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Wardell Quezergue, the Creole Beethoven, Passes

Word quickly passed around town this morning that Wardell Quezergue, a renowned bandleader, songwriter and arranger, died at the age of 81. Known as the Creole Beethoven, Quezergue's light touch with an arrangement helped make New Orleans the City on a Hill of early R&B. Although known nationally as a producer for his work with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Willie Nelson and Dr. John on his Grammy-winning “Goin' Back to New Orleans”, Quezergue was a fine bandleader in the 1950s in New Orleans. He gave us many of the local classics that make up any Mardi Gras or JazzFest time playlist worth its salt.

In the 1950s, he formed the Royal Dukes of Rhythm and Wardell and later the 1950' and later with his Slammin' Big Band where he showcased his original compositions and arrangements. He also worked as an arranger for local luminaries including Fats Domino and Professor Longhair. Songs to his credit include "Big Chief," "Iko Iko and" "It Ain't My Fault," as well as Jean Knight's "Mr. Big Stuff" and Robert Parker's "Barefootin'".

In 1964 he formed Nola Records and released Robert Parker's “Barefootin” which reached number 2 on the R&B chart as well as recording national hits by King Floyd and Jean Knight.
Legally blind in his later years, Quezergue lost most of his possessions in the Federal Flood, but continued to conduct concerts and work with musicians.

"‘Big Chief’ had five saxophones, three trumpets, three trombones and five rhythm parts. Artists weren’t used to working with bands like that," he told Offbeat in 2000. "I guess that’s how I got the nickname ‘Creole Beethoven,’ not because I’m so brainy, it’s just that everything I did was so loud."

Jazz funeral arrangements weren't immediately available.


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