Country Blues > Performance Corner

"Augie Jr." street musician in New Orleans

(1/2) > >>

I was curious to find out if anyone here knew anything about "Augie Jr" who played blues as a street performer in New Orleans. I believe he was originally from Rochester, NY.

A buddy of mine who played down on street in NOLA spoke very highly of Augie and mentioned that he was a inspiration/mentor to a lot of young folks interested in blues. He supposedly spent time with Son House in Rochester as a young man. Can't vouch for the truth of that but it does make a good story. 

Managed to track this down:

and this remembrance of Augie:

Augie Jr. fronted his Big Mess Blues Band on the streets of New Orleans through most of the 80's and early 90's, so I'm told. This was before my time but I was aware of him and owned his only recording which to this day is one of my favorie blues recordings, put out in 1991 titled: AUGIE JR. AND THE BIG MESS BLUES BAND / DRINKERS CHOICE. Lissa spoke of him often, sometimes with a tear, sometimes with a friend Jason Eklund spoke of him highly.. I heard Grayson wish him dead more than once and it wasn't so far off, so it seemed. As long as I've know Augie he's been slowly dying of cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 44. I met him a couple years after he had been given 6 months to live, and that was 4 years ago or something like that. Resiliant. I met him in the Matador over Mardi Gras of 2000. He came walking in with Lissa and a small entourage and offered me a shot of homemade moonshine, which was no more than store-bought vodka in a water bottle (the only thing I ever saw him drink). I remember marveling at him and Lissa's banter, it was two razor blade tounges dueling,.,.they had been lovers once upon a lost time but I guess it didn't work out. We spent the rest of that night walking the streets, me mostly just listening to them catch up on old times. Augie was visiting from Eureka Springs, Arkansas where he was living with his now ex-wife in a little country home he'd bought. I went to visit him there on my way out west once, and I brought him a new hat (always a good way to start a friendship). I spent those few days swapping stories, watching him eat pills and drink, and listening to records...He was born I believe in Rochester, New York and he can sing like two birds... I'll never forget the first time I heard him sing, ever! His mentor/inspiration is John Mooney, so he tells me, though it is Lissa who brought him from working-stiff to working-musician. After he and his wife got divorced he moved back to New Orleans and I used to go over to his place every afternoon after playing the streets and sit around watching the three stooges and eating french fry po'boys, listening to stories... like the time he met Bob Dylan at a John Mooney show in New Orleans. Dylan was standing in the back of the bar barefoot, and when Augie was introduced to him all he said was "Jesus Christ, your 54 years old don't you own a pair of shoes?". Thats the kind of man he is. Whether it be watching him test his gun in his house, high as a kite in a drunken paranoia, talking about all the lovin' he used to get, or just yelling in that east coast Italian way, I learned alot of things from August Rodola Jr. ...besides how easy it is to beat his ass at poker and how he cooks pork chops I don't know exactly how to describe them, but they're there. We're on the same side of the highway just at different exits I suppose. I like to say he taught me to sing or play but we never had one conversation about it. It was more just being in the presence of him and his life experience,, a moment in time passing,, which has been a unique one. For all his vice and virtue I love him. When I used to sit on the corner and play I would look down the empty or crowded street and become aware that it is haunted by all the ones (like Augie) who came before, and I realized the resonance of those men and women will ripple even after the Mississippi takes those streets into the Gulf of Mexico.
By F.Lemon.
When I lived in New Orleans, I would walk over to Jackson Square almost every day to watch Augie Jr. and the Big Mess band. They were a massive, unruly, ever-rotating group of crazed and colorful musicians. They were a force to be reckoned with, and everyone who played on the street in the French Quarter had respect for them. The Big Mess Band has had many incarnations over the year, but Augie has always been at the heart of it. Augie's 1991 record "Drinker's Choice" doesn't quite capture the ragged glory of the Big Mess Band live in the Quarter, but it's the only full-length record of this New Orleans musical institution, and, as such, has achieved something of a mythical status, largely because it's been so hard to find for so long. Augie and the Big Mess Band have reached untold numbers of ears in their long years of service on the streets of New Orleans. Hopefully, this CD'll reach a few more.

Thanks for that - I often wondered who Augie was.

Lake Charles musician, Gill Landry (also known as Frank Lemon, of The Kitchen Syncopators and the author of the above remembrance) has a song "Dixie" on his solo LP Ballad of Lawless Soirrez:

"Jake had to ramble, took all he could handle
Augie , y'know he's just bound to die
sometimes I miss em, mostly i don't
sometimes I break down and ask why
why are things this way, what makes things that way
and which way if anyway's right?
I'm alone with my friends
drowning my sins
in the gutter drinking Dixie again"

Gill now plays banjo and resonator slide guitar with the Old Crow Medicine Show.

I heard about Augie Jr from my buddy Jason Eklund. (Jason played on the streets there for a good stretch) He had some great stories as well as some home made cassette recordings of Augie playing on the street. I must say I thought his music (especially his singing) was pretty impressive. Jason told me recently that Augie is in poor health and back living up in Rochester.

Old thread but I was just watching some Son House videos and I started to reminisce about the times I lived in New Orleans in the mid and late 80's. I was lucky enough to live in a duplex on Montegut St with Augie and Lissa as my neighbors in the backside. This was when they were still lovers and fighting or fucking it always sounded like they were going to bust through the plaster. I played drums with them mostly on Saturdays out in front of the A&P, this was before Big Mess and the players were a loose group of whoever would show up can't remember names. Augie would always stop playing and run to the liquor store when he got enough money to buy his first hip flask of Taaka vodka and then the show blaze on all afternoon. I heard the Son House stories too but can't verify if they were true. Lissa was always a sweetheart and a very old soul. I new he wouldn't last forever, he always went at life double-fisted, my favorite saying of his was "fuck you, me" which he asked in the form a question.


[0] Message Index

[#] Next page

Go to full version