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Special Note: This article was submitted to OffBeat at the request of editor David Jones. It is reprinted here in its entirety. Due to space limitations, OffBeat edited their version.
In many ways, 1997 was a good news/bad news kind of year. Overall, the good news reigned. However, mixed in with the good were a few very painful events. So, starting with the good:
1.Governor Foster reappoints Ellis Marsalis as Chairman of the Louisiana Music Commission. The dust settles, and we're still standing.
2. Louisiana artists selling and releasing more records than ever. Master P hits #1 in Billboard. Zachary Richard goes Platinum in Canada. Nearly 300 records released by Louisiana artists. More Louisiana artists charting than ever, making 1997 a watershed year. Music's impact on state economy tops $2.2 billion. To quote swamp pop legend Rod Bernard, "This Should Go On Forever."
3. Louisiana artists honored: Wynton wins Pulitzer, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducts more artists from Louisiana than any other state. Cajun French Music Association Museum and Hall of Fame inducts first honorees. This list seems to go on forever.
4. New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts breaks ground for $25 million facility, adds Disney executive to Board of Directors. The nation's best arts oriented public high school positioned to lead the world into the next millennium.
5. New Orleans Jazz Centennial Celebration Jazz Walk of Fame unveiled for Algiers Point levee. A nearly $900,000 interactive promenade dedicated to deceased jazz legends will be the state's biggest music memorial to date.
6. Music traditions passing to next generation. Cajuns have Hunter Hayes and Les Acadiens; jazz musicians teaching kids at St. Mark's Community Center.
7. Louisiana Music Commission establishes web site. Press releases, news, internal documents like the strategic plan which outlines ambitious agenda for both website and LMC programs. Now there's no excuse for not knowing what the heck we're up to.
8. Even more Louisiana music on television. New Orleans After Midnight enjoys highest ratings of any locally-produced show, reaching more than 78,000 viewers weekly. Locally produced prime time Christmas special on Fox 8 features New Orleans greats. Herman Fuselier brings Bayou Boogie to Acadiana. Cox spreads LTV's successor, Louisiana Jukebox, to more cities in and out of the state. The boob tube is a groove tube in Louisiana.
And now the sad news:
9. Dr. Tommy Comeaux killed in accident. How many people could do all that Tommy did? He played in six bands, was head of Lourdes Pathology Group where he was a specialist in oncology (cancer diagnosis/treatment) and you could never meet a nicer person. We are lucky to have known him and grateful to God for giving us as long as we had to learn from the shining example of his life. We miss you Tommy.
10. Joe Sinatra destroys the Old Absinthe House Bar. Like a thief in the night, this historic Bourbon Street blues bar was gutted before anyone in the community could come to its rescue. It's amazing that a native could be so callous and uncaring about our historical legacy. The place was dripping with priceless charisma and timeless funkiness. Marva Wright, Bryan Lee, J. Monque'D, Marc Adams and every great blues musician in the city at one time played the room. Unexpected guests like Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Page are among the many greats who just dropped in to see what condition its condition was in. Now it's in no condition to be called historic.
Addendum: Amusement Tax killed by lawsuit? Judge Robin M. Giarrusso's ruling still not released at press time. Could be the biggest news of the year. Thanks to Justin Zitler, Mitch Landrieu and of all places, the Cat's Meow for finally taking this onerous tax on live music to court.
Here's to 1998, may it be truly great!
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Louisiana Music Commission
3330 N. Causeway Blvd. Suite 438
Metairie LA 70002
Phone: 504-838-5600 Fax: 504-838-5280