Reefer Songs With Kermit Ruffins



weight of history is piling into the present, spilling onto painted murals on
the exterior walls and framed photographs of jazz legends inside the crowded Mother-in-Law
Lounge. Right here at the famously vibrant New Orleans bar, which doubles as a reside
music venue and a shrine to nearby R&ampB singer Ernie K-Doe, yet another nearby
hero Kermit Ruffins is preparing to open his weekly set.

The jazz trumpeter, vocalist and composer performs on a regular basis about his hometown and hosts Monday gigs at Mother-in-Law Lounge, which he took more than operating in 2011. At Ruffins’ lounge in the historic Treme neighborhood, the murals of K-Doe — whose chart-topping hit “Mother-in-Law” gave the bar its name — are only the most apparent way that history is coloring the present.

The Treme neighborhood is the birthplace of jazz music, with quite a few historians pointing to New Orleans’ cornetist Buddy Bolden as getting the very first champion of the genre in the late 1800s and early 1900s with his swinging and improvisational music. Just after the Jazz Age of the ’20s and ’30s, with bandleaders like Louis Armstrong moving jazz dominance up to Chicago, jazz continued to thrive and create in New Orleans. The band that Ruffins began in his 20s, the Rebirth Brass Band, embodies this continued improvement. When it debuted much more than 30 years ago, Rebirth fueled a brass band revolution. With the group, Ruffins toured the globe, returning residence to embark on a solo profession, headlining a jazz quintet identified as the Barbeque Swingers.

These days, Ruffins, who played himself on the HBO series “Treme,” is a staple of the neighborhood. He typically can be discovered barbequing outdoors or performing at his bar, exactly where the welcoming space flows with a cadre of Ruffins’ musical buddies who often join him in impromptu sets.

Inside the Mother-in-Law Lounge, Ruffins pays homage to one particular of his idols, Armstrong, with a massive photograph. The lives of Armstrong and Ruffins intersect in much more than one particular spot: jazz, New Orleans, brass bands and outspoken advocacy for what Ruffins prefers to contact “the reefer,” but what Armstrong known as “the gage.”

In New Orleans, as with all romantic American cities, the previous dances with the present and from time to time, as they say, the much more items modify, the much more they keep the similar. When Armstrong was arrested for cannabis possession in the 1930s, he became one particular of its earliest advocates. These days, in a state exactly where cannabis remains inaccessible even to healthcare sufferers, Ruffins continues to advocate for a plant with a deep historical connection to the standard music he brings to life.

Just after
seeing Ruffins execute at the Mother-in-Law Lounge, I caught up with him more than
the telephone the subsequent day. The trumpeter was calling from Houston, exactly where he also
has a residence, along with yet another bar, Axelrad, exactly where he tells me there is a craft
beer that “smells just like marijuana.” We spoke about the consequences of
Louisiana’s anti-cannabis laws on black households, the very first time he smoked  marijuana, and just how significantly inspiration he’s
pulled from an old CD of “reefer songs.”

1 of your idols
Louis Armstrong was arrested for cannabis possession and wrote the song
“Muggles” about the gage. What are your thoughts on marijuana’s contributions
to the history of jazz music?

I’m really confident that back in the days when jazz was invented in New Orleans, marijuana was a large relief. You know what I imply? So far as the every day events of racism, I’m really confident it was really essential to have that joint at the finish of the day — just going to the neighborhood and rolling a joint, sitting down and smoking and preparing for the subsequent day to make cash for your household or make music or what have you.

does cannabis influence your art?

I may possibly have began [smoking] at ideal about 15 years old. I’m 54 now and I do not feel I’ve missed a day of it considering the fact that then. I’m constructive that it had a sturdy influence when I began the Rebirth Brass Band in ’82. As far as writing tunes, it is just been a large influence on the creativity of the music and the culture and just the modify of the music — exactly where it changed from the old brass band style to the style that The Rebirth came out with, which was just a small bit much more peppy, much more than something, but the similar music.

was your very first encounter with cannabis? You mentioned you had been 15?

Yeah, ideal, about 15 years old.

did you do, smoke with your buddies or…?

I keep in mind clearly, I feel a guy was expanding it in the backyard subsequent to my
property in the Decrease Ninth Ward and I feel me and a couple of buddies jumped the
fence and snatched the plant. We didn’t understand what we had been undertaking, it wasn’t
even prepared however and we just chopped it up and smoked it. So I’m not confident that…
umm.. [laughs] we got the impact that
we believed we had been going to get. But as far as we had been concerned, we had been higher

Quite a few legendary jazz artists have songs about cannabis and you also have a song known as “Hide the Reefer.” Was it essential to you to create a song about cannabis and, if so, why?

Nicely, the most important factor was my manager back in the day with The Rebirth, her name was Allison Miner. She began the Jazz and Heritage Festival along with Quint Davis and when she began managing me, the very first factor she did was gave me a CD known as “Reefer Songs.” That CD was the highlight of my life due to the fact we traveled the road so significantly in Europe, each and every summer time for like 15 summers in a row, and we had been usually in vans, in trains, in vans and trains and vans and trains, you know? So, that was the soundtrack of my European tours when I very first began traveling with The Rebirth Brass Band, my original brass band. These tunes just gave me a drive, so when I ultimately broke away from The Rebirth and decided to go on my personal, each and every CD I recorded I decided to do one particular of these reefer songs. Ultimately, I wrote one particular of my personal.

the Reefer” is a fantastic one particular, as well. It is a classic.

thank you. There was a guy named Creeper who was a neighborhood guy. I feel he
served in the military for a lengthy time. The Treme neighborhood had so quite a few
characters [back in the day]. I imply, just hundreds of characters walkin’ down
the avenue on any offered Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday ideal about noon. The
complete neighborhood would assistance Creeper out with something he necessary. You know,
give him cash for meals, give him a small reefer, a beer — what ever he necessary
— and he would from time to time have a actual sloppy sort of mouth so no one wanted to
pass him the reefer. So, when he came up the street, we’d be like, “Hide the
reefer, right here come Creeper.” That is the way that song evolved.

is your favored slang term for marijuana?

— I feel due to the fact of the reefer song CD. I known as it weed ahead of that. My
favored joke is to say my wife left me for the reefer man… I confident miss him.

What are your thoughts on healthcare marijuana in Louisiana?

far better hurry up and legalize it. The state can use all that cash and we can
cease incarcerating folks and losing lots of cash and breaking up households. 1
arrest can lead a household into a bunch of cash circumstances to the point exactly where
you cannot afford rent and you have to move in with your mom and that causes
chaos, so it breaks up households. Inside two or 3 months, it can completely
destroy a household. What has been going on in America is poor black citizens, typically
due to the fact of marijuana charges, actually cannot afford that. No household can afford
that — to spend an lawyer, to spend your bills, and get on probation for six
months and then spend the city or the state $50 each and every week to get drug tested.

imply, I went by way of that, to the point that I got busted for a small reefer
and I had to go by way of it for six months and had to spend so significantly cash for drug
testing, so significantly cash to the lawyer, so significantly cash to the courts. I was fortunate
that I had a profession exactly where I could afford to nonetheless take care of my household
and not get tossed on the street, but it ruined so quite a few lives back in the day.

state actually wants to release anyone that is nonetheless in Angola [the notorious
Louisiana State Penitentiary] on marijuana charges, you know? It has to be
reversed ideal away. Other than that, there’s going to be no justice. It is so
sad they’ve got elderly old males back there for a bag of marijuana that are
nonetheless in jail. It just does not make sense at all. I guess back then, no one
actually gave a sh*t, but thank god that it is altering.

subsequent for you? What have you got going on?

hoping to place out a bunch of CDs and generally take care of household, buddies and
my neighborhood.

Inform US, did you know the history of marijuana was
closely connected with the history of jazz?

Initially published in Concern 37 of Cannabis Now. Study Additional


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