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Blakeview: The Wild Magnolias' 'Handa Wanda' 

Bo Dollis recorded the first commercially produced Mardi Gras Indian record

click to enlarge Big Chief Bo Dollis of the Wild Magnolias came up with the song “Handa Wanda.”

Photo by Derek Bridges/Creative Commons

Big Chief Bo Dollis of the Wild Magnolias came up with the song “Handa Wanda.”

This week, our Mardi Gras music history lesson highlights a song featuring the sounds of the Mardi Gras Indians: "Handa Wanda." Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis, at the time an ethnomusicology student at Tulane, was first exposed to the Mardi Gras Indians in the 1960s by photographer Jules Cahn, who had been documenting the Indians for years. Davis told The States-Item in 1974 that after listening to one performance featuring the Golden Eagles, led by Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, and the Wild Magnolias, led by Big Chief Bo Dollis, he was amazed at Dollis' voice. Davis asked if the men had ever made a record, which they hadn't. In 1970, he asked Dollis to come up with a song they could record. The song, which opens with Dollis' powerful shout, also featured Boudreaux, several Indian percussionists and a band led by Willie Tee. It became the first commercially produced Mardi Gras Indian single and launched the Wild Magnolias into a career that included recording albums, opening for Aretha Franklin and performing at Carnegie Hall.

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