NPR

A Roving Percussionist On The Big Easy's Busy Streets

Clyde Casey has been performing on the streets of New Orleans for 40 years. (Tegan Wendland)

All summer long, Weekend Edition has been bringing listeners the sounds of music played outdoors by all manner of street performers. Of all the cities in America that embrace buskers, New Orleans, with its tradition of jazz and oompah bands at Mardi Gras, may be the most welcoming. It also happens to be a city with a certain eccentric flair — so Weekend Edition wasn't surprised to find Clyde Casey there.

Casey has created a unique contraption. It's a combination of found objects — a propane tank here, kitchen colanders and pot lids there — and percussion instruments, set atop four wheels that allow Casey to pedal around as he plays. He's brought his beats to the streets of New Orleans for more than 40 years; he says seeing his first Mardi Gras inspired him.

"I had never experienced anything like that," Casey says. "So what happened is, I took a drum and went out on the street. The next day, I added a cowbell, cymbals, woodblocks. The street has that kind of magic here. In any city, there's a lot of great stuff going on indoors. What's really great about New Orleans is that there's a wealth of theater that's outdoors."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

More Photos
Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Of all the cities in America that welcome street performers, New Orleans, with its history of jazz and bands at Mardi Gras might be the one that most embracers buskers. It also city that has a lot of flair. So, it's not surprising to find Clyde Casey there in our continuing Music Al Fresco series. Clyde Casey's created a contraption that's mobile but also a combination of found objects turned into percussion instruments. He's been playing his beats on the streets of New Orleans for more than 40 years.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CLYDE CASEY: Yeah, what I have right here is propane tank, and I got a big bass drum.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMMING)

CASEY: And then I've got, like, a whole series of other tom-toms...

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMMING)

CASEY: Then I got the snare drums. And I got these right here...

(SOUNDBITE OF CLANGING)

CASEY: It's just pretty much kitchen colanders. And then what I have right here, the bells, are Magnalites. It's a pot lid.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CASEY: You know, they're sweet, sweet sounds.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CASEY: I sit inside of it and so I'm able to pedal and play this. This is four wheels. It's a quadcycle. And I'm able to pedal and play.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CASEY: When I came down to New Orleans in 1977, I didn't know anything about the city. I had no idea as to what New Orleans was all about. And the first Mardi Gras was coming up, and everybody was talking about Mardi Gras. And I didn't know what Mardi Gras was. I didn't know anything about street theater, busking or anything. But I was inspired by the energy of that Mardi Gras. That Mardi Gras was just - it blew me away. I had never experienced anything like that. So, what happened is I took the drum and I went out in the street. The next day, I added cowbells, cymbals, wood blocks.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CASEY: One great thing about this city is that you can actually stand outside of the clubs and pick up on all of the different genres that's going on, the Dixieland and the Cajun and the jazz and this kind of stuff.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CASEY: The street has that kind of a magic here. In any city, there's a lot of great stuff going on indoors, but what's really great about New Orleans is that there's a wealth of theater that's outdoors. And so the one thing about the city is that it allows a lot of expression to happen.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Clyde Casey, a New Orleans street performer from our summer series Music Al Fresco. You can see a slideshow of Clyde Casey and hear more of his beats at npr.org. This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Most Popular