Filed Under:  Entertainment

Zulu members who stand tall as brass band leaders liven up Lundi Gras… and Mardi Gras

5th February 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Phil Frazier, the much loved tuba player and co-leader of the Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band has been a member of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club for some 10 years. In 2017 he ran for the position of Governor and won the election. So at this year’s Zulu Lundi Gras Festival, held at Woldenberg Park on Monday, February 12, Frazier will pull double duty. At 11 a.m., the affable musician will don his Zulu Governor’s attire, traverse the riverside park accompanied by The Original Pin Stripe Brass Band and give out coconuts to fortunate recipients. “At 4 o’clock I’ll be on the King’s Stage with the Rebirth – it’s totally different,” Frazier says. “I’ll walk around in my Governor’s outfit and I’ll just change my clothes. I know that may sound crazy but I’ll play, no matter what. I love a horn and I gotta get paid – that’s my job.”

As Governor, Frazier, a man of few words but many great notes, will address the crowd. “I’ll say, how are you doin’ and have a good time. That’s it, keep it simple.”

Frazier, who as a child regularly watched Zulu parade and later, with Rebirth, blew his horn in the Carnival Day favorite, always enjoyed the Governor’s krewe. “They like having a lot of fun,” he says of choosing to run for Governor. “I was unopposed but I like campaigning because I don’t want to take things for granted. So I was in a limo van and my krewe was walking on the ground at the (Zulu’s annual anniversary) parade before the elections.”



It’s always been a wonder how the members of Zulu are able to keep going after presenting an all-day festival on Lundi Gras and then hitting the streets at 8 a.m. on Carnival Day at South Claiborne and Jackson avenues.

“It’s in their blood,” declares Frazier, who plans to load up his float with the three sacks of the cherished, decorated Zulu coconuts the night before the parade. “I’m a veteran. I look forward to just enjoying the ride – enjoying my term as Governor.
As a member, I would be up top of the float so you don’t hand out coconuts. Since I’m Governor, I’ll be closer to the ground now. Zulu is 108 years old and I’m part of 108. This is it though,” Frazier adds. “I’m satisfied with one year as Governor.”

Herbert McCarver, the leader and snare drummer of The Original Pin Stripe Brass Band foresees a similar, non-stop, sleepless weekend before Mardi Gras Day. “It really starts Friday night with the Zulu Ball and it’s all back-to-back. I’ve been doin’ it so long it comes naturally,” McCarver says. He’s been a member of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club for 30 years and, since the inception of the Zulu Lundi Gras Festival, he has headed the Pin Stripe as it accompanies the many colorful Zulu “characters” – the Witch Doctor, Big Shot, Mr. Big Stuff – in second lines around the festival throughout the day.

“When we leave Lundi Gras, believe it or not, we’ll probably go to the Zulu club and have a couple of drinks. I’ll go to my house and get what I need and load the float up. I’ll get maybe an hour or an hour and a half of sleep. At 5 o’clock in the morning, we’re on our way to get on the float. The party just keeps going. By the time you get off the float you’re about ripped out. My wife says I’m standin’ up sleeping. I live for this time of year,”

“Lundi Gras is a close-up thing with people from different parts of the world,” McCarver continues. “It’s different than doing a second line on the streets. They (the visitors) never saw it before so they’re more enthused and like to get in the line and do the second line. People from out-of-town are enjoying themselves and getting some beads and maybe even get lucky and get a coconut. It’s a fun thing to do on the river. There are more out-of-towners there than people from in town. It’s a free concert for everyone so people staying in the Hilton or Westin (hotels)are walking through and asking, ‘What is this? What is Lundi Gras?’”

Before the official Zulu Lundi Gras Festival was established 25 years ago, McCarver remembers that members of the club would often gather the day before Mardi Gras. He recalls playing with the Pin Stripe behind Roy Glapion’s house where there would be red beans and rice, a deejay and drinks. Like the festival, it served as a sort of warm-up to the big day.



As a 30-year member of the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club, McCarver and his band have enjoyed a special position in its Mardi Gras parade. He and the Pin Stripe play aboard a float called the Bandwagon. The group puts aside its “black and white” uniforms for the day and wears Zulu garb and make-up – grass skirts, wigs and painted faces. “King Charles Hamilton created the Bandwagon,” McCarver offers. “Five guys in the band are Zulu members and yeah, we can reach the people to hand out coconuts.”

To accommodate marching with all of the Zulu characters, there will actually be two, six-man divisions of The Original Pin Stripe Brass Band at the Lundi Gras Festival. “We play all the tunes to make things rock,” McCarver says reassuringly. One thing can be sure, the Pin Stripe will do its signature song, Dave “Fat Man” Williams’ “I Ate Up the Apple Tree.”

“That is me, McCarver declares. “No matter where I go people ask for that tune. They like it, I love it.”

“Pin Stripe and Rebirth – we’re comrades no matter what,” Phil Frazier proclaims with a sense of unity that prevails within the Black cultural, musical and street community of New Orleans. Friends, neighbors and fun is what it is all about.

This article originally published in the February 5, 2018 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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