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The Meters Strut Award and Lizz Wright celebrates healing

16th January 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

The Meters, New Orleans funk and groove masters, are among the honorees being recognized by The Recording Academy — the folks who present the Grammys — with a Lifetime Achievement Award. To celebrate the occasion, a special ceremony and concert, separate from January 28’s televised Grammy Awards show, will be held this summer in Los Angeles.

“At this point, I’m trying to clear my calendar so I could go to it,” says bassist George Porter, who, along with organist/vocalist/inspirational founder Art “Papa Funk” Neville, guitarist Leo Nocentelli and drummer Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste formed the group in 1965 with percussionist/vocalist Cyril Neville jumpin’ in a bit later. “If I ain’t making money, I can go,” Porter adds with a laugh, explaining that solid paying gigs might take precedence to his attendance.

THE METERS at the 2011 Voodoo Fest

THE METERS at the 2011 Voodoo Fest

“Why certainly, why not?” replies New Orleans native, California resident Modeliste on whether he’ll be there to take part in the ceremony. “Naturally, I was surprised to hear about the award. I was also really happy to hear that someone still really recognized what the group tried to accomplish and what it did accomplish. It’s such a shock, it hasn’t sunk in yet.”

Porter received the news of the award via email on Monday, a day before the formal announcement was made by the Academy. He echos Modeliste saying, “That was a surprise — it was totally unexpected. We never had a song that even came close to being Grammy-nominated.”

True enough yet beyond great and still vital tunes like “Cissy Strut,” “Sophisticated Cissy,” “People Say” and more, the members of the Meters also acted as the house band at Sea-Saint Studios, co-owned by Allen Toussaint and Marshal Sehorn. They put their individual and collective talents together on great tunes behind local artists like pianist/vocalist Dr. John, guitarist/vocalist Earl King and vocalist Lee Dorsey, as well as national and international stars including bassist/vocalist Paul McCartney, the Rolling Stones and vocalist Patti LaBelle, leading the group LaBelle.

“With the help of Allen Toussaint, we were able to accomplish a lot and we were just lucky to be at the right place, at the right time, at the right moments,” Modeliste offers.

The Meters’ influence continued into a modern era as in-the-know hip-hop artists began sampling material from the band’s recorded works. “Queen Latifah has won awards with songs that have used our samples, LL Cool J. Our names were never mentioned in any of that,” Porter points out. “When the industry catches up to mentioning where this music (hip-hop) that is making such a big deal in the world is coming from, maybe the industry will say, ‘Hey, you guys have contributed.’”

Both Porter and Modeliste expressed their pleasure of being recognized in the group of 2018’s Lifetime Achievement Award honorees that includes the incredible Tina Turner.

“It’s always good to be in great company regardless of what it is,” Modeliste proclaims. “I was looking at the roster of some of the past recipients and it’s quite impressive. (Past Louisiana artists on the list include giants Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino, Mahalia Jackson and Jelly Roll Morton.) I just feel very happy that someone thought enough of the group to put us onboard. I feel like the work that we did was most deserving of an award of this prestige. I just feel happy for the rest of the guys that they were able to share in on this as well, and to at least know that they were appreciated sometime in their lifetime.”

“That’s a wonderful honor bein’ up there with Tina,” Porter says, seconding Modeliste’s emotion. “She’s a superstar. History has proven that her musical worth is worth expressing.”

Now that the Meters have been recognized by The Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award, it’s difficult to ignore that, in 2017, this hugely talented and influential group was nominated though failed again to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Besides 2017, it was nominated in 1997, 2013 and 2014.

“They’ve already blown this year,” Porter says. “We ain’t getting any younger. If something is going to happen that we’ll enjoy, it should happen soon. Hey, look, we’re still here. Every day I wake up and I smile. There’s still a chance.”



“Whenever that’s ready to happen, it will,” Modeliste offers. “I feel like it will more than it won’t. You just have to wait your turn, your time. I’ve always enjoyed the music that we put together, especially the way we did it.”

Celebrating the National Day of Racial Healing with Lizz Wright

Renowned jazz and gospel vocalist Lizz Wright will share her talent and compassion for humanity in celebration of the National Day of Racial Healing on Tuesday, January 16, at the Mahalia Jackson Theater. Wright, a native of Georgia who came up as a pianist and vocalist in the church before recording her 2003 chart-topper Salt, is the provider of the NDORH’s anthem, the moving “Painted Sky (Don’t Give Up on Us).” The free event will be emceed by playwright and WYLD’s “A Sunday Journal” host Hal Clark and include performances by percussionist Alexey Marti & Urban Minds and the St. Peter Claver Choir led by Veronica Downs-Dorsey as well as inspirational speakers. Wright, who released her latest album, Grace, in 2017 will be bringing in her own band for the performance. Wonderfully, Wright includes our own, late great Allen Toussaint’s song “Southern Nights” on the new disc. Doors open at 6 p.m., the celebration begins at 7 p.m.

This article originally published in the January 15, 2018 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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