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Katrina oral history series: Fred Neal

Fred Neal

Fred Neal (Photo: Darcy McKinnon)


There was, I think, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. They were having an album release party at Tipitina’s, which is a music club I’d been to a number of times before. It has a historic connection to Professor Longhair and other great artists.

I remember that night—it was the summertime, so it was hot. There was electricity back in the city, but there weren’t a whole lot of people back. Now driving through Uptown areas it’s super populated and super dense. There were a lot of people at the show, but I remember it being eerie driving there and driving through some Uptown neighborhoods and remembering friends who used to live there, and they weren’t back.

Once we got there it was a really good show. I forget who opened, but they had the Mardi Gras Indian tribes during intermission. Everyone was hot and sweaty–how it should be when you go to something like that.

The Dirty Dozen started, and I’d seen them a number of times. They’re obviously one of the seminal New Orleans brass bands. At some point, I’d heard the guy’s name, but midway through the set a guy stepped up to plays drums with them. A young man. A teenager. I’d heard his name, but I’d never seen him before. It was this young guy called Troy Andrews. Trombone Shorty.

These are a bunch of guys who’ve been in music for decades of their life. He sat in, and he just went to work. You could tell he was talented. Charismatic. He just sat down with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and these guys are playing all over the world, and he just went to town as the drummer. Later, we learned that he could play anything.

I remember seeing him and thinking: That guy, is gonna become a star. If he stays on the straight and narrow, there’s a lot of things that could happen, but he’s going to become a star. And he has.

I just remember seeing this young cat go at it, and the opportunities for young people who are musically talented to do that in New Orleans is amazing.


Fred Neal’s full story will be airing on Wednesday, August 27th from 12:30-1:00 P.M. on WRBH, 88.3 F.M. The Oral History Project is an ongoing series, and in honor of the 10-year anniversary of Katrina, they will be highlighting personal stories from New Orleanians. If you miss the live broadcast, you can find recordings of the full stories on WRBH’s SoundCould page. Check WRBH’s full schedule by visiting their calendar.



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