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Tributes, celebrations and traditions

30th January 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Brassin’ It Up with the Krewe du Vieux

For those whose favorite aspect of Mardi Gras parades is the music, it can be frustrating on the occasions when there are just too few of those mighty marching bands. Then there are the times when the bands seem to play right before or right after one’s viewing spot. That’s never a problem at the Krewe du Vieux Parade that rolls through the Marigny and French Quarter starting at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday evening, February 4, 2012. Each of the sub-krewes of the irreverent, satirical and often risque procession sports its own brass band. That adds up to a whopping 18 ensembles.

“You always have one comin’ at you,” clarinetist Rickey Paulin enthusiastically exclaims. The abundance of brass bands is just one element that Paulin admires about the Krewe du Vieux. As a member of the Paulin Brothers Brass Band he’s participated in every parade since it began in 1987.

“We have so many brass bands in the city and the parade is a forum where they can show off, show the people what they’ve got and the sound that they have,” Paulin observes. “Believe it or not, a lot of gigs come from that parade.”


Paulin and this year’s Krewe du Vieux Queen, Deon Haywood, both dig the swipes that the krewe takes at the politicians and the powers that be. “They have different float themes about how they {politicians}live and we live as constituents,” Paulin says remembering in particular the satirical beating the krewe gave to past Mayor Ray Nagin. “They make fun of our politicians and just let the city of New Orleans know that we’re not stupid. That’s what Krewe du Vieux do.”

Haywood, who is the executive director of the non-profit group Women with a Vision, seconds that emotion. “I really love the fact that they have a good time with the things that most of us are angry about throughout the year,” Haywood says. “If you think about it, we’re upset with our elected officials, how things are going and ask why would they do something that doesn’t make any sense.”

The theme of this year’s Krewe du Vieux parade, “Crimes Against Nature,” makes reference to one of the Women with a Vision’s causes, thus making Haywood a natural choice for Queen. The organization has long advocated for changes to the outdated, 205-year-old Louisiana’s Solicitation of a Crime Against Nature statute. In June of 2011, the law, which WWAV deemed unjust and discriminatory, was amended.

Haywood, a regular Krewe du Vieux parade attendee is ready to have a good time at the event while also being appreciative for the recognition her organization will receive. “I think they (the Krewe) have something in common with myself and Women with a Vision in that we’re willing to take risks for what we believe in,” says the Queen. “I’d love to see everybody come and and enjoy all the debauchery and try to commit a little crime against nature of their own,” she adds laughing.

The brass bands’ musical styles vary as much as the individual sub-krewe’s take on the parade’s overall theme. One thing that sets the Paulin Brothers Brass Band apart is that it gets the party going a little early, escorting the second lining members of the Krewe of C.R.A.P.S. from a nearby barroom to the start of the parade.

“We give them the atmosphere and ambiance for the parade,” says Paulin of the grand entrance. “When we come through, that means this is how the parade is going to start and this is how it’s going to end. Just like that – good music, good times and everybody having a little nip or two.

“We keep everything up beat,” he continues comparing the band’s parade repertoire to that of what the Paulin Brothers present at spots like Preservation Hall and at Jazz Fest. “We play a little bit of funk to keep up with the times but you know how we go, we love to do all that traditional music. That was how we were taught from our father, {band leader/trumpeter} Ernest “Doc” Paulin. We have fun doing all those old songs and marches like ‘High Society’ and ‘Panama.’ Those songs aren’t goin’ anywhere.”

Another aspect that differentiates the Paulin Brothers Brass from many of the groups at the parade that include younger, hotter style ensembles like the Hot 8, Stooges, Free Agents, Baby Boyz brass bands and many more is that vocals are a main ingredient. The clarinetist and his trombone-playing brother Dwayne Paulin take over the lead vocal duties with the other members at Saturday night’s event — trumpeter Phillip Paulin, nephew James Vance on bass drum, Reginald Williams on snare and Julius Lewis on alto – coming in on backup. There are times that it turns into a street sing-a-long with the C.R.A.P.S. members and folks along the route joining in.

“That makes the parade go even smoother,” Paulin says. “The people love it because they grew up with these songs. You can’t help but have a good time because everything is rolling right along. Everybody is just having a hi-ho time.”

As Paulin noted, the parade ends just as it begins with music. Walter “Wolfman” Washington headlines the Krewe du Vieux Doo post-parade shindig with special guest, trombonist extraordinaire Fred Wesley at the Habitat for Humanity Restore, 2830 Royal.

For more information on the parade route and show go two

John West, Jr.
September 6, 1926 – January 17, 2012

John West, an original founder, president and treasurer of the Valley of the Silent Men Social & Pleasure Club, was recognized and respected by those in the street culture as both a veteran club member and parade follower. He could be spotted most Sunday afternoons during the parade season standing on a corner checking out a second line. West’s constant presence made him a familiar face even to those who might never have made his acquaintance. “He was dedicated to the culture,” says Leon Anderson Sr., a fellow Valley of the Silent Men member as well as noted member of the Young Men Olympian Jr. Benevolent Asso­ciation. West died on January 17, 2012 at the age of 85.


Last August, West and longtime friend Anderson celebrated the Valley of the Silent Men’s 25th anniversary riding and waving while perched on the back of a convertible. “He kept up with all of the parades and loved the music,” Anderson says of his decades-old pal. Most often if you saw West donning his signature dark sunglasses and white hat, Anderson would be by his side. Many a brass band and club member would hail the two as a procession second lined by.

West was a longshoreman by trade and before he helped found the Valley of the Silent Men, which kicks off the social aid and pleasure club season each year, he was, according to Anderson, a member of the Bethlehem group that was an auxiliary of the Lady Zulu.

Besides being a faithful follower of the second line parades, West also hit the streets for Mardi Gras Indian activities like Super Sunday and St. Joseph’s night.

Services celebrating the life of John West took place on Saturday, January 28, at the Gertrude Geddes Willis Funeral Home and he was interred at Providence Memorial Park.

This article was originally published in the January 30, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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