WTUL New Orleans

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Yesterday it was announced that Gretna's rockabilly fireball Joe Clay passed away. Former WTUL DJ James Lien posted a story about his surprise encounter with this character.

RIP Joe Clay. I probably shouldn't even tell this story, for fear of losing cool points.... But I have this fantastic memory, of one sunny day circa 1985, thirty-odd years ago, when I answered the phone at WTUL-FM, and found myself speaking to a local school bus driver, who couldn't wait to bring down a copy of his new album, "Duck Tail," and do an interview on the air. I had never heard of him, had no idea who he was. But I knew I liked rockabilly, so I told him to come on down (why not?). I was honestly not really expecting too much from it....But when he walked in, shook my hand and showed me his LP, which turned out to be an import reissue on Bear Family records, with copyright dates from the '50s and early '60s -- well my eyes suddenly got VERY big indeed.... And so joe and his "new" record immediately went straight onto the turntable, and out over the air.
Needless to say, I was absolutely knocked out and FLOORED by what I heard. So for about the next hour, Joe and I played songs from his album on the air while I "interviewed" him... Which was really more like Joe coaching me in between air breaks, suggesting which of his songs to play next, what questions to ask him, telling his whole life story to my incredulous 19-year old ears, as we played a slew of his vintage rockabilly sides over the air and Joe held court on the mic.
I was amazed, as Joe regaled us with his tales of playing the Louisiana Hayride, of being on Ed Sullivan's show weeks before Elvis Presley, of playing gigs at Ponchatrain Beach back in the day, of even filling in for DJ Fontana in Elvis' band a few times...at that time, Joe had just recently found out that he'd been rediscovered in England and had tons of new fans there, so his excitement and enthusiasm for life was quite contagious.
This interview went on for probably an hour or more-- I think we played most of the entire LP in the studio that day, us talking and him telling stories between every cut. Joe even graciously gave me and my listeners some insider lessons in long-forgotten rockabilly slang, and some REAL tips on authentic rockabilly hairstyles and mens' fashion, live over the air, with a twinkle in his eye. I'm sure you could hear the astonishment in my voice, because I was grinning ear to ear the whole time. I wish I had recorded that interview!

Nola.com has a great video to give you an idea of this local rock&roll legend, a wild one til his last day.

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