THE GREAT NEW ORLEANS musician, raconteur and historian, Danny Barker gave the West Coast 11 months. He was unimpressed, called California “a flim-flam town.” Jelly Roll Morton invested a little more time, zooming from gig to gig, late into the night, drumming up excitement around himself. Harold Battiste, Jr. put down deep roots here in Los Angeles, yet always kept his connection home in New Orleans alive. For a time, he was the first call people from home made when they landed in L.A.; the one who would help you get your footing. In other words, his was the number scrawled on the matchbook.
Each of them journeyed to Los Angeles with a different set of hopes and achieved divergent results. The region shaped them at times as much as they shaped it. California wasn’t just a dream, for some of these Louisiana musicians it was a prayer. My full piece looking at Louisiana musicians in Los Angeles is now up here at Los Angeles Review of Books.