The Ponderosa Stomp has always been something of a gritty musical palate cleanser, inserted between the two monster Jazz Fest weekends. Originally, it was roots-music freak and dedicated record collector Dr. Ira Padnos' personal dream show; the first Ponderosa Stomp, seven years ago, was actually his wedding reception. "The Stomp has a reputation for being the show for people who really know the liner notes," Padnos says. The collection of underground legends who routinely fill the Stomp's stage is something to make record collectors jump out of their seats, while the average listener might not bat an eye. It's because Stomp booking focuses on the players whose names never made it to the papers but were essential architects of familiar sounds, like Slim Harpo's longtime guitarist Rudy Richard; or Dennis Coffey, whose electric guitar appeared on hundreds of Motown hits; and Memphis' legendary Hi Records rhythm section. The Stomp also focuses on Louisiana artists who don't always get slots at the Fair Grounds, like harmonica player Lazy Lester, whose song "Pondarosa Stomp" gave the show its name.
'In the past, the Stomp has been viewed as the antidote to Jazz Fest," with its roster of little-known sidemen, unsung talent and cult heroes like Roky Erickson and the garage-rock obscurity of the Green Fuz, Padnos says. "And it's something to help bridge the two weekends."
Over the years, the Stomp and the Fest developed a friendly working relationship. Recently, Fest management availed itself of Ira's taste and massive musical Rolodex to book acts like Excello Records house guitarist Lil' Buck Sinegal and the recurring Swamp Pop Summit with legendary drummer Warren Storm. Still, this year, Padnos says he was surprised when Fest officials approached him about curating a revue of Stomp artists to play at Jazz Fest. (Padnos also assisted the Fest in booking longtime Stomp headliner Barbara Lynn.) The Stomp has grown the nonprofit foundation added year-round educational programming and a two-day music conference to its efforts but Padnos decided that the exposure at Jazz Fest is well worth any proprietary feelings he might have over his favorite acts.
'What we need to do," Padnos says, "is to give aggressive attention to deserving unsung heroes, and this is a great opportunity to get these musicians exposure. Hopefully, it'll lead to more opportunities for them."
The showcase he put together for the fest is designed to be a sampler package of the main show and its vision, focusing on artists from the Gulf South who have great resumes, if not marquee names. Lil' Buck Sinegal and his Top Cats, the Stomp's usual house band, will back the showcase. Texas' Archie Bell and Roy Head both have instantly recognizable hits from the "60s "Tighten Up" and "Treat Her Right," respectively and cult bluesman Dennis Binder is an ideal Stomp success story.
'He's one of those guys people never really knew about, never really got his due," Padnos says. Before playing the Stomp in 2004, Binder had mostly retired from music. Since then, he's cut two new records and toured Russia and Thailand.
The New Orleans-born singer and original AFO Records artist Tami Lynn also will perform. Lynn, whose signature song is the fiery blues "Mojo Hannah," once provided backing vocals for Dr. John's Gris Gris and the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St. Besides appearing at Ponderosa Stomp events, though, she's kept a low musical profile for the past few years. Maybe with the Stomp's increasing reach and a spot on the Jazz Fest stage that'll change.
- Jacob Blickenstaff
- The Ponderosa Stomp Revue at Jazz Fest (5 p.m. Saturday, April 26, Southern Comfort Blues Tent) features unsung performers like New Orleans-born Tami Lynn, who provided vocals on the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St. and Dr. John's Gris Gris.