Maple Leaf Bar
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The Maple Leaf is on Oak Street in the Carrollton neighborhood of Uptown New Orleans. Opened on Feb 24, 1974, it is one of the longest continuing operations of New Orleans' music clubs with live performances seven nights a week. On that first night Andrew Hall's Society Jazz Band played and were there every Saturday for seven years. Many of the old time musicians were featured including numerous members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The Society Jazz Band left in the summer of 1981 but have played there several times since including the 30th birthday party in 2004, and the 40th birthday party in 2014. Musical styles represented include blues, funk, R&B, rock, zydeco, jazz, jam bands and any combination thereof, hosting both local performers and touring national acts.
Frequent performers at the Maple Leaf have included local legends James Booker, the Rebirth Brass Band, Papa Grows Funk, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, "Money Mike" Armstrong, The Radiators and Henry Butler. Unannounced sit-ins are not uncommon; Bruce Springsteen once dropped in to jam with The Iguanas and Jon Cleary's band was once joined by his frequent employer, Bonnie Raitt. The Leaf, as it is sometimes referred, has also been an important incubator for the city's many up-and-coming bands formed from the ranks of local musicians and music students at Tulane University, Loyola University and the University of New Orleans.
The poet Everette Maddox was a famous denizen of the Maple Leaf, so closely tied to the venue that his ashes are buried in the bar's patio area. The Everette C. Maddox Memorial Prose & Poetry Reading, held every Sunday in the courtyard at The Maple Leaf, is the longest running poetry reading in North America.
The Maple Leaf also hosts other events, including poetry readings and fashion shows. The Krewe of OAK, a neighborhood New Orleans Mardi Gras krewe, starts and ends its parades at the Maple Leaf, where it also holds its Krewe Ball.
The Maple Leaf is portrayed in many books and stories by New Orleans writers. It is thinly disguised as "The Raintree Street Bar" in the Ellen Gilchrist short story "The Raintree Street Bar and Washerteria" (the bar formerly housed a small laundromat within it). Poems about it can be found in books and chapbooks such as Mirror Wars and Shards, by Nancy Harris; Body and Soul and Rhythm & Booze, by Julie Kane; and The Everette Maddox Song Book, Bar Scotch and American Waste by Everette Maddox. There have also been three anthologies of poets who have read their work at the Maple Leaf: The Maple Leaf Rag (1980), The Maple Leaf Rag 15th Anniversary Anthology (1994), and the Maple Leaf Rag III (2006).
R&B singer, songwriter, record producer, actress, and fashion designer Beyoncé Knowles recorded a promotional video for her single "Déjà Vu", which features rapper Jay-Z, at the Maple Leaf in June 2006.
The Maple Leaf hosted the Krewe of OAK "Midsummer Mardi Gras" parade and party as scheduled on the night of Saturday, August 27, 2005, although Hurricane Katrina was barreling down on the city. While attendance was smaller than usual, a crowd insisted on partying New Orleans style one last time. Some came to the event from having spent the day boarding up their homes and packing up their cars, and evacuated from the city after the party.
The Maple Leaf was closed for several weeks in the aftermath of the storm (see: Effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans). Owner Hank Staples stayed in New Orleans to guard the bar and his other properties, while vowing in interviews with national media outlets to host the first concert in New Orleans after the storm. And on September 30, 2005, Walter "Wolfman" Washington played the Maple Leaf's first post-Katrina show in New Orleans. (Some other local musicians who were playing in the aftermath of the storm dispute the claim that it was the city's first post-Katrina public performance, but this was the first to generate such sizable crowds and media attention.) That night many of the journalists, cameramen, and crew from NBC News and other media outlets joined the party and recorded the event. The band's equipment was powered by a diesel generator because electricity had not yet been restored to most of the city. The gig was eventually shut down by police and National Guard as the city was still under a curfew. Electricity was restored to this section of the city about a week later.
After Hurricane Katrina, several poets nationwide came together to lament, honor, and pray for the victims of Katrina and Rita. Several of these poets, known world-wide as the Hymnagistes, published a volume of poetry: Hurricane Poems: An Anthology (Des Hymnagistes Press, 2006). These poets raised enough money to provide the Maple Leaf Poetry Reading Series a new microphone and funds for publishing a new volume of poetry (Maple Leaf Rag III).
A number of live albums have been recorded at the venue, including:
- James Booker / Resurrection of the Bayou Maharajah (1993)
- Rebirth Brass Band / The Main Event: Live at the Maple Leaf (1999)
- Papa Grows Funk / Live at the Leaf (2006)
- Joe Krown, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, Russell Batiste, Jr. / Live at the Maple Leaf (2008)
- The New Orleans Suspects / Caught Live at the Maple Leaf (2012)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Maple Leaf Bar, New Orleans.|
- Maple Leaf Bar official website
- Swampish Thoughts - a blogger's account of the first live concert in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, at the Maple Leaf Bar.
- Post-Katrina reopening audio story
- New York Times: Sounds of Vitality for New Orleans
- National Public Radio: A Day in the Life of New Orleans