WWOZ Radio and Eyewitness News has launched a new series, "Guardians of the Groove," honoring the local musicians that help keep the tradition of New Orleans music alive. The series starts with a man who's been playing music in the streets and clubs of New Orleans and around the world for more than 50 years.
D.J. Bill Deturk introduces us to Benny Jones Sr. of the Treme Brass Band.
NEW ORLEANS -- "I liked the rhythm," said Benny Jones Sr. "I liked the changes of the rhythm on the drum. I start out playing the bass drum, and I played the snare drum too. I always wanted to be a drummer."
"Deep down in my heart, I always wanted to be a part of that. Because I was going to school around the corner. Sometimes during the week they would always have a jazz funeral passing by, maybe once or twice a week. And the teacher would always let us go to the window and peak at the jazz funeral across the street. And deep down in my heart I said I would like to be a part of that."
"My father, being a musician, I'd always be on the sidewalk watching them because I always wanted to be a drummer."
Tell us about your journey
"I had performed with my father, the Armored Brass Band, for several years. I did most of my traveling with the Olympia Brass Band. I was grand marshal, and then they moved me over to bass drum."
"We had formed another band with Tuba Fats we called the Chosen Few Brass Band. Me and him had been friends for many, many years."
"Then I branched off to the Treme Brass Band, but before all that, I was the founder of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. I put the Dirty Dozen Brass Band together. I'm the founder. I put that band together."
The Treme Brass Band's iconic drummer, Uncle Lionel, passed away. How has that affected you?
"It affected me a whole lot because he's my uncle and we played all the gigs together, we traveled together. When we'd knock off the gig at 1 a.m., 2 a.m. in the morning, we'd stop at different bars, we'd talk and mingle with people. They didn't want us to leave, and he'd be there dancing all night long. It was another two to three hour party with him when he was living."
Down the line when the next generation of musicians talk about Benny Jones and the Treme Brass Band, what would you like them to think about you?
"What I'd always like to have them remember me by is the guy that helped the young guys keep the tradition alive."
Want to hear more of what makes Treme Brass Band and Benny Jones special? Check out these songs below: