The Wild Tchoupitoulas

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The Wild Tchoupitoulas

 

If you've spent time in New Orleans – or watched the HBO show Tremé — you may know about one of the most idiosyncratic customs of that highly idiosyncratic town. The Mardi Gras Indians are African-American social clubs that take on the names of fictitious Indian tribes. They each have their own special expressions, rituals, and costumes: “lots of brightly colored feathers, sequins, and beaded suits,” describes Offbeat Magazine’s Jan Ramsey. It’s a tradition that dates back into the 19th century.

In 1976, a record came out that brought the music of the Mardi Gras Indians to a wider audience. The Wild Tchoupitoulas featured all four Neville Brothers and the Meters, an all-star New Orleans backing band. The album was chosen for the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry this year.

The Wild Tchoupitoulas were, for a time, led by George Landry, known as Chief Jolly — an uncle to the Neville brothers — and the album was made as a tribute. “He was, as far as I’m concerned, a giant,” remembers Cyril Neville, “and one of the people who put New Orleans culture on the map.”

This story was produced by Ben Manilla and Devon Strolovitch for BMP audio.

Music Playlist

  1. Brother John

    Artist: Wild Tchoupitoulas
    Album: Wild Tchoupitoulas
    Label: Fontana Island
  2. Hey Hey (Indian Comin')

    Artist: Wild Tchoupitoulas
    Album: Wild Tchoupitoulas
    Label: Fontana Island
  3. Hey Pocky A-Way (A Way)

    Artist: Wild Tchoupitoulas
    Album: Wild Tchoupitoulas
    Label: Fontana Island
  4. Meet De Boys On The Battlefront

    Artist: Wild Tchoupitoulas
    Album: Wild Tchoupitoulas
    Label: Fontana Island
  5. Indian Red

    Artist: Wild Tchoupitoulas
    Album: Wild Tchoupitoulas
    Label: Fontana Island
  6. Hey Mama (Wild Tchoupitoulas)

    Artist: Wild Tchoupitoulas
    Album: Wild Tchoupitoulas
    Label: Fontana Island