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Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and the Musicians who made 2017 memorable

22nd January 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Joseph Pierre Boudreaux, Big Chief Monk of the Golden Eagles, will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at OffBeat magazine’s Best of the Beat ceremony, Thursday, January 25, 2018. As one of the most dedicated, respected and talented – as a singer, composer, recording artists, designer and sewer – decades-long chiefs in the Mardi Gras Indian Nation, Boudreaux, 76, is heralded not only in his hometown of New Orleans but around the world. In 2016 the chief was recognized with the prestigious National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Award. At the OffBeat event, friends and musical associates including guitarist Anders Osborne, the Wild Magnolias Chief Bo Dollis Jr., drummer and last year’s Lifetime Achievement award-winner Johnny Vidacovich and more will be featured in a special performance to pay tribute to Big Chief Monk.

One of the many aspects that sets Monk apart is his ability to be both a very old-school, traditional Indian on the streets yet forward-thinking in his embrace of modern instrumentation and musical collaborations with those outside of the Black Indian realm.

Joseph Pierre Boudreaux, Big Chief Monk of the Golden Eagles

Joseph Pierre Boudreaux, Big Chief Monk of the Golden Eagles

It was Monk’s father, Raymond, who was a member of the Creoles and Wild Squatoolas Mardi Gras Indian gangs, who introduced him to the culture. However Boudreaux didn’t mask with his dad. At age 12, he became the Second Spyboy for the White Eagles that was then led by the noted Big Chief Lawrence Fletcher. The gang changed its name to the Golden Eagles in 1962 and Monk took over as chief in the early 1970s. Remarkably, his father, who had left the tradition, came back to join Monk as his Second Chief of the Golden Eagles.

“I was chosen to be a chief,” Monk once proclaimed. “I was a chosen one.”

Monk’s long association with his friend, the late, great Chief Bo Dollis of the Wild Magnolias is legendary. Though they shared an equal passion for the Indian culture and music, their vocal styles could be considered, in the most complimentary way, yin-yang. Bo Dollis was an entertainer with a large voice. Monk delivered, and continues to deliver, his often story-telling, often biographical and/or historical lyrics, in a quieter, more spiritual manner. They were a beautiful match.

With his creatively adorned light suits that usually include top-of the knee pants and usually a comparatively minimalistic crown, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux has always enjoyed the freedom of movement to enthusiastically greet his uptown neighborhood at Second and Dryades streets. He’s been greatly adored by his followers for almost six decades and later found similar admiration for his soft and lovely voice and smile throughout the world.

While Big Chief Monk’s tribute stands to be a highlight of the Best of the Beat, many other awards and performances will fill the night. They include acknowledgments of a Lifetime Achievement in music education honors for pianist Michael Pellera, who currently holds the jazz chair at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA) and Dockside Studio owners Steve and Cezanne Nails in the music business category.

A much-anticipated element of the party — and it is just that — are the announcements of the winners of the 2017 Best of the Beat’s albums and musicians. The nominees, selected by members of the in-the-know music community, are voted for by the public online making the top honors a mystery until declared that night. It’s pretty much fun to see the surprise on the faces of many of those recognized “best” in their category whether it be blues, gospel, rap, jazz, zydeco, funk, country or any of the wonderful variety of music that Louisiana has to offer. Several of the strong nominees will be performing at the event including the Soul Rebels in the Best Brass Band division, Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers that is up for Best Zydeco Artist and for the Best Zydeco Album for its hot Top of the Mountain CD, plus the Lost Bayou Ramblers, which is in contention for Best Cajun Artist and Best Cajun Album for its 2017 release Kalenda.

This article originally published in the January 22, 2018 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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