Music is taken very seriously in New Orleans. That explains the animosity in 1996 between the marching bands at John F. Kennedy and St. Augustine high schools.
Members considered each other “enemies,” said Walter “Whoadie” Ramsey, who came up with an idea to combine the best players from each band to make an all-star group.
“That’s not cool; they’re not part of our family,” Ramsey recalled his schoolmates telling him. “I said, ‘Well, they are part of my family.’ There was a lot of intensity in those days, but it was just fun. We created something good out of bad.”
Original members of the band which became known as the Stooges Brass Band included Big Sam Williams and “De Phessah” Drew Baham, who now play in Big Sam’s Funky Nation. A younger player who later joined was Trombone Shorty.
The concept was to have the foundation of a traditional New Orleans brass band and flavor it with modern sounds of R&B, funk and hip-hop.
“You get a lot when you get the Stooges,” Ramsey said. “The Stooges is like a sonic boom. It’s energy and you don’t ever know. It’s a lot of energy. Nonstop music for an hour-and-a-half to two hours straight. I don’t even know how we do that but we do it. We are singing, dancing and playing songs that can touch your soul.”
Big Sam talked about the Stooges before the two bands played together last summer at the Crystal Bay Casino.
“You never know what they are going to come with,” Williams said. “They might come with a whole brass band setup with a bass drum, a snare drum and a sousaphone, or they might have a guitar and keyboard added to the mix. They are not your average brass band. They play a lot of originals.”
The Stooges have become a “NOLA” institution, with new generations of musicians joining the band. There are more than 20 in the group, which has become so big it can play shows in two cities on the same night.