Little Queenie & the Percolators - Home - 2007
featuring Leigh “L’il Queenie” Harris, John Magnie, Tommy Malone and others (1977-1982)
By Grant Britt from nodepression.com
In New Orleans, she’s considered royalty. As Lil’ Queenie, she fronted the Percolators, a rowdy, raucous amalgamation of bluesy rockers with a jazzy side as well who rattled the Crescent City in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Today, under her commoner name of Leigh Harris, she makes her home in Rural Hall, North Carolina, not far from Andy Griffin’s hometown and Mayberry touchstone of Mt. Airy.
But just because Harris has chosen a quieter and drier setting to live in doesn’t mean that she’s not still percolatin’. Ex- Percolator partners and current Subdudes Tommy Malone and John Magnie may not be with her when she plays this far south, but she’ll still bring a rowdy, funky bunch of backers when she plays Papa Mojo’s Roadhouse this Friday night.
Harris started singing before she could walk, and by her late teens was standing shoulder to shoulder on stages with a who’s who of New Orleans musical royalty including Professor Longhair, Dr. John and the Nevilles. “It was just kind of neighborhood guys, and I was just too young and stupid to be intimidated,” she says with a throaty chuckle. “ I had too much hubris, or somethin’.”
Whatever you called it, the crowds who packed Tipitinas loved her work, as did the artists, especially Fess. “Johnny and I did this duet at Tipitinas every Monday night,” Harris recalls. “All the Nevilles would come in, because it was a really neighborhoody thing, and Fess would too, and George Landry, who was Art and them’s uncle, Big Chief Jolly. And Fess would say, (she drops down into a gravely croak) “sang that ’Ode To Billie Joe.’” Which I really didn’t do with Johnny, he had heard me do it when I was even younger, doing a solo act, playing guitar. He said one of his great lines ever, one of his great malaprops: ‘You sang that real nice, dahlin’- I likedted it.’ ”
The Percolators grew out of that duo, adding future Subdude Tommy Malone as well as a rotating cast of characters that included some of the city’s finest horn players and even slide guitar wizard Sonny Landreth for a time. The band name came from a quote in clarinetist/ saxman/viper Mezz Mezrow’s book, Really The Blues. “Mezz is describing this situation where all the musicians all one by one are all achieving collective satori, and someone in the house screams out, ‘percolate you fool, percolate!” But she says few people got the reference. “I’ve had people give me toy coffepots, with my face on these appliances for years,” she says. I tell her it seems obvious that anybody who heard the band and got caught up in the pulsating riddims would realize that it was not something as common as caffeine but an internal lava flow that was bubbling up to splash all over them. “No shit, man,” she says with a sigh.
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01. I Gotta Song I Gotta Sing
02. My Dawlin New Orleans
03. Gumbo Heaven
04. Wild Natives
06. I Was Just Practicing
07. Cant Get Ridoma Smile
09. Telephone Sleeping in My Bed
10. Hum Hum
11. It Will Be Me
12. Blackhaired Girl