PHOTOS: MOLLY MALDOVAN | New Orleans soul, funk, R&B, and blues icon Walter “Wolfman” Washington and his long-running band will be throwing down Friday night with numerous special guests and former band members at Tipitina’s. Soul Project, featuring Washington’s protégé Christian Duque, opens.
This epic night will feature a five-piece horn section along with special guests as well as many past Roadmasters.
Walter “Wolfman” Washington stands tall in this town of ace musicians as one of the last remaining players who haunted the city’s back ‘o’ town music circuit in the early days of his career. He spent decades as a sideman before finally beginning his solo career after taking the suggestion of the great vocalist Johnny Adams, his longtime employer.
Back in the early 1980s, I saw him perform numerous times at the Rose Tattoo, a hole-in-the-wall located across Napoleon Avenue from Tipitina’s. The band was called Solar System and bassist Jack Cruz (pictured above) was on the gigs. He still plays with Washington nearly 40 years later.
The drummer in those days was the legendary Wilbert “Junkyard Dog” Arnold. He held his drum set together with a set of red plastic chains! Sadly, Arnold passed away. Wayne Moreau currently fills those big shoes.
The horn section of the Roadmasters features saxophonist Tom Fitzpatrick and trumpeter Antonio Gambrell. Fitzpatrick has also played with Washington for decades. The newest member of the band is keyboardist Steve DeTroy.
I have seen Walter “Wolfman” Washington and the Roadmasters at least a hundred times. For years his gigs on Saturday night at the Maple Leaf Bar were the place to be after every other club in town had shut down. The music was happening until after 3 AM and a who’s who of New Orleans music lovers found themselves grooving to Washington’s unique blend of soul, R&B, funk, and the blues into the wee, wee hours.
While those days have long passed, Washington never fails to deliver when performing. I have recounted this story in this space before, but it bears repeating.
A couple of years back, the band played a very small, underpublicized festival in uptown New Orleans. It was a school fair and the crowd was mostly parents and children. Hardly anyone was there specifically to hear the music. Wolf could have phoned it in. Instead he tore it up until the crowd gravitated towards the stage. By the end, everyone was up and dancing in the grass.
Friday night at Tipitina’s will be different. The place will be buzzing with the energy of a New Orleans legend. Don’t miss it.