Sunday, May 22, 2011
Here we have yet another band, rightly acclaimed critically and by their peers, yet criminally under-appreciated commercially. The Meters. They were formed in 1965 with Art Neville on keyboards and vocals, guitarist Leo Nocentelli, bassist George Porter and drummer Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste. Later they were joined by Cyril Neville on vocals and percussion. They started out as the house band for Allen Toussaint and his Sansu Enterprises label. The Meters are, along with artists such as James Brown, early pioneers of funk, combining tight grooves with the syncopated "second line" rhythms,native to New
Orleans along with strong riffing from the guitar and keyboards.
They scored major hits with the songs "Cissy Strut" and "Sophisticated Cissy" in 1969. The following year their releases of "Look-Ka Py Py" and "Chicken Strut" were also major R'n'B chart hits. All four are considered funk classics. While having a hard time returning to the charts in 1972 after a label shift, the group still worked with artists suh as Paul McCartney, Dr. John, Labelle and Robert Palmer. The Rolling Stones, so taken with their sound, invited the group to open for them on their tours of the U.S. and Europe in '75 and '76. Later in 1976 they released one of their most successful albums, Fire In The Bayou. They appeared on Saturday Night Live in 1977 during the show's second season, and disbanded shortly after.
Art Neville subsequently gained fame as part of The Neville Brothers, while Modeliste went on tour with Ron Wood and Keith Richards. Porter and Nocentelli became in-demand session players and formed bands of their own. After the Wood-Richards tour, Modeliste, displeased in retrospect with the contract the group signed with producers Toussaint and Marshall Sehorn, quit playing drums for several years. He convinced his bandmates to join him in a lawsuit against Toussaint and Sehorn, with all but Modeliste settling out of court. Around that time George Porter formed The Funky Meters with drummer Russell Batiste and Guitarist Brian Stoltz to "play and update the band's music". They were occasionally joined by Neville and Nocentelli, but never by Modeliste.
In 2000 the original members of the group (including Modeliste) reunited for a one-time performance at The Warfield in San Francisco. At this time Modeliste wanted to make the reunion permanent, but the other band members and heir management teams were unwilling. Finally,Quint Davis, producer and director of The New Orleans Jazz Heritage Festival, convinced all parties to work it out and headline the Festival in 2005. About two months later, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the band dispersed and there was no permanent reunion.
The Meters continue to perform at various one-off concerts.