The Wild Magnolias: Smoke My Peace Pipe (Smoke It Right)


Smoke My Peace Pipe (Smoke It Right)


The Wild Magnolias


The Wild Magnolias (Sunnyside 3068)

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Theodore Emile ‘Bo’ Dolis (lead vocals, background vocals, tambourine), Joseph Pierre ‘Monk’ Boudreaux (background vocals, conga), James ‘Gator June’ Johnson Jr. (background vocals, tambourine), Lawrence ‘Crip’ Adams (background vocals, cow bells, tambourine), Johnnie ‘Quarter Moon’ Tobias (background vocals, tambourine, whistle), Leonard ‘Gate’ Johnson (background vocals, tambourine), Washington ‘Bubba’ Scott (background vocals, triangle, tambourine), James Smothers (background vocals, bongos, congas), Norwood ‘Gitchie’ Johnson (bass drum), Willie Tee (keyboards, percussion, background vocals), Earl Turbinton, Jr. (alto/soprano saxes, bass clarinet), Julius Farmer (bass), Fird ‘Snooks’ Eaglin (guitar), Larry Panna (drums), Alfred ‘Uganda’ Roberts (congas)


Composed by Wilson Turbinton


Recorded: Bogalusa, Louisiana, 1973


Rating: 81/100 (learn more)

The tradition of African-Americans dressing up as Indians at Mardi Gras time is a venerable one, and supposedly reflects a gesture of gratitude to Native Americans due to their help in securing freedom for runaway slaves, a historical relationship that cemented ties between these two groups. Also blacks sometimes circumvented discrimination by passing themselves off as members of one or another tribe. The tradition continues today, and in grand ceremonial fashion—it is not uncommon for a Mardi Gras Indian costume to cost several thousand dollars. The visual effect is heightened by singing, chanting, drumming and a general spirit of revelry.

The Wild Magnolias

Enter the Wild Magnolias. My source documents are strangely silent about the so-called "peace pipe" mentioned in this song. Are the Wild Magnolias referring to some time-honored Native American tradition? A powerful medicine? A shamanistic ritual of cosmic proportions? They are sticklers for ritual purity—admonishing the listener to "smoke it right"; but how do they get around all those local anti-smoking restrictions? You can't even light up a cigar in a smoke shop these days without a squad car arriving to take you away in 'cuffs. Of course, the music presents its own puzzle. Could this really be a traditional Native American song? Did they have electric bass back then? The uninitiated might be tempted to describe this track as watered-down 1970s soul music, but that shows how little they know.

In short, your humble music critic has too many unanswered questions. But a few more puffs on this peace pipe, and perhaps things will clear up a bit. Still I wonder: am I smoking it right?

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

If you liked this track, also check out

The Wild Tchoupitoulas: Big Chief Got a Golden Crown
Al ‘Carnival Time’ Johnson: Carnival Time
The Hawketts (with Art Neville): Mardi Gras Mambo

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