This week's Mardi Gras music history lesson has a mambo beat, sort of like what "Mardi Gras Mambo" says you'll find on LaSalle and Rampart streets or in Gert Town, where "the cats all meet." The song was written as a country tune in 1953 by Frankie Adams and Lou Welsch. It was recorded by singer Jody Levens at Cosimo Matassa's studio. About the same time, Art Neville, then a student at Walter L. Cohen High School, was performing around town with a rhythm and blues group known as The Hawketts. Local disc jockey Ken "Jack the Cat" Elliott took the group to the WWEZ radio studios in 1954 to cut a version of "Mardi Gras Mambo," with altered lyrics.
"The country version hadn't sold. He figured an R&B version might. He figured right," Neville wrote in his 2000 autobiography The Brothers, written with his siblings. Jack the Cat gave the tune a lot of airplay, making it a big hit during the following Carnival season and beyond. The Meters recorded a version in 1975 for the album Fire on the Bayou.