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On your mark, get set, go – Second Line Season takes off

22nd August 2016   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

As long as most people can remember, the social aid and pleasure club second line season has kicked off with the Valley of Silent Men parade. The tradition continues this year when the organization, established by the late, and now legendary John West, Leon Anderson, and Henry Gettridge, leaves from Central City’s Tapps II Bar at 3 pm on Sunday, August 28, 2016, in celebration of its 31st year.

Club members and regular parade followers share a certain excitement in anticipation of each new season of the weekly, Sunday afternoon second lines.

Clara Joseph, better known in the second line community as CJ who started parading in 1982 with the Golden Trumpets and in 1984 founded the Second Line Jammers, and folk artist and second line regular Ashton Ramsey agree on the simple notion that the parades are “something to do.” Naturally, both enthusiasts expound on that description.



“It’s colorful,” says Joseph. “It’s exciting to me – the different bands and stuff. “To me, you have a favorite band – the Dirty Dozen played too fast – so I like the Treme Brass Band. They call me and Naomi Gibson, who formed the Jetsetters, the ‘Mothers of Second Line.’ We’re the oldest. I used to say that we {the Jammers} paraded between the big boys – the Scene Boosters and the Lady Buckjumpers. They were some big parades. The Scene Boosters had like five divisions because they had children too.”

Joseph remembers experiencing her first, second line when she was a teenager, catching the Jolly Bunch Social Aid & Pleasure at the corner of Galvez and Poydras streets. “It’s an experience,” CJ tells those who might be going to their first parade.

Ramsey’s advice to novice second line attendees is adamant: “Participate! Participate!” “When you’re just walking around taking pictures,” he says, “and you’re not dancing and having conversations with people and all that, you’re not really enjoying it. You just went to a see a second line, you’re not a part of a second line. You’re missing out on all of the fun.”

Ramsey, 82, has been following the parades for over 60 years. “I was out there when I was like 16 years old,” he says mentioning the club the Sixth Ward Diamonds.

“I was born and raised in the 7th Ward. The 6th Ward was the place – not Treme, the 6th Ward – that’s where all the happenings was, that was where all the music – the clubs – was. They had bars downtown; they didn’t have clubs in the 7th and 8th Ward. The clubs were in the 6th Ward so that’s where we would go.”

“The people here are used to being out in the street. I’ve been to parades that were so hot, people were passing out and we had to call paramedics for them,” he continues while remembering a child crying because he was cold.

A sunny day could turn into dark clouds and torrents of rain, but Ramsey’s motto has always been: “Rain is no excuse.” It’s a philosophy that diehard second line followers understand. Granted, major, dangerous storms might be cause to cancel a parade but rain, in general, won’t stop the party. Some club members and second liners seem to revel in a downpour especially on a hot and steamy day. “Let’s go get ‘em…”

Second line regulars – “followers” – who turn up at all of the events are an essential element to the overall spirit and the perpetuity of the second lines.

“They know all the things that need to go on,” Ramsey explains. “Like Rebirth {Brass Band} did “Do Whatcha Wanna,” that came from the people.”

“There’s nothing like when you’re out there, and you hear that music,” Ramsey enthusiastically continues. “You get to see all the people that you know but that you don’t see every day. Right now, you happen on a parade and somebody who hasn’t been there for a while, and you say, ‘Oh man, I’m so glad to see you.’ That’s where the telegraph comes. ‘Oh, they got one next Sunday.’ It gets passed on like that – wireless.”

That hey, happy to see you greeting and attitude is a part of the kickoff of the second line season’s joyfulness. Folks who have seen each other for years though might not even know each others’ names, come together like it’s a family reunion. That they share the second line bond, in many ways, it is just that.

Ashton Ramsey now heads to the parades onboard his tricycle often going to the start or catching up with them after church and Sunday dinner. He was there in front of the St. Louis Cathedral Church for Pete Fountain’s funeral with his artistically constructed tribute collage to the life of the legendary clarinetist.

“Every parade is a good parade because it happens,” Ramsey declares.

A Big Queen and a Spyboy Depart

Mercedes Stevenson, know in the Black Indian Nation as “Queen Mercy,” died on August 10, 2016, at the age of 90. Noted as a talented seamstress who, before masking Indian in 1974 with the Wild Tchoupitoulas under her friend, George “Big Chief Jolly” Landry, Stevenson ran and applied her sewing talents with the Baby Dolls and social aid and pleasure clubs including the Sophisticated Ladies, Emerald, and Lady Wales organizations.

Funeral service was held for Stevenson on Saturday, August 20, 2016, at the Austerlitz Baptist Church.

On the same fateful day, Larry Boudreaux, a younger brother of Big Chief Monk Boudreaux of the Golden Eagles, passed away at the age of 70. Larry ran spyboy with the Golden Eagles for four years and then held the same position with the Black Eagles under the late, great Jerod “Chief Rody” Lewis until the chief stopped masking around 2000. Larry was primarily recognized as a drummer. “He played congas with me and the Black Eagles,” says Big Chief Monk. “He was good – he played his role. We’re going to miss him,” Chief Monk sadly offers. Funeral services were held for Larry Boudreaux on Friday, August 19, 2016.

This article originally published in the August 22, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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