Snooks Eaglin, who had been battling prostate cancer, shot to prominence on the strength of 1959's "New Orleans Street Singer," a record that even today is a revelation. Mostly, because it sounds nothing like Eaglin, who was as modern and as inventive and as non-traditional as they came. Still, for all of the foot-stomping joys of his band recordings, "Street Singer" remains the surest testament to Eaglin's pure genius -- as a performer and as an arranger. Eaglin, born January 21, 1936, died on Feb. 18 -- just weeks before a scheduled return to the Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans. He wasn't, of course, your typical folk artist, much less a street performer, in the strictest sense of the word. Eaglin found material, even on "Street Singer," in less traditional places -- and clearly preferred the sounds he heard pouring out of dance clubs and passing car radioes in the Big Easy. They called his 1959 breakthrough "folk," but much of the material -- not least of which was "St. James Infirmary," by Hot Lips Page; and "Careless Love," done by both Kid Ory and Bessie Smith, among others -- was actually part of the mainstream black music of the day.
New Orleans guitarist Snooks Eaglin gets rousing jazz funeral send-off from Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas and more
In a tan suit and his trademark sunglasses, the late Snooks Eaglin lay in a casket near the Howlin' Wolf stage Friday morning.
It was the Warehouse District nightclub's first funeral.
"We've had people laid out here before," noted Howlin' Wolf owner Howie Kaplan, "but they were still breathing."
Eaglin, 72, died Feb. 18 of cardiac arrest related to prostate cancer. For decades the "Human Jukebox" dazzled with a finger-bending style of guitar wizardry that won him such fans as Robert Plant and Bonnie Raitt. Irascible and unpretentious, his gigs at the Mid-City Lanes and elsewhere were a New Orleans music rite of passage.
|Video: Snooks Eaglin remembered|
|Video: Snooks Eaglin remembered|
B' Side's "Ford Eaglin - I'm Slippin' In (Imperial 5802)"
Today is a very sad one for me and many of you. Snooks Eaglin, the greatest
living New Orleans musician, died today.
Snooks was the consummate entertainer, and epitomized the spirit of New
Orleans music. His performances were as joyous as a second line on a spring
day: full of optimism, banter, and the best groove I ever heard in my life.
Like the best of our music, it was much more powerful live than recorded.
He has always been an inspiration to me; seeing him at the 1976 JazzFest
converted me back to playing blues, and was one of the major reasons I
returned to New Orleans.
Please raise a glass tonight to the man who brought joy to the life of many
of us, and was a great reason to live here.
I am including a short bio from the WWOZ website at the end of this email.
Jambase:Sat Eye Candy: R.I.P. Snooks Eaglin
Justifiably legendary bluesman Snooks Eaglin died of a heart attack in his native New Orleans this past Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at the age of 72. The blind street musician rose to fame in the 1950s, picking up admirers with his incendiary guitar work and a voice that earned him the title "Little Ray Charles." The nickname that really stuck though was "Human Jukebox" because of Eaglin's incredible memory and ability to digest and morph anything on the airwaves. Unlike a lot of blues musicians, Eaglin sidestepped his genre ghetto to embrace funk, soul, pop and rock, but always filtered through his dirt field and concrete slapping beginnings. He played with nearly everyone of note in New Orleans over the years, from Allen Toussaint in the '50s to George Porter Jr. in the '80s, but a Snooks session always felt like his shindig regardless of the larger lights around him.
Eaglin offers some quality parenting advice.
This is the kind of tune (and delivery) that made Snooks such a hit with the ladies, who could always be found swaying like a lively riverboat at his gigs. The man was a massive charmer!
We conclude with an informal session at the Rock n' Bowl and the unrushed simmer of "Life in the Middle."
I resisted writing about Snooks Eaglin’s funeral yesterday, wondering if it was tasteless to comment on it. But later in the day at the visitation for Antoinette K-Doe at the Mother-in-Law Lounge, people asked how it was, so I’ll use that request as my guide.
It was very nice. It was generally the right mix of church ritual and secular expressions, so there was a ritualized comfort dimension, but it was a service about Eaglin and it couldn’t have been mistaken for anyone else’s funeral. Irma Thomas’ gospel performance was powerful, though her brief remarks left me feeling like she was asked to sing more because of her love of gospel than her relationship with Eaglin.
There was a lot of good humor in the stories Quint Davis and John Blancher told about life with Snooks, and there was a little strange drama in the emergence of James Jackson, the drummer in Eaglin’s first band, the Flamingos. He seemed to need to be central to things, standing with Eaglin at his coffin when Flamingo bandmate Allen Toussaint started his recollections of Eaglin. But who knows? Maybe he was closer to Eaglin than any of us knew, or maybe this was his first chance to feel like a somebody in 50 years. At funerals, I prefer to attribute the most generous motives to people’s behavior.