Leave it to Bill Reed, music journalist, show-biz chronicler and memoirist extraordinaire, to figure out that “one of the high profile Louisiana heroes of Hurricane Katrina” — Jefferson Parrish President and former Mayor of Kenner, La., Aaron Broussard — also happens to be a righteously capable rhythm-and-blues singer.
Reed writes on his blog that when he caught Broussard on NBC’s Meet the Press three weeks ago, “angrily lamenting the failure of the national government to act in a timely manner in the face of Katrina” — the name tickled a “sense memory” in his brain, and he recalled buying a vinyl LP, right, which had been released by “the fine fine superfine” Dese Days Rivertown Records label:
And sure enough, digging through my LP collection I came up with an ultra rare disc — circa the 1980s — of the then-mayor recording with a who’s who contingent of New Orleans instrumentalists and singers, including: John Fred, Earl King, Chuck Carbo, Frankie Dent, Bobby Loveless, Oliver Morgan, Lee Dorsey, Ernie K-Doe, and the the Dixie Cups.
Although “that other Aaron has nothing to fear,” Reed observes, Broussard’s tracks on the disc — “Night Owl,” “Trickbag,” “Making Love to You,” “Domino” and “Knock on Wood” — make him wonder whether the mayor ever considered, or had, a professional singing career.
After seeing Broussard on TV again, Reed adds:
It dawned on me that a good way to not only help Gulf Coasters, but also to pay part of my astronomical monthly Kaiser Permanente (when is Michael Moore going to finish that exposé on health care providers?) insurance premium might be to sell the LP on Ebay… with a starting bid of $9.99.
We checked this morning. The disc is still on the auction block, and that’s still the price.
Oh yeah, back on Sept. 4, this is what Broussard had to say on Meet the Press in the spectacular interview that — to lay it out in proper tabloid terms — stunned program anchor Tim Russert and amazed millions of viewers with its candor and emotional power :
We have been abandoned by our own country. Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms ever to hit an American coast, but the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history. I am personally asking our bipartisan congressional delegation here in Louisiana to immediately begin congressional hearings to find out just what happened here. Why did it happen? Who needs to be fired? And believe me, they need to be fired right away, because we still have weeks to go in this tragedy. We have months to go. We have years to go. And whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chain-sawed off and we’ve got to start with some new leadership. It’s not just Katrina that caused all these deaths in New Orleans here. Bureaucracy has committed murder here in the greater New Orleans area, and bureaucracy has to stand trial before Congress now.
When Russert tells him, “Hold on. Hold on, sir. Shouldn’t the mayor of New Orleans and the governor of New Orleans bear some responsibility? Couldn’t they have been much more forceful, much more effective and much more organized in evacuating the area?” Broussard gives him another earful:
Sir, they were told like me, every single day, “The cavalry’s coming,” on a federal level, “The cavalry’s coming, the cavalry’s coming, the cavalry’s coming.” I have just begun to hear the hoofs of the cavalry. The cavalry’s still not here yet, but I’ve begun to hear the hoofs, and we’re almost a week out.
And then he gives “just three quick examples,” with which we’re all familiar by now, but which, coming from the horse’s mouth, are worth remembering and repeating:
We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water, trailer trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn’t need them. This was a week ago. FEMA — we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. The Coast Guard said, “Come get the fuel right away.” When we got there with our trucks, they got a word. “FEMA says don’t give you the fuel.” Yesterday — yesterday — FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, “No one is getting near these lines.” Sheriff Harry Lee said that if America — American government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn’t be in this crisis.
It’s time to shut him up. He’s going on too long. Russert tells him, “All right.” But Broussard won’t shut up:
And I want to give you one last story and I’ll shut up and let you tell me whatever you want to tell me. The guy who runs this building I’m in, emergency management, he’s responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, “Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?” And he said, “Yeah, Mama, somebody’s coming to get you. Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday.” And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night.
Brousssard starts to breaks down in tears at this point (
Nobody’s coming to get us. Nobody’s coming to get us. The secretary has promised. Everybody’s promised. They’ve had press conferences. I’m sick of the press conferences. For God sakes, shut up and send us somebody.
So, is anybody out there furious enough to buy Broussard’s blues? It’s more than just an old LP now, it’s one of those rare artifacts that gives life to history.
— Tireless Staff of Thousands