Big Chiefs Monk Boudreaux and Bo Dollis have been friends since they were kids growing up in the same Central City neighborhood in the 1950s. For the past three decades, that bond was further strengthened by their partnership in the Wild Magnolias, the electric Mardi Gras Indian band that has brought New Orleans' Mardi Gras Indian music and culture to an international audience. Now their relationship is being tested like never before, as Boudreaux says he's been forced out of the band by Glenn Gaines, manager for the Wild Magnolias.
"It's got to be talked about, because what happened isn't right," says Boudreaux. "I've been in the Magnolias for 30 years, and now Gaines is going to kick me out because I want to see the band's business [papers]?"
Boudreaux says he has been asking Gaines to produce the band's financial records for almost three years. "It was time to see the paperwork, because it seemed as though we're getting paid now the same thing as 20 years ago," he says. "When I asked Glenn, he said no problem -- but it's never happened. I want to know what we're making. I always get paid the same amount, whether it's a local gig, or 18 gigs in a row in New York, or gigs in Japan. I get about $160, sometimes maybe $200, for every gig."
Boudreaux's displeasure with the situation led him to consult with local attorney Dino Gankendorff -- Dollis was also present -- in late September. But shortly after the meeting, Boudreaux claims he was no longer notified of Wild Magnolias gigs. "[Gaines] hasn't contacted me at all," says Boudreaux.
Gaines, who's managed the band since 1996, offers a different version of the situation. "Monk gets mailed a calendar just like everyone else, so he knows about the gigs," says Gaines. ("I don't have any calendar," counters Boudreaux.) "The way we see it is that he didn't want to perform with us anymore. He was not fired from the band. He never called us to say, 'I quit.'"
Even if Boudreaux hasn't been officially fired from the band, it's clear how Gaines sees Dollis and Boudreaux's role -- in the Wild Magnolias and the Wild Magnolias' business affairs. "The bottom line is Bo has always been the leader, and that's always been the same since I walked in the door, and before then," says Gaines. "Bo has been the leader of this band since 1969. Monk is a member of the band. And all business matters are handled by Bo Dollis and his management -- meaning me." Gaines maintains that Boudreaux isn't entitled to access the band's financial documents. Meanwhile, Louisiana Secretary of State records show that the Wild Magnolias were established as a limited liability company in 1999, and Gaines, Dollis and Boudreaux are all listed as "member(s)/manager(s)."
Adding to the controversy is the ever-changing billing of the band. Its first two albums -- the band's eponymous debut and 1975's They Call Us Wild -- are credited to the Wild Magnolias. In the last decade, 1990's Back at Carnival Time and 1996's 1313 Hoodoo St., were billed as Bo Dollis & the Wild Magnolias. Yet the band's most recent release, the star-studded 1999 CD Life Is a Carnival, was released as the Wild Magnolias. The latest promotional photos of the group, released in conjunction with that album, prominently feature Boudreaux and Dollis side-by-side.
Dollis sounds surprisingly dispassionate and vague about the situation. "I don't know what's happening," he says. "[Monk] don't show up for the gigs. I heard he wasn't happy on our last trip to Japan, and wasn't satisfied with the kind of money he's making. So he got himself a lawyer."
When it comes to defining Boudreaux's role in the Wild Magnolias, Dollis echoes Glenn Gaines' assessment. "Monk probably wants the same thing I get, but as the leader of the group, and the lead singer, I do most of the singing," says Dollis. "I'm supposed to get paid accordingly. [Monk] wants 50/50, and I can't see that."
Both Dollis and Gaines insist that if Boudreaux wants to talk, the door is open. But Boudreaux maintains that he simply wants an accounting of the Wild Magnolias' business, and until that happens, there's no peace pipe in sight.
"Bo is telling everybody I quit," says Boudreaux. "Why would I quit something I've been doing for 30 years? I helped build it, and I'm not going to let Glenn take it over. Why wouldn't he want us to see the books? If he was doing things right, he'd show us the books."
- Donn Young
- Monk Boudreaux says that he's been forced out of the Wild Magnolias.