New Orleans Arranger Wardell Quezergue Dead at 81

'Creole Beethoven' worked on 'Mr. Big Stuff,' 'Iko Iko'

September 6, 2011 2:10 PM ET
wardell quezergue
Wardell Quezergue joins Luther Kent performing on stage at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on May 3, 2009 in New Orleans.
Leon Morrison/Redferns

Wardell Quezergue, the highly regarded New Orleans bandleader and arranger whose credits include "Mr. Big Stuff," "Iko Iko," "Barefootin'" and other Crescent City classics, died today after a lengthy illness. He was 81.

Nicknamed the "Creole Beethoven," Quezergue was also noted for his work on Professor Longhair's "Big Chief," King Floyd's "Groove Me" (cut the same day as Jean Knight's "Mr. Big Stuff") and the Grammy-winning Dr. John album "Goin' Back to New Orleans" (1992). The arranger lost a lifetime of musical scores in the flooding of Hurricane Katrina.

After playing trumpet in Dave Bartholomew's band in the 1940s, Quezergue formed his own band the following decade. In 2000 he recorded "A Creole Mass," orchestral hymns based on his experience during the Korean War. Earlier this year he settled a royalty dispute over "It Ain't My Fault," a brass-band standard he co-wrote that has been sampled frequently.        

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