Ponderosa Stomp Festival Returns to New Orleans Last year, Ira Padnos' Ponderosa Stomp music festival was displaced to Memphis by Hurricane Katrina. Now it's back in New Orleans, with scheduled performances by Roky Erikson, Dale Hawkins, Little Jimmy Scott and others.
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Ponderosa Stomp Festival Returns to New Orleans

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Ponderosa Stomp Festival Returns to New Orleans

Ponderosa Stomp Festival Returns to New Orleans

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Tens of thousands of people are in New Orleans this week for the city's big jazz and heritage festival. It's held over two weekends and attracts some of the biggest names in music. But tonight - in between the jazz-fest weekends - a different kind of music event is featuring performers from the past.

Eve Troeh reports from New Orleans on the Ponderosa Stomp and its unlikely promoter.

EVE TROEH: If you think of New Orleans many music festivals as a family, the Ponderosa Stomp is the black sheep. It's a one night, all-night throw-down with more than three-dozen musicians. This year's show is at the House of Blues but in the past it's been at dive bars and bowling alleys. The line-up reads like an encyclopedia of super heroes for pop music geeks.

(Soundbite of song, "Susie Q")

Mr. DALE HAWKINS (Singer): (Singing) Oh Susie Q, Oh Susie Q, baby I love you, Susie Q.

TROEH: That's Dale Hawkins at the Ponderosa Stomp two years ago. He wrote "Susie Q" in 1957, a decade before Creedence Clearwater Revival covered it. On stage, Hawkins was joined by Elvis's guitar player, James Burton.

(Soundbite of song, "Susie Q")

Mr. IRA PADNOS (Anesthesiologist, Louisiana State University Medical Center): You know, people think they've ventured into the land of the dinosaurs when it's a completely different thing. We want to show you the edge and the punk and rebellion that rock and roll is supposed to be.

TROEH: Ira Padnos founded the Stomp. He's booked everyone from electric guitar legends Link Wray to blues preacher Gay Mouthmore(ph) to the free jazz Sun Ra Orchestra. At home, his walls are lined with shelves of rare 45s, 78s and LPs.

Mr. PADNOS: Let's go back to my office where - hey, how are you?

TROEH: Music is a passion he evens takes to work.

Mr. PADNOS: This is the anesthesia workroom.

TROEH: What are we looking at here?

Mr. PADNOS: This is the new and improved record player that I keep at work. It's the vintage-looking turntable.

(Soundbite of turntable)

TROEH: Padnos is an anesthesiologist at Louisiana State University Medical Center. He's infectious love of music makes a tough job a little easier, says nurse Kelly Knuckley(ph).

Ms. KELLY KNYCKLEY (Nurse, Louisiana State University Medical Center): He gives us little sample CDs and we listen to music while we're working. He has an LP player and at night you can hear it coming from under the door.

TROEH: Most of the musicians Padnos has befriended know him as Dr. Ike(ph). And he's even puts some of them under for surgery. Many of the artists he books for the Stomp first came together at his wedding.

Mr. PADNOS: I wanted to make our wedding a fun wedding. Next thing I know, I had about 16 acts line up in my wedding. It started at 5:00 in the afternoon and went till 5:00 in the morning. I didn't realize I was going to be stage managing my home wedding but it was pretty fun.

TROEH: It since become his mission to get these performers on stage. He just doesn't want to listen to their records. He wants to see his heroes play live to as many people as possible. So in addition to working 60-plus hours a week at the hospital. Dr. Ike spends his free time on the phone looking the acts, travel and lodging for the Stomp. When he finally has the set list together, he drives two hours to Lafayette to deliver a CD of all the songs to his house guitarist, Paul Lil' Buck Sinegal.

When Padnos pulls up, Sinegal is sitting on a riding lawnmower and nursing a beer. He's just finished one of his jobs - cutting the grass at a cemetery across the street. Lil Buck finishes a smoke and goes into his living room to practice. He warms up with a regional hit he had in 1969 called "Monkey in a Sack."

(Soundbite of song, "Monkey in a Sack")

TROEH: Copies of the original 45 sell for up to $800 on eBay.

(Soundbite of song, "Monkey in a Sack")

TROEH: Ira Padnos has a copy.

Mr. PADNOS: Lil' Buck make a great house band because he has a great feel for the music. He is just - he knows what to play, when to play. He doesn't overplay it. It's just right there.

Mr. SINEGAL: (Unintelligible)

TROEH: Sinegal was touring and playing around Louisiana before Padnos tapped him for the Ponderosa Stomp. But he wasn't always playing his own music - more of covers and pop standards.

Mr. SINEGAL: Since Doc started the Ponderosa Stomp, it gave me a new life too. You know, it got me back to the old time again.

TROEH: Sinegal is not the only one who's career has been refreshed - thanks to the Stomp. Beaumont, Texas singer and guitar player Barbara Lynn was called the Empress of Gulf Coast Soul when she had a string of national R&B hits in the 1960s.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. BARBARA LYNN (Singer): (Singing) If you shoot me, oh yeah, you'll lose a good thing.

TROEH: Dr. Ike tracks Lynn down a few years ago. She moved back to Texas from California after husband died. Lynn was looking to start performing again Padnos signed her up for the Stomp and that's (Unintelligible) the gigs far beyond New Orleans.

Ms. LYNN: People from Europe have contact me and I've played New York - and I hadn't played there in years. And thanks to one of our friends that saw me performed. Then again I played again at south by southwest. That was for an hour also.

TROEH: Barbara Lynn says the Stomp has been a morale booster. It has been years since she played for a crowd that knew her old hits. And Ira Padnos says that's the point - putting long-overlooked musicians back up on stage where they belong.

For NPR News, I'm Eve Troeh in New Orleans.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. LYNN: (Singing) I'm giving you one more chance for you to do right. If you will only straitened up. We'll have a good life. But if you shoot me…

BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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