The Hawketts (featuring Art Neville): Mardi Gras Mambo
Mardi Gras Mambo
Treacherous: A History of the Neville Brothers (Rhino 71494)
Art Neville (keyboard vocals),
John Boudreaux (drums), George Davis (alto sax), Alfred August (guitar), Israel Bell (trumpet) August Fleuri (trumpet), Carroll Joseph (trombone), George Davis (alto sax), Morris Bechamin (tenor sax).
Composed by Frankie Adams, Ken Elliot and Lou Welsh.
Recorded: New Orleans, 1954
Rating: 88/100 (learn more)
This classic carnival tune was originally recorded by country artist Jodie Levens in 1953, but his incongruous steel-guitar backed version fell flat. Enter the Hawketts the following year with their light R&B version, enhanced with a bit of Caribbean flavor, and a Mardi Gras classic was born. It's hard to believe that Art Neville was only sixteen when he delivered this confident vocal—he sounds like a full-grown man with many Fat Tuesdays under his belt. But though he may not have been old enough to buy alcohol, his paean to Mardi Gras has inspired lots of drinkin', partyin' and fraternizin' with the opposite sex over the years. There is no bass on this track—drummer Boudreux chalks that up to the Hawketts' inexperience: "We didn't know that a band was supposed to have a bass player." But the horns, piano and drums lock together so perfectly that you may not even notice its absence. With a little more foresight, the Chess label (which originally released this recording) might have built the Hawketts into a big national act. As it turned out, they would lose interest, and Art Neville would move on to success with the Meters, the Wild Tchoupitoulas and the Neville Brothers. Even so, this hot New Orleans band lives on in spirit via this perennial carnival favorite.
Reviewer: Ted Gioia
If you liked this track, also check out
A History of New Orleans Music in 100 Tracks edited by Ted Gioia