Wednesday, May 24, 2023

the last book I ever read (The Wild Tchoupitoulas (33 1/3) by Bryan Wagner, excerpt eight)

from The Wild Tchoupitoulas (33 1/3) by Bryan Wagner

Jolly died on August 9, 1980. At the funeral, the crown from his last suit was spread over his casket. The procession took the same grand style as the parade for John Scaraface Williams. It was led by the Olympia Brass Band, playing the traditional dirges, followed by an estimated five hundred second liners, who were in turn trailed by an entourage of Mardi Gras Indians, led by Bo Dollis, chanting “Big Chief Got a Golden Crown” as they left Blessed Sacrament on Constance Street and “Hey Pocky Way” as they turned onto Valcen Street, where Jolly’s casket was loaded onto a hearse to be taken to Resthaven Cemetery in Gentilly. As the hearse sped away, the mourners assembled in concentric circles in the street, chanting “Brother Jolly’s gone!” between verses built on the familiar lines from The Wild Tchoupitoulas, doing for Jolly what the second-line mourners had done eight years ago for Williams, ushering Jolly into pantheon of departed leaders by adapting a chant that had been used to eulogize fallen heroes all the way back to Brother Tillman. For the Neville family, for the Wild Tchoupitoulas, and for the New Orleans music community, these hot summer months in 1980 represented a watershed. Professor Longhair had died in January. Norman Bell, who took over as Big Chief of the Wild Tchoupitoulas the previous year, had died in May. It was time to look to the future.

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