Tipitina's (501 Napoleon Ave., 504-895-8477; www.tipitinas.com) opened its doors on Jan. 14, 1977 as a performance space for local artist Henry Roeland Byrd, better known by his piano-banging alias, Professor Longhair (or simply "Fess"). As Fess and his contemporaries reached cult status, so did the club.
Full of garbled verbal nonsense and stuttering piano riffs, "Tipitina" is one of Professor Longhair's most emotive songs, compelling listeners to tap their toes and sing along. It's a fitting name for the music venue, which has a similar effect on patrons. With upcoming acts such as Anders Osborne, Flow Tribe, Dr. John and Galactic, it's a place to get your body moving.
Tipitina's invests in local communities. The club isn't a nonprofit, but after recouping overhead costs for concerts and special events, it sends proceeds to the nonprofit Tipitina's Foundation, which spon-sors youth programs including Instruments A Comin' (IAC). IAC raises money to provide new musical instruments to local students.
"We started in 2001, handing out the instruments at the club, with just one school," says Nancy Romano, general manager and director of special events at Tipitina's. "The program has now donated over $31 million worth of instruments to 101 schools — around 77,000 students."
The Foundation holds an annual fundraiser during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, donating profits from its block party, silent auction and benefit concert to IAC.
Tipitina's Internship Program for aspiring professional musicians has turned out more than a dozen local graduates, many of whom have gone on to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Berklee grad Donald Harrison Jr. runs the pro- gram. Every other Sunday, mid- dle and high school-aged kids can attend a free Youth Music Workshop, which ends with a jam session on Tipitina's stage, led by local and touring musicians.
The Tipitina's gift shop is open Monday through Friday and during concerts, and all proceeds from merchandise emblazoned with the club's logo, including koozies, baby gear and dog shirts, benefit the foundation as well.
In January 2017, Tipitina's will celebrate its 40th anniversary. Talent booker Wayne Lee points out that even though the Radiators officially disbanded in 2011, the group reunites annually to commemorate one of the world's most iconic venues. It's all about the music, and there will be plenty of it to mark the 40-year milestone, Lee says.
"We want to remind the fans of how much fun they've had in the last 40 years, and how much more is to come," he says.