The only other time I’ve started my evening at midnight was also here, in New Orleans, last summer. I’d been invited to a party with an advertised start time of 10:00 PM; in an effort to adhere to the locals’ perception of time, I left in my lion-tamer costume around 12:00 AM. I got it wrong, because I thought I knew what to do, and when you think you know what to do in New Orleans that’s when she’s best at showing you otherwise. By the time I arrived, the bands had already played and many attendees had already left.
Thankfully, there wasn’t any ambiguity about when exactly my plans a few Fridays ago began. Jennifer Brady, whom I met last summer while interning at WWOZ, invited me to help out with her 12:00 Friday-3:00 AM Saturday OZ show, the Midnight Cap—she had big plans for this one, so no minute was spared.
Want to know what’s going on beyond the airwaves at a midnight show on the greatest radio station in the world, from a newbie’s weirdo perspective? Below: the evening, timestamped.
10:28 PM: Wake up from quasi-nap and made coffee. Drink almost an entire french press of it while slapping myself in the face, trying to get it together. I don’t, really.
11:34 PM: Drive to the Quarter; made a mental note to ask the DJ preceding Jennifer what the song I heard playing at 11:34 was.
11:48 PM: Meet Jennifer outside OZ. She’s very wisely wearing pajamas and blue Converses; on her t-shirt is a drawing of a bowl of pho. Imagine the sketched pho spiciness wafting off the cotton and into my brain, which feels…bland.
11:52 PM: Get into the booth and meet Alski, whose show is right before Jennifer’s. Alski has round tortoiseshell glasses, looks MUCH younger than he is (must be that steady music diet), and has lived in Bywater since the early-2000s. He doesn’t remember what he played at 11:34, but I looked it up later: “Unhooked Generation,” by J-Funk Express.
12:00 AM: Jennifer spins the Midnight Cap’s first track: “In the Midnight Hour,” by Robert Parker. Fitting.
12:15 AM: The tribute begins. Praline queen and Baby Doll Tee Eva passed away on Thursday, June 7 at 83 years old. In addition to founding the iconic Tee Eva’s Authentic Pralines and Pies on Magazine Street, Tee Eva was a founding member of Ernie K-Doe’s Baby Dolls with Antionette K-Doe, who was a Ernie K-Doe backup singer with Tee Eva and her third cousin. Jennifer kicks off the memorial with Ernie K-Doe’s “Teta Teta Ta.”
12:16 AM: First call of the night! It’s Monica, calling to talk about the River Parishes, where she, Jennifer, and Tee Eva are all from. In a 1995 interview with the Times Picayune, Tee Eva said: “I’m a River Parish lady. St. Charles Parish, Glendale Plantation, my people tilled the fields, cut the sugar cane, maybe that’s why I’ve loved sugar all my life, made so many pralines, pecan pies.”
12:28 AM: Jennifer, Alski, and I talk about travel, specifically to South America. Did you know it’s takes 40 hours and 22 tolls to drive from here to Belize? At least that’s what Jennifer says. The woman has owned homes since she was basically an adolescent, has three jobs, and is building a mosaic in her kitchen, so I have no reason not to believe her.
12:33 AM: Make first pot of coffee. I know from my internship last summer that these are Baby’s Coffee beans, from Key West.
12:36 AM: Jennifer plays a recorded station call-out from Tee Eva herself in between Big Chief Bo Dollis & the Wild Magnolias’ “Ho Na Nae” and Rockin’ Dopsie Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters’ “There is Something On Your Mind.” Time stops in the booth for just a moment. “You’re listening to the sounds of New Orleans WWOZ, 90.7 FM. This is your praline queen, Tee Eva.” The way she says “Eva” drips with style. “Evahhh.” Jennifer tells me Tee Eva cooked Anthony Bourdain his first jambalaya when he visited New Orleans for his show A Cook’s Tour in 2003. Their meeting seems much heavier now.
12:43 AM: More Ernie K-Doe—“A Certain Girl.”
12:44 AM: Jennifer spent Friday collecting lovely stories about Tee Eva from her friends and acquaintances on Facebook, and I was honored to read some of them on air. The first one was from local musician Margie Perez (unedited):
I immediately thought of “Here Comes the Girls” by Ernie Kdoe. She [Tee Eva] was Antoinette Kdoe’s best friend and when they released that song, Antoinette threw a party at the Rock n Bowl. When they started the song, she and Tee Eva started a conga line and the whole crowd joined in. It was the first time I laid eyes on Tee Eva. I’ll always think of her when I hear that song now.
Next on the playlist—“Here Comes the Girls,” of course.
12:51 AM: “Mama Didn’t Raise No Fools,” by Sugar Pie DeSanto. I am a fool for coffee, though, because what is drinking more caffeine at close to one in the morning when you’ve already had at least four cups of it already but foolish? But, OH! A person must have a vice!
12:56 AM: Jennifer hands me a LP as she eats half a napoleon. I’m in love with the woman on the black-and-white cover immediately. Women’s Love Rights, the album is called, by Laura Lee. In the photo, she sits with her legs crossed in front of a wall of what looks like old piano rolls, on a Victorian-style chair, staring back at me. She looks pissed. On the back side, a smiling color photograph—then I note the name of track 2: “Wedlock is a Padlock.” I have a feeling the songs on Women’s Love Rights are much more in line with the Lee on the front cover than the one on the back.
1:03 AM: Tank and the Bangas, “Wal-Mart.”
1:06 AM: Refilled coffee. Mistake.
1:10 AM: Erma Franklin, “Hold On, I’m Coming.” Did you know Aretha Franklin had a sister who was also a singer? Jennifer found this out just recently, which makes me feel better, sort of. Erma sang the original “Piece of My Heart,” which I’ve only known as a Janis Joplin jam. Shame.
1:14 AM: “I just went from Percy Mayfield to Jill Scott in Paris!” Jennifer exclaims over Scott’s “Bedda At Home (Live in Paris).” “Oh well.” I don’t speak sugar-inflected DJ-speak, so I have no idea what this means. Both sounded great to me.
1:17 AM: Jennifer checks on WWOZ’s Facebook, or as she calls it, “the face page” or “the face space,” which makes me laugh A LOT. I wonder what sounds I’ll make when coffee erodes my internal organs and replaces the blood in my veins, which appears to be happening now. Soon enough my speech will be replaced with the gurgles of a coffee maker.
1:25 AM: Johnny Adams, “I Can’t Be All That Bad.” The Tan Canary!
1:31 AM: Read another Tee Eva memory, this one from Alexandra (unedited):
I was just moving in to my first apartment—Milan near Loyola—and my mom was helping me out. We were exploring the City, checking out different fun looking places—and decided to maybe see if this place called Dunbar’s on Freret Street served breakfast. This was of course the old Freret Street. On our way to Dunbar’s and across from Wagner’s market was a little place called Tee Eva’s. We went in. All the treats—pralines and pies—looked delicious, but we wanted some savory breakfast. Tee Eva asked us if she could help us. We explained that we would likely be back because we were going to get some breakfast first.
“Oh, what would you all like” she said in her inimitable New Orleans accent. We answered the usual breakfast—eggs, bacon, etc.
“Well you just sit down here and I’ll take care of you.” She then walked out the door, crossed the street to Wagner’s, and brought back some groceries to make us breakfast. My mom and I just looked at each other incredulously and smiled. She made us a delicious breakfast. We asked her how much.
“Well, I don’t [know]. You’re my first breakfast,” she laughed. She then suggested a price, which we happily paid.
Appalled to learn I mispronounced “praline” ON AIR. It’s that thing New Orleans does again—whenever you think you’re kind of getting it, she shows you different. Jennifer expects calls about the “pray-lean” / “prah-lean” incident.
1:38 AM: There is a call, but not about my saccharine snafu. It’s someone asking about the services for Tee Eva.
1:40 AM: Another call! Bruce from San Francisco remembers Tee Eva giving him a ride back to his hotel from a party at 4:00 AM. This woman was ev-er-y-where.
1:46 AM: Jennifer plays a 6-minute song—Howlin’ Wolf’s “Love Me”—which allows our conversation to last longer than 2-3 minutes, although with all the coffee that speed seems to suit us just fine.
2:00 AM: My notes read “2:00 am It is 2 am.” Yikes.
2:22 AM: Sweet Papa Stovepipe’s 1926 “All Birds Look Like Chicken to Me.” Stovepipe because he was tall, Sweet Papa because he told stories to his audiences like a dad would to his children. Aka McKinley Peebles (after President William McKinley), aka Reverend McKinley Peebles, not to be confused with Daddy Stovepipe.
2:37 AM: Apropos of nothing, Jennifer informs me Janelle Monáe is coming to New Orleans in OCTOBER! #pynk
2:38 AM: Ate half a bar of chocolate to Mose Allison’s “The Seventh Son.” Surprised it reached my mouth, what with all the caffeine jitters and Mose Allison bopping. In the end, it would have been better if it hadn’t.
2:48 AM: Jennifer eats some chocolate and tells me I’m “talking too fast.” This a somewhat terrifying proposition, considering I can hardly articulate myself when I’m sober from caffeine and sugar.
2:59 AM: Last song of the Midnight Cap—Mavis Staples’ “Sow Good Seeds.” Jennifer says she always used to close out the show with this track, because “it’s putting it out there, to tell people to be good to one another. To do good things. Good karma.”
3:00 AM: Clean coffee cups and head home. Fall asleep around 4:30, I think. Light sneaking through the blinds wakes me up around 8:45. I may have had a dream about sno-balls, my obsession with which is equal parts culinary, historic, and personal—how have I only recently learned of New Orleans sno-ball culture? Maybe it’s easy to miss something glorious when the glorious surrounds you.
Lying in bed, groggy but still buzzing from last night, I google “New Orleans sno-balls.” One of the first people I see on a page about the history of sno-balls? Tee Eva, of course.
Sow good seeds
Sow good seeds
On the mountain
Down in the valley
You gonna reap
Just what you sow
– Mavis Staples, “Sow Good Seeds” (off One True Vine)