N.O. Musicians Carry On Post-Katrina

Fats Domino and others return home as charity work goes on

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When Fats Domino returned to his home in New Orleans' deluged Ninth Ward on October 15th, he discovered that a misinformed fan had written "R.I.P. Fats" on its balcony. But if the seventy-eight-year-old rock pioneer was in good shape on his first trip back since rescue workers pulled him out on August 29th, his house -- an eccentrically decorated New Orleans landmark where he has spent the last four decades -- was not. "The water's up to the second floor," says Domino's longtime manager, Al Embry. Domino, who had lived in the neighborhood his entire life, found that many of his possessions, including his white grand piano and most of his twenty-one gold records, appeared to be lost or ruined. "It devastated him," Embry says.

As some musicians return home, fund-raising efforts continue both locally -- via charities such as the Tipitina's Foundation and New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund -- and across the country. The four major labels banded together for a charity double CD, Hurricane Relief: Come Together Now, due out on November 22nd, which includes live tracks from Coldplay, John Fogerty, Elton John and others, plus fresh studio recordings. The discs also feature two all-star tunes: a cover of Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven" (with Gwen Stefani and Ozzy Osbourne) and the title track (with the Game, Joss Stone and Wyclef Jean).

As clubs and bars gradually began to reopen, New Orleans hosted its first post-disaster musical festival, the Voodoo Music Experience, held as an invite-only event for rescue workers on October 29th, with performances ranging from local legend Kermit Ruffins to national headliners Nine Inch Nails. On October 30th, the festival continued in Memphis as a fund-raiser for the New Orleans Restoration Fund.

Nearby, in Lafayette, Louisiana, an organization called HEAL (Helping Employ Artists Locally) is assisting displaced and unemployed musicians, finding them alternative gigs that include teaching classes in schools. Says HEAL director Matthew Goldman, "It's broadening their marketability so they can make money without playing Bourbon Street until three in the morning."