by Red Cotton
A second line parade by nature is more fun than the law allows in most US states. Then there are those second lines which go over and above the call of duty, that sets your soul afire, leaves you on a natural high (or unnatural hangover) that lasts for days, that goes down in the annals of history as “oh that year they did that!” The Buckjumpers parade last weekend met that criteria. Their parade was beyond epic. Admittedly I have close relationships with some of the club and band members that paraded Sunday so I decided to do an reality check and survey random paraders: “Is it me or is this second line completely off the chain??” I asked to which I was responded to with something along the lines of a “HELL YEAH!!” I’ve since read multiple reviews on social media by attendees comparing it to a Mardi Gras parade by virtue of the sheer massiveness of the crowd.
There were three divisions - Men, women and children. Of the three, the Lady Buckjumpers tends to draw the biggest crowd. Some of that popularity is no doubt a result of the club’s leadership. The president of the ladies division is Linda Tapp, renown and beloved throughout New Orleans. Humble, always smiling, she is royalty times three: president and founding member of the LBJs; mother of the late New Orleans rap icon Soulja Slim; and life partner with the leader of the preeminent Rebirth Brass Band, Phil Frazier. The latter formed a powerful partnership with the supremely popular Rebirth serving as the official band of the Lady Buckjumpers for over two decades, performing year round at their events up to and including their annual parade. This year, however, the LBJs ushered in a changing of their musical guard.
(more below the jump!)
After 29 years of ruling the streets of New Orleans, Rebirth has officially retired from the second line scene. Phil’s stroke in ‘09 coupled with drummer Derrick Tabb’s consuming management duties at his Roots of Music youth program slowed them down from booking all but a few annual parades. Their current tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers formalized the end of their second line tenure, requiring the Lady Buckjumpers to find a replacement band. For LBJs' president, the choice revealed itself early on. “We needed to find us a band that can keep us in the spirit of how we roll,” said Ms. Linda. “I love all the bands but the one to put me in the spirit of where I need to be on parade day, TBC is the band to do it. We’ve been around them a lot. They’re the next up and coming band.”
Tapped by Rebirth to play for their Grammy nomination party earlier this year, TBC Brass Band was given an rare opportunity to prove their mettle to both the elder band and their audience. Additionally, the 10 year young band’s tuba player Brenard ‘Bunny’ Adams travels and performs often with Rebirth. Its likely that these fortunate breaks led to Bunny’s premonition that his band would be the ones to take the baton from Rebirth to lead LBJs parade this year. “I knew before the club knew, before the band knew!" he laughed. "When I saw Rebirth was scheduled to be on tour that weekend, I was telling myself ‘We’re gonna play that parade.” And halfway through the four hour parade, it became clear that the young band had passed muster when the hardest to please critics, those die-hard second line fans, erupted into call and response to that old, recently revised Rebirth street anthem: “Hey don’t go nowhere! TBC’s on its way! Hey don’t go nowhere! TBC’s here to stay!!”
At one point when the parade passed through what was once the Magnolia projects, former home of Linda and her son rap legend and street martyr James ‘Soulja Slim’ Tapp who was slain in 2003, the crowd size grew so enormous there was no room to move in any direction. The Buckjumpers’ parade falls annually on Thanksgiving weekend, a time when native New Orleanians nationwide return home to the city that loves ‘momma’ to reunite with family and friends. The combination of a much fluffier population citywide along with perfect weather, major love on the streets for the club and for Soulja Slim whose death anniversary coincides with the week of the parade, and anticipation of a new band and new sound for the LBJs brought thousands of attendees Uptown. Bunny joked “It felt like we had the whole New Orleans with us. It was like the Million Man March!”
Visually, the ladies’ ensembles induced a happy woozy-like effect of a 1960‘s acid drop. Nineteen animated hour-glass shapes in brilliant tangerine and emerald color-saturated suits; clear blue skies loaded with sunshine that cast a thousand points of light onto their bejeweled necks; stunning two-toned handmade crocodile leather shoes from Italy showcasing some of the best footwork in the city. “We pick the loudest colors,” Ms. Linda stated proudly. “The Lady Buckjumpers always like to been seen from two blocks down.”
Street royalty, gorgeous attire, dance skills and good taste in brass band music aside, the LBJs are just plain likeable. You’d be hard-pressed to find a similarly large tight-knit group of spirited women hanging together at social events week after week, year after year, having what looks to be the time of their lives. Linda shared, “I have a time with my girls sometimes but I guess that’s normal. You not gonna get a group of women to agree all the time. (laughing) But when we come together to do what we have to do, it all falls in place.”