funk and Fame:
“Three months after Katrina my wife and I decided to buy us a home out in the country. So we bought a home out in a city called Darrow, Louisiana, which is 52 miles northwest of New Orleans.”
“After the levees broke, it’s all supposed to be Mayor Ray Nagin’s fault. But he didn’t build those levees. The federal government built those levees, and the federal government managed and handled all the money that was put toward those levees. The city of New Orleans didn’t have anything to do with that. And they say the federal government is sending money our way. We just don’t see it. That drives a hole in my head. I came out to the country to get away from it. Out here, I don’t have to look at that stuff all the time. I’ve got to run away from my home just to get piece of mind.
George Porter, Jr. on Funk and Fame:
The Meters founding bass player has the inside juice on his style of funk."Space is a very equal part of the music," says George Porter Jr. "It's not what you play; it's what you don't play that makes it work."