Green Parrot/NOLA connection – spread the gospel
For years, John Vagnoni, managing partner of the Green Parrot, looked for bands traveling in this direction from all over the Southeast and would book touring bands to perform at the Green Parrot. Key West was always an easy sell.
New Orleans (NOLA) musicians have always been a good fit for Key West. There were very similar vibes with swamp funk bands that play smaller clubs off Bourbon Street. John started booking talent from New Orleans. The musicians seemed to love Key West and many made friends. One example is the front man for Johnny Sketch comes down solo and performs with Tony Baltimore. Some became good friends with the Parrot staff.
NOLA bands had played the Green Parrot before Katrina, beginning with Davis Rogan. The character in the HBO series Treme, was patterned after him – “the real Davis”. Rogan fell right into the Key West Green Parrot vibe. Rockin’ Jake, Maria Muldaur and the unusual and very talented Klezmer All-Stars, a Tulane-schooled, classically-trained Yiddish dance band with a funk-jazz bent was a big hit at the Green Parrot. Their image still hangs near the stage.
Adam Shipley once owned two bars near Orlando and became an early mentor to John Vagnoni helping to book bands. He later became the Director of Preservation Hall in NOLA and was the first to recommend the Klezmer All-Stars to John and started the NOLA Green Parrot connection.
The list of NOLA bands performing at the Parrot grew exponentially after Katrina. Time in New Orleans is measured by Hurricane Katrina – before and after. Many of the musicians lost their homes and their gigs. In some cases, the clubs were closed for years. The post-Katrina connection was born of necessity and unthinkable circumstances. Harry Hardin, fiddle player for Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, evacuated with his family to Key West, staying in the Green Parrot band room for a week after Katrina.
The NOLA players got to really know the Green Parrot and Key West got to know them. They saw what was going on here and it resonated with them. They liked it because the Parrot reminded them of some of their funky now-shuttered French Quarter places they had left behind in NOLA.
Eric Lindell was one of the first NOLA musicians booked after Katrina. He has since performed at the Parrot more than a dozen times (He’ll be returning January 6-8, 2023). The Parrot and its audience also love the music of Johnny Sketch and The Dirty Notes and The Honey Island Swamp Band.
Many musicians went back on the road, spreading the gospel of the Green Parrot to their friends and other NOLA bands, and created a direct pipeline to Key West. John would always try to ask a group before they left, “If you know of any other bands like yourselves, that you feel will fit in here at the Green Parrot, tell them to give me a call.” Charlie Bauer had created a similar pipeline from Nashville to the Hog’s Breath Saloon and later the Smokin’ Tuna.
Many of the performers have become more than business associates with the Green Parrot and the staff. They became friends and developed special relationships. John says, “The most prized currency these virtually nomadic bands were paid in, came not from the till but from inspired response of our patrons, the calls for encores, as well as the many unsolicited post-show compliments and hospitality these touring musicians received from locals, on the street, in the coffee shops and restaurants the next day, as well as offers to go out on a boat or go fishing… even some home-cooked meals.” The bands get an instant feedback from the audience, dancing, yelling for an encore, and the tip jars fill up.
The Key West NOLA connection really works well. The Green Parrot was built for that “swamp funk” music. The Parrot is kind of funky, it’s a bar not a nightclub, it’s just comfortable and authentic. John says, “If they had a formula for the place, they probably would have lost it by now.”
Jim and Dani Fossum have been working at the Green Parrot for over twenty years, and started managing the Green Parrot a little over five years ago. They love the music and the history and really care about the place. They know the value of this dive bar. Their motto is “Yeah change is good – you go first.”
The standing joke is the Green Parrot management works tirelessly to avoid progress. It might look like the place never changes but they are always working behind the scenes to make the Parrot better. John recently saw a tourist in the bar and overheard him talking on his cell phone “Guess where I’m at?” and heard his next statement, “Yeah, it hasn’t changed a bit.” That’s the way they want it.
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