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Blakeview: Professor Longhair's 'Go to the Mardi Gras' 

The New Orleans artist recorded at least six versions of the song

click to enlarge blakeview_1-23-18_longhair-_sidney_smith.jpg

Photo by Sidney Smith

For this week's Carnival music spotlight, get your ticket in your hand and head to the corner of St. Claude and Dumaine to see the Zulu king. But that intersection doesn't exist, you say? It certainly does in Professor Longhair's "Go to the Mardi Gras," one of the most popular rhythm and blues songs about Mardi Gras. When Longhair (whose real name was Henry Roeland Byrd and his nickname was Fess) first wrote and recorded the song in 1949, it was titled "Mardi Gras in New Orleans" and Fess actually sang about going to Rampart and Dumaine, the location of Cosimo Matassa's famous J&M Recording Studio. Fess changed the lyric for a 1959 recording of the song, which was released as "Go to the Mardi Gras" and is the version known today. In all, Longhair recorded at least six versions of the song. One version even reworked the lyrics into a tune called "East St. Louis Baby." In 1953, Fats Domino also recorded the song. Versions by Harold Dejan's Olympia Brass Band and Dirty Dozen Brass Band also commonly are heard. No matter the singer, remember "When you see the Mardi Gras, somebody'll tell you what's Carnival for."

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