Freddie's Story (Part 3 of 5)
Freddie graduated from high school in 1968 and enrolled at Xavier University, New Orleans in a liberal arts program. His collegiate path initially had him on track to work in education; however, Freddie already knew he didn't want to teach. "By that time I was bitten and just wanted to play." After leaving Xavier, he gave college another try, spending a year at both Dillard and Southern Universities. "It just wasn't for me," he said. "Then I went to the school of Bourbon Street."
While Freddie was still enrolled in college, Paul Crawford, a bandmate in the Olympia Brass Band recommended Lonzo for his first gig on Bourbon Street, at a local chain called "Your Father's Mustache." The band would wear "ice-cream outfits:" string ties, red-and-white-striped vests and straw hats and play a variety of tunes, from "old-timey" numbers to college fight songs. Boisterous guests would drink huge pints of beer, accompanied by peanuts, whose shells they'd toss to the ground. The band leader was a great banjo player named Les Muscutt. Lonzo regarded Les as a very "knowledgeable musician," "a good teacher," and calls him the "unsung hero."
In 1970, while performing at "Your Father's Mustache," Lonzo was recommended by pianist Ellis Marsalis, to perform at Crazy Shirley's (a club where September's Featured Artist Ernie Elly also frequently performed). The band, The Storyville Jazz Band, led by drummer Bob French, had an opening on trombone. The band's trombonists were Waldren "Frog" Joseph, a mentor of Lonzo's, and Scotty Hill, both of whom had been getting other gigs around town. It was a "big training ground" for Lonzo. After only about two or three weeks, he got fired, as French told Lonzo he wasn't quite ready. He went back to performing to at "Your Father's Mustache" for about a year, but then got the call to come back. That time "it stuck like glue." With The Storyville Jazz Band, Lonzo was able to perform with iconic New Orleans musicians, Bob French, Ellis Marsalis, French's brother bassist George French, trumpet player Teddy Riley and clarinetist Otis Bazoon. These musicians played a pivotal roll in shaping the young Lonzo's path as a career musician.
Performing on Bourbon Street was Lonzo's "university." At Crazy Shirley's, he performed six nights a week, for at least six hours each night. It helped him develop his style, his stamina, and his sound.
Photo courtesy of Freddie Lonzo.