Blues guitarist Little Freddie King and his drummer/manager, “Wack-O” Wade Wright, stood outside the Charbonnet-Labat-Glapion Funeral Home in Treme on Thursday afternoon, pondering the scene inside for “Uncle” Lionel Batiste’s wake.
“They’ve got him fixed up beautiful,” King said of the deceased Treme Brass Band drummer and renowned New Orleans character. Wade agreed. “They’ve even got his watch on the mannequin’s hand,” he said, referring to the life-like figure standing in the funeral home’s chapel.
That wasn’t a mannequin, King replied. “That’s him."
In a send-off as unique as the man himself, Mr. Batiste wasn’t lying in his cypress casket. Instead, his body was propped against a faux street lamp, standing, decked out in his signature man-about-town finery.
Scores of friends, fellow musicians, neighborhood associates and curious onlookers milled around. Beer and barbecue were available for purchase. A man advertised an autographed copy of the 2010 Jazz Fest Congo Square poster depicting Mr. Batiste for $500. Another offered copies of The Boulevard, a free Central City publication, depicting Mr. Batiste on its cover for $3.
At 5 p.m., as the viewing wound down, a brass band led by trombonist Corey Henry paraded into the funeral home’s chapel. As the musicians raised their horns in an uptempo gospel medley, family members and fellow mourners commenced dancing.
I don't know about you, but if I can make that many people happy by dying, hold supper mama I'm on the way.
BTW. Don't know if any of you have caught the HBO program Treme, but if you haven't you're missing a good one. The music alone is worth the effort and Uncle Lionel was often included as an extra.