American Routes Shortcuts: Ernie Vincent

Feb 17, 2017

Each week, American Routes brings you Shortcuts, a sneak peek at our upcoming show. One of the enduring heroes of club life in New Orleans is guitarist Ernie Vincent. Ernie’s parents spoke French- father played guitar and harmonica, and the family used to take regular trips to Thibodaux, LA where his uncles played juke joints and fish fries. Vincent learned to play Jimmy Reed tunes, met Little Johnny Taylor and Little Freddy King. After touring on the Chitlin Circuit of clubs with drummer Herlin Delpit and Little Ernie and the Alpines, Ernie Vincent returned home in the 70s, and released a cult hit, Dap Walk.

To hear the full program, tune in Saturdays at 7 or Sundays at 6 on WWNO, or listen at American Routes.org

NS: You were really crossing the map of Mississippi Blues juke joints down to New Orleans, Lafayette and Thibodaux in between - you really covered that.

EV: Yeah, we played a lot of juke joints, a lot. All through Louisiana. I played a lot of Cajun joints - we started off doing like Cajun joints.

NS: You mean for white audiences

EV: Yeah, that’s when I first left here, when I rode with Herlin Delpit. Now Herlin Delpit was a guy from the Lafayette area, and he’s the one played the Zydeco rhythms before I even know what it was. I locked in with him and started playing, cause when Herlin came and got me, I said, well I don’t know but three songs man, he said, well that’s plenty, let’s go!

Herlin looked like a big Cajun; he was a big Creole guy and he knew everybody up there and he booked the band and stuff like that and we’d go play.

NS: Speak to them in French

EV: Yeah, he does French, too. We’d been in so many French clubs and stuff on the bayou, Bayou Blue, Johnson Ridge, Houma, Thibodaux, all back of Lafayette, Broussard, all around the river, I mean, did all that stuff.

NS: Now I wanted to ask you about a club I’d heard about in Thibodeaux called the Sugar Bowl.

EV: Yeah, Hosea Hill Sugar Bowl. And that’s the place where Guitar Slim started.

NS: What would a night be like at the Sugar Bowl?

EV: Packed, people having a lot of fun. Just drinking and releasing. Cause in those days, everybody worked somewhere, you know? Nobody was just drifting. People worked. So on the weekend, they went and had fun. I mean would be packed in the place and the music be bumpin’ and jumpin’, everybody be dancing and singing. And Lone-y was another spot, on highway 308, that’s about three or four miles from Thibodeaux. The white folks be downstairs, and the colored folks upstairs. At the same club. We be looking down at the white folks drinking - well, I was a kid, I wasn’t drinking, but they was up there drinking, but all of ‘em was coming out the same area. On a Sunday, we all get together and play baseball out in a big field across there. Black and white.

NS: At one point the name for your band was going to be the Top Notes

EV: Right, ok, that started out in Kenner. We started jamming out there and put the band together. And the bass player was a guy they called Dap.

We named it the Dap Walk because of the bass player. He had a funny way of walking. We was just clownin’- I mean, we never knew all this was gonna happen. So we said, hey look, we gonna name this for you, Dap. Dap Walk. And that’s what we did.

NS: You’ve loved the music all your life- you’ve loved the scene, the clubs, the jukes, what would you like to do with it now at this point in life?

EV: You know, long as we get up in the morning, no bullet holes, stab wounds and above ground, we good.

To hear more, listen Saturdays at 7 or Sundays at 6 on WWNO, or listen at American Routes.org

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