02 May 2013

I’m in New Orleans for Jazz Fest. It’s probably my seventh or eighth time in New Orleans and there is simply no other city in the world like it. Way too many cities are indistinguishable from other cities but there is no way to mistake New Orleans for any place other than what it is. It is a city with its own big, beautiful, outrageous personality. 

New Orleans almost commands that you have a good time in a way that feels so much more real and authentic than that other US city devoted to partying: Las Vegas. In fact, New Orleans is the anti-Las Vegas. You come to New Orleans and accept it on its own terms, as it does you.  You fit into it, instead of the city trying to determine how to please you with its false Eiffel Towers.  And the weirder and quirkier your personality, the more New Orleans loves you. To steal from TBS:  Characters welcome.

I got here too late to go to the Jazz Fest grounds, so I was walking around the French Quarter when the sky opened up and it started pouring, I mean pouring, down rain. I tucked under the door frame of an abandoned art gallery beside a street musician, who had set up shop there.  

His sign read, “Blues harp stylist that other harmonica players come to see when they want to be entertained.”  He had quit playing during the storm, but he had quite the set up. He had a little table with a tiny amp on it. He also sported a hat with Blues Harp on it. He’d gotten the hat at Walmart for $2.99, but it cost $15 to get it embroidered.

In that magical way that only happens in New Orleans, my friend from New York, whom I had yet to connect with, ran into the same doorway. 

We asked Ron if he’d play for us and he graciously consented. He also had a Walkman that had a CD full of beats on it. He picked a track, picked up his mic, which he wore on his middle finger like a ring, and played some might tasty blues harmonica for us. We were joined by some other folks for awhile, but it was basically a private show. I was very happy to drop $10 into his bag.

Ron had been a long-distance truck driver based in Atlanta, and whenever his schedule permitted, he’d come back to Atlanta and play with a bunch of musicians in the Atlanta Underground. After he retired from driving, he moved to New Orleans and figured he could make a little extra scratch playing his harmonica in the French Quarter during the weekends when tourists were abundant. 

If you’re in New Orleans, look for him.

May 2: Ron DeLoach, blues harp stylist

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