Ralph Tingey swilling somewhere in the Czech Republic
Ralph Tingey swilling somewhere in the Czech Republic
Some of history’s most significant what-ifs lie buried beneath layers of misunderstanding. So it is with Cinco de Mayo.
This annual celebration of Mexican culture gets bigger every year, fueled mainly by America’s love of a good party. Folks who aren’t from Mexico are often surprised to learn, as they quaff margaritas or savor tacos al carbon, that the holiday matters much less south of the border. Many mistakenly believe that May 5 is Mexican Independence Day, but that’s Sept. 16 .
But it’s entirely appropriate that Cinco de Mayo matters more in the United States. The event commemorated on this holiday was a triumph of Mexican spirit and courage. For us, though, it just might have saved our nation.
When the future of the United States was threatened by the secession of 11 Southern states in 1860-1861, Confederate strategists looked for help in two directions. One was Europe; the other was Mexico. Europe’s textile mills ran on Southern cotton. By cutting off the supply with an embargo, the rebels hoped to force France and Britain to recognize Southern independence. Mexico, meanwhile, was a potential ally — or maybe even a future member of the new Confederacy.
These two ideas came together in the early months of the Civil War, when a coalition of European powers sent an armed force to collect debts from the Mexican government. Abraham Lincoln’s diplomats scrambled for a way to pay the debts to keep Mexico happy and encourage the Europeans to leave. But Congress shortsightedly refused to provide the money.
As 1861 came to an end, only the French remained, camped on the Gulf Coast. French Emperor Napoleon III , nephew of the famous general, rued his uncle’s decision to sell French holdings in North America to Thomas Jefferson more than 50 years earlier. He decided to topple the Mexican government and reestablish Parisian power in the Americas.
So in the spring of 1862, the French began marching toward Mexico City, with the Confederate rebels cheering them on. After conquering Mexico, the French would be perfectly positioned to ally with the South and tip the balance of the Civil War.
The road from the port of Veracruz to Mexico City covered several hundred uphill miles. Roughly midway, a steep valley narrowed to a single passage below a towering volcanic peak. Here lay the city of Puebla, through which all traffic to the capital had to go.
A young Mexican general, Ignacio Zaragoza, placed a small, tough force at Puebla and scoured the countryside for volunteers to bolster the defense. A long trench was added to the city’s existing fortifications. Some 4,500 men occupied this position on May 5, when 6,000 French troops under Major General Charles de Lorencez came up the valley.
The overconfident French nobleman ordered an immediate attack. Zaragoza’s riflemen found easy targets as de Lorencez’s soldiers charged the trenches. Those Frenchmen who survived the climb met savage hand-to-hand fighting at the Mexican trenches.
A second charge also failed. As Union and Confederate generals would soon learn on battlefields from Corinth, Miss., to Gettysburg, a ferocious foe in an entrenched position had a tremendous advantage. The bloody field filled with French bodies.
When a third charge also failed, Zaragoza unleashed his cavalry on both flanks of the retreating French. The battle became a rout, and de Lorencez fell back all the way to Veracruz, where he counted his losses (as many as 500 killed and wounded) and waited to be reinforced from back home.
He was one of the first watermen of the modern era, and was struggling with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
The regular-footer from Leucadia, California finished runner-up in the inaugural ISF World Surfing Championships, held in Manly Beach, in Australia. He lost the sport’s first world title to Midget Farrelly.
But Doyle was more than just a competent surfer. He was an all-around waterman, always involved in big wave surfing, paddleboarding, and even tandem surfing.
His unique wave riding style was an inspiration to all American surfers of the 1960s.
Mike Doyle was born in Los Angeles, in 1941, and started surfing as a goofy-footer, aged 13, at Manhattan Beach. In 1956, he switched to regular-footed mode at Malibu.
In 1956, the young rider worked as a stunt double on “Gidget,” the film that changed the mainstream perception of surfing.
By the turn of the decade, Doyle was already learning to shape surfboards with Dale Velzy and Greg Noll.
The blond, tall surfer won several regional and national tandem surfing, paddleboarding and surfing titles – the 1968 Duke Kahanamoku Invitational is one of them – and secured various podium finishes at other relevant surfing events.
By the mid-1960s, Doyle was widely considered one of the best surfers on the planet. Why? Probably because he really enjoyed what he was doing, and got good at it.
“Live to surf, surf to live,” he once said.
His entrepreneurial spirit led to the creation of the surf wax, surfboard shaping, and the promotion of the monoski, which eventually gave birth to the snowboard.
In 1974, Mike teamed up with Tom Morey to create the first soft surfboard. The duo used the same materials featured in the early Morey Boogie bodyboards.
In 2013, Mike Doyle was inducted into both the Surfer’s Hall of Fame (2003, Huntington Beach) and Surfer’s Walk of Fame (2013, Hermosa Beach).
His surfing skills can be seen in “Surf Safari,” “Barefoot Adventure,” “Cavalcade of Surf,” “Strictly Hot,” and “Golden Breed.”
NEW ORLEANS — If any popular-music festival was built to last an unbroken 50 years, it’s the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. It was already looking back when it started in 1970, assembling a Louisiana Heritage Fair of music and food traditions to glorify connection and continuity. Many of the musical styles it brought together were already generations old. So what’s another half-century?
This year’s Jazz Fest, as everyone calls it, finished its first four-day weekend on Sunday (it continues May 2-5). It’s an institution dedicated to its home city’s particular local and regional culture: not a trademark revived for anniversaries, like Woodstock, or a reboot tied to a cherished name, like the Newport Folk Festival. Jazz Fest’s booking policy leans toward musicians who share something — funk, fiddles, accordions, carnivals, French and Afro-Caribbean connections — with Louisiana lore. And the festival’s physical layout is designed to encourage discoveries. The path from the two main stages to the blues, gospel and jazz tents leads past a Cultural Exchange Pavilion featuring world music and the Jazz & Heritage stage with performances by brass bands and Mardi Gras Indians, New Orleans’s miracles.
Jazz Fest has built its attendance in recent years by adding more pop hitmakers at the top of its bills. But where many pop festivals are simply run-throughs of touring road shows, Jazz Fest visitors tend to incorporate something of New Orleans, having local musicians sit in and savoring the city’s charms. For her appearance on Saturday, Katy Perry performed her hits, but she had her stage set emblazoned with exhortations from the New Orleans-born poet Cleo Wade, and she used the Soul Rebels brass band as a horn section. More than 300 groups performed in the festival’s first four days. I heard a fraction of them, but here are 13 of the standouts.
Jazz Fest presents New Orleans music as both a polyglot cultural mix and as a fountainhead of ideas. Santana’s multifaceted, proudly bilingual blues-Latin-rock-jazz-pop catalog invokes its own migrations and fusions, now linked to messages of positive thinking and global healing. An extended set touched down periodically on hits, with Carlos Santana re-creating his familiar guitar solos only to take off from there. There was ample room for excursions into jazz, boogaloo, cumbia and even a hard-rock version of John Lennon’s “Imagine” sung by Cindy Blackman Santana, Carlos’s wife and the band’s indefatigable drummer. Trombone Shorty, from New Orleans, joined the band for an encore that free-associated through Jimi Hendrix, Swamp Dogg, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, “Fever” and the New Orleans piano standard “Big Chief.”
The pianist Ellis Marsalis was part of the first Jazz Fest. This year, his four musician sons — Wynton on trumpet, Branford on saxophones, Delfeayo on trombone and Jason on drums — joined him to perform his own compositions. The pieces traversed New Orleans jazz from slightly skewed traditionalism to knotty modernism; solos navigated every twist with brawn and panache. After featuring students from a music school established after Hurricane Katrina and named after Ellis Marsalis, the set concluded with the four sons raucously parading all around the jazz tent.
The soul hits Irma Thomas had from 1959 into the 1960s seesaw between womanly sass (“Don’t Mess With My Man”) and lovesick loneliness (“Ruler of My Heart”). They didn’t quite establish her as a nationwide star, but she became a New Orleans mainstay, and she still sings them with bluesy passion and a trumpetlike clarity. She wished Mick Jagger — whose heart surgery made the Rolling Stones drop out of Jazz Fest — a speedy recovery, but also reminded the crowd that she sang “Time Is on My Side” before he did. And when she moved into a medley of second-line songs and called for people to wave something in the air — handkerchiefs, hats — thousands of listeners happily obeyed.
Flashy, two-fisted piano players are central to the sound of New Orleans. “Piano Professors” was one of the many tribute sets that are increasingly part of Jazz Fest, as — over the last 50 years — mortality has claimed indispensable musicians like Professor Longhair, Allen Toussaint and James Booker. Five of their students and inheritors showed what they’ve learned in a brisk set of impossible-sounding piano solos that demanded propulsion, depth and sparkle. Tom McDermott mastered fearsome Jelly Roll Morton compositions like the aptly-titled “Finger Breaker”; Davell Crawford, even brawnier and wilder, flung tremolos and glissandos all over the place in a Booker tribute. They’re local luminaries who are too little known outside New Orleans.
Bonnie Raitt first played Jazz Fest in 1977 and has returned often. She praised it from the stage as a refuge for the “endangered species” of “roots music,” the blues, country, soul and funk that infuse her songs about love and honest acceptance. She augmented her band with two New Orleans-based keyboardists whom she has collaborated with through the years, Jon Cleary and Ivan Neville. And with Jazz Fest serendipity, she brought out Boz Scaggs — who had performed the night before — to join her and Cleary singing a Toussaint song all three have recorded, “What Do You Want the Girl to Do”; they turned it into a hymn.
It started small, half a century ago, but with a mission.
The first New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival was held in 1970 in Beauregard Square, previously and afterward known as Congo Square, where African drumming and dancing had persisted through the era of slavery. It was modeled on the traditional-music showcases at the Newport Folk Festival, but filled entirely with Louisiana’s own styles — jazz, blues, gospel, brass bands, zydeco, Mardi Gras Indians and much more. Duke Ellington, the only performer without Louisiana roots, was commissioned to write and perform a “New Orleans Suite.” Nearly two dozen food vendors offered jambalaya, étouffée and other specialties.
Tickets were $3. But only about 300 people showed up, and the overstocked vendors ended up feeding children from a nearby orphanage.
Yet the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival has proved ambitious and resilient: It has survived deficits, rainouts and the aftermath of hurricanes. As it enters its 50th official run on Thursday, Jazz Fest, as everyone calls it, has grown inseparable from the cultural ecosystem of its hometown, embracing the sounds of the city and welcoming outsiders to enjoy them.
“Jazz Fest is everything that you love about New Orleans to begin with,” said Ivan Neville, the keyboardist who made his first appearance there in 1977; he is performing this year with his band Dumpstaphunk and in the Foundation of Funk with the rhythm section of the Meters, the band co-founded in 1965 by his father, Art Neville. “It’s the most variety of music that you’ll ever see in one given place, so that’s first, and then the best food that you will ever eat in your entire life.”
In recent years, Jazz Fest has drawn between 400,000 and 500,000 attendees across its two extended weekends; its peak, in 2001, was 618,000. Festival organizers estimate that it brings $300 million into the New Orleans economy. This year’s event includes nationally known headliners and hitmakers, among them Katy Perry, J Balvin, Chris Stapleton, Diana Ross and Pitbull, as well as habitual Jazz Fest performers including Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Jimmy Buffett, Al Green, Herbie Hancock and the Dave Matthews Band.
Yet while visiting attractions have boosted attendance, they have never defined the festival. Quint Davis, who has booked music for Jazz Fest since it began and is now the C.E.O. of Festival Productions-New Orleans, noted that this year’s lineup includes 688 groups, “and 600 of them are from New Orleans and South Louisiana.”
That dedicated focus on the local is the core of the festival, which has bolstered the sublime stubbornness of New Orleans culture — where continuity is cherished and singular local customs are continued across generations — and brought worldwide appreciation to what were once just neighborhood festivities. “There’s no question that Jazz Fest has been the event that put New Orleans music on the map,” said Jan Ramsey, the publisher and editor in chief of the New Orleans music magazine OffBeat.
Jazz Fest has maintained its mandate because it operates far differently from other American festivals its size. Its music encompasses vintage jazz to chart-topping reggaeton; its audience is genuinely all-ages. It takes place in daylight, ending at 7 p.m. — which not only encourages visitors to seek out night life, but also rules out stage spectacles dependent on lights and video, emphasizing old-school musicianship instead.
More significantly, Jazz Fest is nonprofit, channeling revenues back into Louisiana music. “The mission of the festival all along has been to make a full circle,” Davis said. “To go back and support the culture that you’re promoting.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~ OTHER JAZZ FEST HISTORY ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Don Frank Coffey / Date of Birth
April 20, 1949
Hosted by The American Alpine Club, Denver held its first ever UIAA World Cup Ice Climbing competition this February. Kiitella created stainless steel bottle openers – with a jet-cut AAC logo and hand-stamped pewter label. Kiitella says, “Pounding solid rivets is so satisfying… and sending these little Colorado-made art pieces home with the burliest ice climbers in the world is pretty fun.”