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If you think you’d like a novel about an industry that destroyed a state’s coastline and wetlands with impunity (while parking their fortunes in offshore bank accounts), then Hydrocarbon Hucksters is not for you.

If you like fiction about politicians who will do whatever it takes to get their hands on dirty campaign contributions, don’t bother reading this book. What Ernest Zebrowski and his niece, Mariah Zebrowski Leach, have written is not fantasy, not the product of fertile imaginations; it’s real.

If you already have high blood pressure you will not want to read about how ExxonMobil made $35 billion in profits in 2009 and filed a 24,000-page tax return showing it owed zero dollars in taxes.

You also probably would not want to know that Wall Street futures speculators, those suits who never owned so much as a gas can, are responsible for adding about 30 percent to the cost of a fill-up at the pump.

Inspired by the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent 4.9 million-gallon oil spill that devastated the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines, Hydrocarbon Hucksters: Lessons from Louisiana on Oil, Politics, and Environmental Justice (University Press of Mississippi, 193 pages) is a new book scheduled to hit the bookshelves in early 2014 which takes an unflinchingly critical look at the sordid relationship between Louisiana politicians and the oil industry and how the state’s environment has paid a heavy price for that illicit romance.

The Zebrowskis are certain to rankle more than a few power brokers in Baton Rouge and on the corporate boards of major oil companies like ExxonMobil, BP, Marathon, Shell, ConocoPhillips and Chevron.

Ernest Zebrowski of Baton Rouge, a former Southern University professor, collaborated with Ruston Ph.D. Judith Howard on the 2007 analytical study Category 5: The Story of Camille, Lessons Unlearned from America’s Most Violent Hurricane (University of Michigan Press, 304 pages) a book that was as gripping as it was informative.

This book is unique in that it takes on giant corporations and high-profile politicians like Gov. Bobby Jindal, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, and President Barrack Obama without favoring one political party over another.

It tells, for example, of how Congressman Jindal backed renewable energy until he lost his 2003 bid for the governorship because oil and gas was not behind his campaign and how he converted and knelt at the altar of fossil fuel, became the industry’s darling and won in his second try in 2007. Jindal even called President Obama’s attempt to impose a 60-day moratorium on drilling in the outer continental shelf after Deepwater a “second disaster” on a par with the devastation of the oil spill itself—something of a stretch, to be sure.

It tells how Mary Landrieu took thousands of dollars in oil and gas money and defied Obama even though the moratorium affected only 33 projects in the Gulf (not a single oil-producing well in the Gulf was ever shut down) and even though only a few hundred jobs were in danger of being lost despite the claim of a federal district judge in New Orleans who ruled against the moratorium with the claim that it could eliminate up to 150,000 jobs.

(That same judge, by the way, failed to disclose that he had significant energy investments—an apparent conflict of interest that should have resulted in his recusing himself.)

The Zebrowskis also debunk certain claims about the negative effects of Obama’s proposed six-month moratorium on new outer continental shelf drilling; the share tax secrets about oil companies that they would rather you did not know, and reveal how the state’s elected officials depend on oil money and obligingly reciprocate with oil-friendly regulations.

The Zebrowskis, backed by painstaking research, take you on a 183-page historic tour of the petroleum industry in Louisiana that will leave you shaking your head in wonder that a state so rich in oil and natural gas could rank so high in poverty, so low in education and so smarmy in its political leadership. Republicans and Democrats alike are subjected to critique in Hydrocarbon Hucksters. No one is spared the Zebrowskis’ critical examination. Once you read Hydrocarbon Hucksters, you will never feel the same again when you fill your gas tank—about oil companies, Wall Street, Congress, or the Louisiana Legislature.

But the Zebrowskis don’t stop with simply criticizing oil companies, Wall Street and politicians. They offer solutions, however improbable it may be that any of them will ever be implemented as long as oil money flows. Among those proposed solutions:

  • Designate oil companies as public utilities, a step already taken in Canada and other countries, so as to regulate profits;
  • Ban speculative profiteering by Wall Street futures traders;
  • Require oil companies to restore the environment to its natural state;
  • Revise the corporate tax codes;
  • Get serious about the development of electric wind-powered, synthetic and hydrogen-based energy;
  • Develop high-speed electric rail mass transit projects as an alternative to air travel;
  • Expand recycling.

At least one of these, a high-speed rail line between New Orleans and Baton Rouge was already attempted but rejected by Gov. Bobby Jindal who spurned a federal grant to fund the project over the objections of Baton Rouge business leaders.

(Subsequent to the manuscript’s completion, the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority filed suit against more than 100 oil and gas companies in an action that could run into the billions of dollars for restoration of the Louisiana Gulf Coast, a move that came under harsh criticism from Jindal.)

So long as oil money can continue to purchase politicians, there is little to no chance of any of the Zebrowskis’ recommendations ever becoming reality. Hydrocarbon Hucksters, however, is an eye-opening read that you should plan to purchase as a handy reference as soon as it hits the shelves next year.

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“Dirty rice is a spicy Cajun dish compounded from the king of grains and the rough-chopped innards ob beast and fowl. It is best eaten hot, eyes closed, no questions asked.”

–Cliff Probst, from “What to Eat in Louisiana.”

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LouisianaVoice does not normally offer book reviews but we would like to make an exception with Dirty Rice: A Season in the Evangeline League, a novel by Gerald Duff.

If you are a fan of the grand old game and you are into baseball lore, this book is for you.

Published by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, Dirty Rice (306 pages) http://www.ulpress.org/ tells us the story of Gemar Batiste, who is recruited from the Alabama-Coushatta Indian Reservation in Texas to pitch and play outfield for the Rayne Rice Birds in 1935.

Gemar, we learn soon enough, is a spiritual player who clings to his cultural lore but who also possesses all the odd superstitions that are peculiar to baseball players (step over the line, never on it; do not cross the bats, lay them side by side; at all costs, avoid speaking to or making eye contact with a pitcher who is pitching a no-hitter).

All but one of the characters is fictional. The lone exception is Roderick “Hookey” Irwin, a right-handed pitcher who in 1934 led the Evangeline League with a record of 21-4. Irwin just happens to be the uncle of author Duff.

Duff, a native of the Texas Gulf Coast, has taught literature and writing at Vanderbilt University, Kenyon College, Johns Hopkins University, and St. John’s College in Oxford. He also served as Academic Dean at Rhodes College, Goucher College and McKendree University.

The Class D Evangeline League, Duff tells us, was also known as the Hot Sauce League. Cajun humorist Justin Wilson referred to it in his stories as the Hot Pepper League. Its teams were spread out all over Louisiana, from Morgan City to Monroe, from Lake Charles to Hammond during its history from 1934 (when Rayne was the Red Sox) to 1951. Depending on the year, foreign teams from Port Arthur, Texas, and Natchez, Mississippi slipped in and out of the league. Rayne’s last year of competition in the league was 1941.

Batiste and another rookie, Mike Gomez, share a room in a local residence owned by a “Miz Doucette.” Gomez, an African-American from Mobile, Alabama, is officially listed as Cuban but to the locals he is considered a redbone, a racial mixture indigenous to South Louisiana. That was the only way he could qualify to play on an otherwise all-white team during the pre-Jackie Robinson years. And of course, his situation leads to problems near the end of the 1935 season, a season in which Rayne chases Opelousas for the league championship.

The real Evangeline League was hit by a betting scandal in 1946 and four members of the Houma Indians and one from Abbeville Athletics were suspended though the allegations of throwing games was never proven.

A professional gambler with ties to Sen. Huey Long (the Kingfish) moves in and out of the fictional Rice Birds’ locker room with apparent ease and Gomez is soon entangled in his web and predictably, makes key throwing errors that cost his team games in order to supplement his $50 per month salary.

Gomez knows his career is fated to never advance beyond the Evangeline League because of his color so he determines to take advantage of any financial opportunity presented him. We will leave it to you to discover whether or not Gomez is suspended, allowed to play, or if he ultimately costs his team the championship.

Duff is obviously a student of baseball; he simply knows too many of the nuances for him not to possess a deep understanding of the game within the game that is baseball. He approaches the game with the same mentality of a seasoned player—even down to anticipating what the pitcher will throw in a given situation and how to play a batter based on his batting stance and what the pitcher is throwing.

His dialogue between characters tends to drag to the point of becoming a distraction but we can attribute that to the differences in the culture of South Louisiana Cajuns, African-Americans and Native Americans.

Throw in the doomed would-be romance between Gemar Batiste and Teeny, Miz Doucette’s daughter, and you have the complete novel.

Duff has done a masterful job of capturing the unbridled enthusiasm that minor league baseball enjoyed in Louisiana during the heyday of the Evangeline League. Regrettably, all he can give us is the memory of that wonderful bygone era of Louisiana professional baseball.

But at least we have that.

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It’s long overdue, but it’s finally here. And it was worth the wait.

We’re talking about Life in Looziana, a book of vintage Fred Mulhearn cartoons.

Fred, many around Ruston will remember, once ran Mulhearn’s Florist Shop in what is now Monjunis Restaurant. Then, for some inexplicable reason, he gave up the serenity and aromatic delights of the florist business in favor of LSU Law School. He now works as an attorney for the Louisiana Department of Revenue and Taxation.

But he never gave up his passion for pithy editorial cartoons.

Introduced along with some samples of this work to the late Jim Hughes, at the time executive editor of the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, he was quickly signed on as a part-time editorial cartoonist for the newspaper.

Justifiably, the unofficial title of “Louisiana’s Own Cartoonist” was bestowed upon him by the late Secretary of State Fox McKeithen. The fact that Mulhearn was born in McKeithen’s neck of the woods (Winnsboro) probably didn’t hurt. Mulhearn and wife Roxanne currently reside in Denham Springs.

In addition to his book, a whole boatload (which is an exact term of measurement in south Louisiana) can be found on his internet web page: http://www.fredmulhearn.com.

But back to the book: it is, he proclaims “a collection of cartoons and commentary about what makes Louisiana different, unique, and sometimes just plain weird.”

Without giving anything away, all of Fred’s observations are accompanied by the appropriate cartoon illustrations.

He notes, for example, that “Translucence is not a desired quality in coffee.”

If you have ever attended a crawfish boil in south Louisiana, you understand Fred when he says, “In other states, old newspapers are taken to recycle bins. In Louisiana, we use them as table cloths.”

Most businesses have their own special niche when it comes to profitable holidays. Toy stores have Christmas, jewelry stores have Valentine’s Day, florists have Mother’s Day. In south Louisiana, car washes have love bug season.

The Lord may have sent plagues of frogs and locust on the Egyptians, but they somehow missed out on nutria, West Nile mosquitoes, and Formosan termites.

When a candidate for governor is tossed out the race by the courts because of a prior felony, Fred notes that the poor guy should’ve run for Insurance Commissioner.

Among the great chefs of Louisiana, Fred did not neglect to include “the folks who fry the chicken at Popeye’s.”

On a Sunday morning in Podunk, Louisiana, a couple walking to church observes that the governor is flying in for the day’s service—again.

And when food comes in a brown paper bag and the grease soaks through the paper, you know it’s got to taste good.

Out of professional courtesy, the Ringling Bros.-Barnum and Bailey Circus waited until the legislature adjourned before coming to Baton Rouge.

In one cartoon that hits very close to home in its timing, Fred notes that everyone is relieved when elections are finally over. Everyone, that is, except consultants, pollsters, ad agencies, printers, TV stations, newspapers, billboard companies, advisors, direct mail firms, etc.

One of the more unrealistic mass marketing schemes is that of Christmas cards depicting snow scenes when real Looziana Christmas weather involves dreary, rainy days.

And when you forget to purchase your Lottery and Powerball tickets, you can always simply flush a five dollar bill down the toilet: same result, just as much fun.

What possible purpose does the Rose Bowl Parade serve? They don’t even have throws.

Finally, Fred observes that in other states, women would be insulted by a gift of cheap plastic beads.

In Louisiana, some women disrobe in public to get them.

The book, at $14.95, is a bargain if you’re from Louisiana. If you’re not from Louisiana, you can’t possibly understand its contents or its concept. But get it anyway. It’s sure to be a classic. You can get yours at Cavalier House Books in Denham Springs, order from Cavalier’s website at http://www.cavalierhousebooks.com or by ordering direct from Fred at http://www.fredmulhearn.com.

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Below is a video link to a Louisiana legend: Leadbelly.

Leadbelly is featured in my book, Louisiana Rocks! The True Genesis of Rock & Roll. He is just one of about 300 Louisiana artists profiled in the book. Born in Mooringsport near Shreveport, his real name was Hudie Ledbetter. He was incarcerated for murder in the Texas state penitentiary where he is rumored to have sung his way out of prison. He sang for the governor of Texas who then pardoned him. Leadbelly later was sentenced to Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana for another murder. It was there that he was discovered by folklorist John Lomax who got him another pardon, hired him as his driver, and promoted his singing career.

Record executives tried to turn him into a blues singer which he hated. He considered himself a folk singer and often appeared in concert with another folk singer, Pete Seeger.

Leadbelly wrote four songs which most people will recognize immediately. The first is Good Night Irene, featured in the video below. The other Three are The Rock Island Line, The Midnight Special, and In New Orleans. The latter three are each listed among the “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll,” as compiled by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame although In New Orleans is listed by its more familiar title, The House of the Rising Sun, a song made famous by the British group The Animals in the mid-60s.

You may learn more about my book by logging onto:

wwwlouisianarockstomaswell.com

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About Louisiana Rocks!

The first comprehensive study of Louisiana popular music, from R&B to rockabilly, from blues to Cajun/zydeco, Louisiana Rocks is the culmination of years of research. Inspired by a suggestion from the late John Fred, Tom Aswell explores the very roots of rock. His findings: despite claims to the contrary, rock & roll was born in New Orleans a full four years before Ike Turner’s 1951 recording of Rocket 88.

A Little History…

It was 1947 when Roy Brown, still stinging from the rejection of his song by Wynonie Harris, entered Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Studio to record his own version of Good Rockin’ Tonight, a song Elvis Presley would cover in 1954. As soon as it became evident that Brown’s song was a hit, Harris had a sudden change of heart and rushed into the studio to record it himself and it was his version that was selected by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as One of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll.

Then, in 1949, two years before Rocket 88, two more songs were recorded by Louisiana artists that signaled a revolution in popular music was on the horizon. In the same J&M studio in New Orleans, Fats Domino recorded The Fat Man. That same year, Hank Williams, a member of the Louisiana Hayride who resided at the time in Bossier City, recorded Lovesick Blues. While not rock & roll, Lovesick Blues was a radical break from the traditional country music of the day and it cracked open the door to a genre called rockabilly that the likes of Elvis, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Gene Vincent would soon kick down, much to the delight of bored teenagers and to the chagrin of perplexed parents and concerned clergy.

With the merger of blues and country, the floodgates were thrown open and the country was suddenly made aware of artists like Smiley Lewis, Irma Thomas, Benny Spellman, Ernie K-Doe, Jim Reeves, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Clanton, Dale & Grace, Johnny Rivers, Guitar Slim, Slim Harpo, Joe Tex, Joe Simon, Rod Bernard, Professor Longhair, Johnny Allan, T.K. Hulin, Tommy McLain, the Dixie Cups, Deacon John, Ray Charles, Big Joe Turner, Johnny Horton, Janis Joplin, Kris Kristofferson, Jimmy Buffett, LeRoux, Tab Benoit, Tabby Thomas, Chris Thomas King, Barbara Lynn, Van Broussard, the Fabulous Boogie Kings, Edgar and Johnny Winter, Huey Meaux, Dale Hawkins, Johnny Adams, and the inspiration for this book, John Fred.

The songwriter who wrote Hit the Road Jack for Ray Charles is from Louisiana as is the composer of both Abraham, Martin & John and Snoopy & the Red Baron. Larry Henley, who wrote Wind Beneath My Wings, previously worked in the oil fields of New Iberia and was a member of the Newbeats. The other two members of the Newbeats were from Bossier City. Merle Kilgore of Shreveport co-wrote with June Carter the Johnny Cash mega-hit Ring of Fire. King also wrote Wolverton Mountain, a huge hit for Shreveport’s Claude King.

Then there are the sidemen, or session artists, musicians who labored in obscurity but whose contributions to Louisiana music are priceless. Four guitar players (Duke Bardwell, Gerry McGee, Fred Carter, Jr., and James Burton), a pianist (Floyd Cramer), and a drummer (D.J. Fontana) all are from Louisiana and each either recorded with or toured with Elvis. Earl Palmer is one of the most recorded drummers in the history of popular music, playing on recordings of artists too numerous to mention. Jon Smith of the Fabulous Boogie Kings played sax on almost all of the Doobie Brothers’ recordings. Floyd Cramer had a gigantic hit of Last Date which made it all the way to number 2 on the Billboard charts. The song that kept out of the number 1 position was It’s Now or Never, a song by Elvis on which Cramer also played piano.


© 2009 Tom Aswell.  All Rights Reserved.

About The Author

Tom Aswell grew up in Ruston an avid baseball fan. Following his graduation from Ruston High School, he put off college to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. Upon his discharge, he started working at the Ruston Daily Leader as sports editor before enrolling at nearby Louisiana Tech University with an eye to becoming a baseball coach. Fate intervened, however, when Wiley Hilburn, only recently appointed head of Tech’s Journalism Department, convinced Aswell to give up his aspirations of coaching in favor of a writing career.

Following his graduation with a degree in journalism in 1970, Aswell worked for a number of papers, including the Shreveport Times and Journal, the Monroe News-Star, Morning World, the Baton Rouge State-Times, and three more stops at the Daily Leader. He won numerous awards for breaking news coverage, feature writing, and investigative reporting. In 1980, he opened his own news bureau in the State Capitol in Baton Rouge where he provided coverage of state government for about forty weekly and small daily newspapers throughout the state.

 
The following year Aswell approached Baton Rouge singer John Fred Gourrier (Judy in Disguise, Agnes English) with a unique proposition. Aswell suggested that the two work to produce a video of Louisiana rock & roll singers. Fred was enthusiastic about the project but it was 1981; the oil patch had just dried up and interest rates were off the charts so there were no investors to be found. Fred, in a moment of inspiration told Aswell, “You’re a writer so why don’t you write a book?” Aswell didn’t act on the suggestion until April 15, 2005. That was the day John Fred passed away in Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans. Aswell started writing Louisiana Rocks! The True Genesis of Rock & Roll the next day. The book is dedicated to John Fred’s memory.

In 1967, while attending Tech, Aswell met and fell in love with a Tech student from nearby Simsboro. He and the former Betty Gray were married in 1968. They and their chiweenie dog reside in Denham Springs—within 10 miles of their three lovely daughters, two special sons-in-law, and seven beautiful grandchildren. He continues to write when not spending time with family or attending LSU baseball games.

Email Tom Aswell

© 2009 Tom Aswell.  All Rights Reserved.

They’re all here, the winners, the losers, the inside stories. You’ll read:

What Ernie K-Doe did with his first royalty check from Mother-In-Law.

How Bill Haley “cleaned up” the lyrics to Big Joe Turner’s Shake Rattle & Roll but inadvertently left in the most risqué line.

About actor Robert Mitchum’s getting arrested in New Orleans for “mingling” at the Dew Drop Inn and about how Allen Toussaint nearly got arrested in Dallas for simply buying a new car.

How Dale & Grace got a number-1 hit even though the strings were laid down on the recording track in the wrong key.

How a future rock, R&B, jazz, blues, country, and pop legend produced and played piano on Guitar Slim’s classic The Things That I Used to Do.

How a $25 recording session in Shreveport’s KWKH studios produced one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll.

How a singer born in Pascagoula, Mississippi started out as a street performer in New Orleans and went on to become a one-man multi-million dollar entertainment conglomerate.

About where Kris Kristofferson was when he wrote the memorable line “Freedom is just another word for nothin’ left to lose” for Janis Joplin’s Me and Bobby McGee.

How Janis Joplin got her musical education in the honky tonks and road houses of southwest Louisiana.

How a Lake Charles hotel bellhop wrote and recorded an all-time classic hit with the instrumental backing of Cookie & the Cupcakes.

How a singer wore his full baseball uniform when he recorded his very first record and that record became the first debut record by any singer to hit number 1.

How an obscure Louisiana singer outsold Patsy Cline’s version of the same song and how that song became a certified WHH (whorehouse hit).

The first comprehensive study of Louisiana popular music, from R& to rockabilly, from blues to Cajun/zydeco, Louisiana Rocks is the culmination of years of research. Inspired by a suggestion from the late John Fred, Tom Aswell explores the very roots of rock.   Learn more…

 
Praise for Louisiana Rocks! 
“Could not put it down once I started reading. It brought back a lot of old memories. -Bob Robin, retired disc jockey, WTIX (New Orleans) and producer for record labels Stax, Tower, Bell, Warner Bros., Capitol, and ABC Paramount
“Tom Aswell has gotten it right! Louisiana’s contributions to rock and roll have been ignored far too long, but now the secret is out…Louisiana Rocks! is a must read for any serious student of rock and roll. -Mike Shepherd, director, Louisiana Music Hall of Fame
 
Special Thanks To:
  Pelican Publishing
  Louisiana Music Hall of Fame
About Louisiana Rocks!

The first comprehensive study of Louisiana popular music, from R&B to rockabilly, from blues to Cajun/zydeco, Louisiana Rocks is the culmination of years of research. Inspired by a suggestion from the late John Fred, Tom Aswell explores the very roots of rock. His findings: despite claims to the contrary, rock & roll was born in New Orleans a full four years before Ike Turner’s 1951 recording of Rocket 88.

A Little History…

It was 1947 when Roy Brown, still stinging from the rejection of his song by Wynonie Harris, entered Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Studio to record his own version of Good Rockin’ Tonight, a song Elvis Presley would cover in 1954. As soon as it became evident that Brown’s song was a hit, Harris had a sudden change of heart and rushed into the studio to record it himself and it was his version that was selected by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as One of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll.

Then, in 1949, two years before Rocket 88, two more songs were recorded by Louisiana artists that signaled a revolution in popular music was on the horizon. In the same J&M studio in New Orleans, Fats Domino recorded The Fat Man. That same year, Hank Williams, a member of the Louisiana Hayride who resided at the time in Bossier City, recorded Lovesick Blues. While not rock & roll, Lovesick Blues was a radical break from the traditional country music of the day and it cracked open the door to a genre called rockabilly that the likes of Elvis, Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Gene Vincent would soon kick down, much to the delight of bored teenagers and to the chagrin of perplexed parents and concerned clergy.

With the merger of blues and country, the floodgates were thrown open and the country was suddenly made aware of artists like Smiley Lewis, Irma Thomas, Benny Spellman, Ernie K-Doe, Jim Reeves, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Clanton, Dale & Grace, Johnny Rivers, Guitar Slim, Slim Harpo, Joe Tex, Joe Simon, Rod Bernard, Professor Longhair, Johnny Allan, T.K. Hulin, Tommy McLain, the Dixie Cups, Deacon John, Ray Charles, Big Joe Turner, Johnny Horton, Janis Joplin, Kris Kristofferson, Jimmy Buffett, LeRoux, Tab Benoit, Tabby Thomas, Chris Thomas King, Barbara Lynn, Van Broussard, the Fabulous Boogie Kings, Edgar and Johnny Winter, Huey Meaux, Dale Hawkins, Johnny Adams, and the inspiration for this book, John Fred.

The songwriter who wrote Hit the Road Jack for Ray Charles is from Louisiana as is the composer of both Abraham, Martin & John and Snoopy & the Red Baron. Larry Henley, who wrote Wind Beneath My Wings, previously worked in the oil fields of New Iberia and was a member of the Newbeats. The other two members of the Newbeats were from Bossier City. Merle Kilgore of Shreveport co-wrote with June Carter the Johnny Cash mega-hit Ring of Fire. King also wrote Wolverton Mountain, a huge hit for Shreveport’s Claude King.

Then there are the sidemen, or session artists, musicians who labored in obscurity but whose contributions to Louisiana music are priceless. Four guitar players (Duke Bardwell, Gerry McGee, Fred Carter, Jr., and James Burton), a pianist (Floyd Cramer), and a drummer (D.J. Fontana) all are from Louisiana and each either recorded with or toured with Elvis. Earl Palmer is one of the most recorded drummers in the history of popular music, playing on recordings of artists too numerous to mention. Jon Smith of the Fabulous Boogie Kings played sax on almost all of the Doobie Brothers’ recordings. Floyd Cramer had a gigantic hit of Last Date which made it all the way to number 2 on the Billboard charts. The song that kept out of the number 1 position was It’s Now or Never, a song by Elvis on which Cramer also played piano.

About The Author

Tom Aswell grew up in Ruston an avid baseball fan. Following his graduation from Ruston High School, he put off college to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. Upon his discharge, he started working at the Ruston Daily Leader as sports editor before enrolling at nearby Louisiana Tech University with an eye to becoming a baseball coach. Fate intervened, however, when Wiley Hilburn, only recently appointed head of Tech’s Journalism Department, convinced Aswell to give up his aspirations of coaching in favor of a writing career.

Following his graduation with a degree in journalism in 1970, Aswell worked for a number of papers, including the Shreveport Times and Journal, the Monroe News-Star, Morning World, the Baton Rouge State-Times, and three more stops at the Daily Leader. He won numerous awards for breaking news coverage, feature writing, and investigative reporting. In 1980, he opened his own news bureau in the State Capitol in Baton Rouge where he provided coverage of state government for about forty weekly and small daily newspapers throughout the state.

 
The following year Aswell approached Baton Rouge singer John Fred Gourrier (Judy in Disguise, Agnes English) with a unique proposition. Aswell suggested that the two work to produce a video of Louisiana rock & roll singers. Fred was enthusiastic about the project but it was 1981; the oil patch had just dried up and interest rates were off the charts so there were no investors to be found. Fred, in a moment of inspiration told Aswell, “You’re a writer so why don’t you write a book?” Aswell didn’t act on the suggestion until April 15, 2005. That was the day John Fred passed away in Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans. Aswell started writing Louisiana Rocks! The True Genesis of Rock & Roll the next day. The book is dedicated to John Fred’s memory.

In 1967, while attending Tech, Aswell met and fell in love with a Tech student from nearby Simsboro. He and the former Betty Gray were married in 1968. They and their chiweenie dog reside in Denham Springs—within 10 miles of their three lovely daughters, two special sons-in-law, and seven beautiful grandchildren. He continues to write when not spending time with family or attending LSU baseball games.

Email Tom Aswell

 

© 2009 Tom Aswell.  All Rights Reserved.

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