Berklee BeanTown Jazz FestivalThe Wild Magnolias
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A group calling itself the Wild Magnolias, participating in the local "Indian masking" traditions, and performing New Orleans Mardi Gras music extends at least back into the 1950s. The group's lead member was called the Big Chief, and at least three Big Chiefs are known to have headed the band for short stints prior to 1964: Leon, Flap, and Joe Lee Davis. In 1964, Bo Dollis became Big Chief of the group, having previously participated in other Mardi Gras tribes, such as the White Eagles and the Golden Arrows. Dollis's name is virtually synonymous with the Wild Magnolias Mardi Gras Indian tribe. He has been a legend almost from the beginning, because he could improvise well and sing with a voice as sweet as Sam Cooke, but rough and streetwise, with an edge that comes from barroom jam sessions and leading hundreds of second-lining dancers through the streets at Carnival time. Dollis and Monk Boudreaux, chief of the Golden Eagles, have recorded James "Sugar Boy" Crawford's 1954 r&b hit "Jackomo, Jackomo" and the classic Mardi Gras song "Handa Wanda." The Wild Magnolias and the Golden Eagles have taken Bo Dollis and Monk Boudreaux from the ghettos and brought them to places like Carnegie Hall in New York; the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.; London; Nice; and Berlin. Wherever they go, listeners will hear an authentic music to which New Orleans owes so much.