For years, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival wanted to book Ruby Wilson, known worldwide as “The Queen of Beale Street.” But her Memphis R&B show didn’t quite fit the festival’s style.
I talked with Brian “Breeze” Cayolle, the renowned NOLA musician who moved to Memphis after Hurricane Katrina, and asked if he could assemble an A-list band in New Orleans for Ruby. We discussed with Jazz Fest and decided Ruby would create a tribute to Bessie Smith, plus add some R&B tunes for Memphis flavor, backed by Breeze and great local musicians.
Ruby packed the Economy Hall tent in 2008, and she received a standing ovation every time she performed there until her last show in 2016. She became a Jazz Fest staple, and the weekend in New Orleans with Breeze and his colleagues became her favorite annual gig.
And it remains my all-time favorite booking.