Some memories are seared into your mind forever, like the first time you hear a song that lit your imagination. The year was 1987, and I, transfixed, stood in a record store in Paintsville, KY. The manager had MTV on, and they were at Mardi Gras. A New Orleans rock band played a song live, “Like Dreamers Do”. It warped my fragile little psyche, because I’d never before heard Zydeco rock. A whole new world of music opened up in the span of a five minute song. The record store had the 45 rpm single, and I gladly handed over my cash, not caring that I’d go hungry on my school trip that day. I still have that 45 packed in storage. It’s the fond reminder of the day I found Zydeco, and became a Fish Head. Near the 30th anniversary of that day, and in honor of Mardi Gras, this month’s Criminally Overlooked is The Radiators.
These guys are legend in New Orleans, forming in 1978 from several local bands. 1987 saw the band sign with Epic Records, and release their first charting album, ‘Law of the Fish’. Their second, and highest charting Epic album released in 1989, was ‘ZigZaggin Through Ghostland’. They haven’t charted since, but in their career, The Radiators have released 15 albums. Primarily, they gained their die-hard following on the road. Their shows tended to be mammoth five hour concert marathons, ala The Grateful Dead. The band became intrinsically locked in with Mardi Gras, and still play the M.O.M. Ball and The New Orleans Jazz Festival yearly as their only live gigs. They broke up officially on November 2010, with the original lineup they began with: Ed Volker, Dave Malone, Camille Baudoin, Reggie Scanlan, Frank Bua, Jr, and Glenn Sears.
The truly special thing about The Radiators is their gift of seamlessly combining so many music influences into a weave of sound truly their own. They loved the music of their New Orleans heritage, but weren’t afraid to try other sounds or musician’s work for the sheer Hell of it. The Radiators are also pretty generous with their recordings, graciously allowing over 300 recordings to be available for free (for non-commercial use) on the Internet Archive. If you want music that transports you to Bourbon Street the moment you hear the first chords, The Radiators are for you.
Besides The Internet Archive, you can also find much of their work on all streaming and online music stores.