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Gwen Thompkins is a New Orleans native, NPR veteran and host of WWNOs Music Inside Out , where she brings to bear the knowledge and experience she amassed as senior editor of Weekend Edition, an East Africa correspondent, the holder of Nieman and Watson Fellowships, and as a longtime student of music from around the world.
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    There's so much water in, around and underneath New Orleans, that the dead spend eternity in tombs above ground. Most of the tombs now have a similar design: On top, there's space for a wooden coffin or two, and at the bottom lies a potpourri of decanted family remains. Sooner or later, whoever is up high must vacate and settle lower, making room for the newly dead. That's how families stay together — in a desiccated jumble of grandpas, grandmas, siblings and cousins. Well, in one of the city's oldest cemeteries, the final resting place of a white, aristocratic New Orleans family is also the eternal home of black musical royalty: an emperor, a king, a consort and a mother-in-law. From Chitlin' Circuit To Pop Charts In 1961, Ernie K-Doe managed something that no one from New Orleans had ever done before — not Fats Domino, not Louis Prima, not even Louis Armstrong at that point. K-Doe scored a No. 1 pop hit with a song about his — and apparently a lot of other people's — mother-in-law:

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    0 0 In March, country music star Jason Aldean is playing Madison Square Garden. Tickets sold out in 10 minutes. Fans want to hear his latest No. 1 song, "Take a Little Ride." The song was written by by Rodney Clawson, Dylan Altman and Jim McCormick — who still chuckles when he hears it. McCormick says a No. 1 song is life-altering. "I've had all the other numbers, and this is a better number to have than the others," McCormick says. "Doors open. The phone rings. You're in a little club. You now have a sort of three-minute calling card: 'He's the guy that wrote that song.' " Before he became that guy, McCormick took one of the most unusual paths to country music since Kris Kristofferson finished his Rhodes scholarship and wound up a janitor at a Nashville studio. In 1990, McCormick graduated from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and went home to New Orleans to teach and write poems. The son of a merchant marine turned business owner and

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    Some music festivals are known for certain specific things; others are known for a broad assortment. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is known for everything . The city's arms are just that wide. Every performer is welcome. This year, singer Patti Smith held a crowd spellbound in the mud just as easily as Billy Joel lifted his audience off dry ground. Jazz stylist Diane Reeves sang a Fleetwood Mac song on the first weekend just as compellingly as Fleetwood Mac sang its own songs the following weekend. And artists across nearly all of the stages played Allen Toussaint songs — including Toussaint himself. If you missed it, well, you missed it. But there's always next year. With any luck, you'll get to see my neighbor, jazz trumpeter Lionel Ferbos , who received a standing ovation at the Economy Hall tent. Ferbos is a heck of a horn player, and this summer, he'll make 102. Yes, in southern Louisiana, we make our ages, a vestige of the French that used to be spoken more widely

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    Did you know that John F. Kennedy was a Republican? Neither did I. But that's what one of my college students guessed in a course on news writing. I asked another kid what period followed the Industrial Age and she said, "The Golden Age?" We moved on. But whenever I'm tempted to despair about a generation that looks ever-forward, I buy a cupcake and a big mug of coffee. That's because Launa Reed works at a cafe in New Orleans that sells the best cupcakes in the history of cupcakes — you can quote me on that. And her friend Jo Morris manages a coffee shop two blocks away that sells a mighty fine drip. Outside the land of coffee and cupcakes, Reed and Morris are known as The Kentucky Sisters, a ukulele-driven duo. The two are not yet 30, but their music reaches back generations. The Kentucky Sisters live on Kentucky Street in the Ninth Ward. They sing old-time harmonies, mostly from the 1920s, '30s and '40s, but they don't know much about the songs they sing. Morris and Reed find old

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    There are a lot of stories to tell about New Orleans. There are uplifting stories about new houses, new shops and gigantic drainage projects. There are melancholy stories about everything residents lost in Hurricane Katrina, about all that can never be recovered. There are stories about all that remains to be done, 10 years after the hurricane and the levee failures. And, throughout it all, there are love stories. Want to hear one? 'It Was Still Mardi Gras' Lakeya Taylor was walking along Orleans Avenue in downtown New Orleans during Mardi Gras in 2007, when she bumped into a handsome young man she'd seen around but had never quite met. Paul Mazant was walking along Orleans Avenue during Mardi Gras in 2007, when he ran into a fetching young woman he'd seen around but had never quite met. Mazant asked Taylor to lunch. Eight years later, we're sitting in her mother's living room in Gentilly, La., talking about marriage, their sweet children — and why Hurricane Katrina, and the worst

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    0 0 Fats Domino, one of the architects of rock 'n' roll, died Tuesday at his daughter's suburban New Orleans home. Haydee Ellis, a family friend, confirmed the news to NPR. Mark Bone, chief investigator for the Jefferson Parish coroner's office, tells NPR that Domino, who was 89, died of natural causes. In the 1940s, Antoine Domino Jr. was working at a mattress factory in New Orleans and playing piano at night. Both his waistline and his fan base were expanding. That's when a bandleader began calling him "Fats." From there, it was a cakewalk to his first million-selling record — "The Fat Man." It was Domino's first release for Imperial Records, which signed him right off the bandstand. Producer, songwriter, arranger and bandleader Dave Bartholomew was there. He described the scene in a 1981 interview now housed at the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University. "Fats was rocking the joint," Bartholomew said. "And he was sweating and playing, he'd