A Roving Percussionist On The Big Easy's Busy Streets

  • Clyde Casey has been performing on the streets of New Orleans for 40 years.
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    Clyde Casey has been performing on the streets of New Orleans for 40 years.
    Tegan Wendland
  • Casey's machines feature an assortment of found objects, as well as traditional percussion instruments.
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    Casey's machines feature an assortment of found objects, as well as traditional percussion instruments.
    Tegan Wendland
  • "I sit inside of it," Casey says of his percussion machine. "It's got four wheels — it's a quadcycle — and I'm able to pedal and play."
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    "I sit inside of it," Casey says of his percussion machine. "It's got four wheels — it's a quadcycle — and I'm able to pedal and play."
    Tegan Wendland
  • Casey gets a little help from a fellow percussionist.
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    Casey gets a little help from a fellow percussionist.
    Tegan Wendland
  • Though they might draw a sidelong glance in another city, Casey and his machines are a natural fit in the eccentric atmosphere of New Orleans and its street performers.
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    Though they might draw a sidelong glance in another city, Casey and his machines are a natural fit in the eccentric atmosphere of New Orleans and its street performers.

    Tegan Wendland

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All summer long, Weekend Edition has been bringing listeners the sounds of music played outdoors by all manner of street performers. Of all the cities in America that embrace buskers, New Orleans, with its tradition of jazz and oompah bands at Mardi Gras, may be the most welcoming. It also happens to be a city with a certain eccentric flair — so Weekend Edition wasn't surprised to find Clyde Casey there.

Casey has created a unique contraption. It's a combination of found objects — a propane tank here, kitchen colanders and pot lids there — and percussion instruments, set atop four wheels that allow Casey to pedal around as he plays. He's brought his beats to the streets of New Orleans for more than 40 years; he says seeing his first Mardi Gras inspired him.

"I had never experienced anything like that," Casey says. "So what happened is, I took a drum and went out on the street. The next day, I added a cowbell, cymbals, woodblocks. The street has that kind of magic here. In any city, there's a lot of great stuff going on indoors. What's really great about New Orleans is that there's a wealth of theater that's outdoors."

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