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New Orleans music great Cosimo Matassa has died at 88

Certainly the most important non-musician to recording in New Orleans after WWII, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Cosimo Matassa, has died at age 88.

In 1945, Cosimo Matassa, a New Orleanean who tinkered with electronics, opened a recording studio on Rampart Street. In 1956, he moved to a slightly larger space on Gov. Nichols, and operated there till the late 1960s.

At his studio, he was central to recordings, produced or co-produced with Dave Bartholemew and Allen Touissant, that defined American rock and roll and R&B, easily at the level of Sam Phillips at Sun Records in Memphis.  Keith Spera at the Times Picayune has a nice obit, with this quote about Matassa’s philosophy:

I wanted to be a just conduit of what that performance was – a performance frozen in time, if you will. So if you didn’t know I was there, I did my job.

It is impossible to imagine New Orleans music after WWII without the records made in his studios. If rock and roll was invented anywhere, it was invented at his studio on Rampart.

Here’s some of the recordings:

  • All the Fats Domino hits you know, including “The Fat Man”
  • The seminal Little Richard records, including “Tutti Fruity” “Long Tall Sally” “Ready Teddy” and “Slippin’ and Slidin'”
  • “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” by Lloyd Price
  • “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” by Roy Brown
  • “Shake, Rattle and Roll” by Big Joe Turner
  • “The Things I Used To Do” by Guitar Slim (with Ray Charles sitting in)
  • “Little Liza Jane”  “Rockin’ Pneumonia” Huey Smith and the Clowns
  • “Let the Good Times Roll” by Shirley and Lee
  • “Tell it Like it Is” by Aaron Neville
  • “Blue Monday,” “Shame, Shame, Shame” and “I Hear You Knocking” by Smiley Lewis
  • “”Tipitina” and “Mardi Gras In New Orleans” by Professor Longhair
  • “It’s Raining” by Irma Thomas
  • “Mother in Law” by Ernie K-Doe
  • “The Monkey Speaks His Mind” by Dave Bartholemew and his Orchestra
  • “Sea Cruise” by Frankie Ford
  • “Land of 1000 Dances” by Chris Kenner
  • “Mardi Gras Mambo” by the Hawkettes (first iteration of the Nevilles)
  • “Jock-A-Mo” by Sugar Boy Crawford
  • “Ain’t Got No Home” by Clarence “Frogman” Henry

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