By Pierre Fontenot
She grew up chaperoned by the Mississippi. While tourists were sinning in the New Orleans French Quarter, regular families were enjoying wholesome living, just a ferry ride away, in Algiers.
He grew up in Bell City, big enough for some temptation, but small enough for your neighbors to keep track of your sins.
On their first date he looked deep into her eyes, and whispered the words every girl wants to hear, “Can I kiss you on the jawbone?”
He’s Tom, she’s Maddy, and eighteen months later, they were the Landry’s.
Beethoven to Elvis
One of their mutual interests is music.
Her childhood was heavy on classical, light jazz, some opera, “but no country allowed.” She caught the pop radio tunes of the day, and R&B snuck in.
He grew up with one ear in 50’s music, the other in the 60’s, caught every minute of the musical sweet spot, when creativity just explode
Maddy, “I’ve always been Beethoven to Tom’s Elvis.”
Tom, “Because of my Cajun heritage, I grew up with Cajun, Swamp Pop, classic country, and rock ‘n roll. I prefer music you can dance to.”
Rock ‘n Roll Gumbo
In 2011 the FCC granted McNeese University a radio station license, 88.3, KBYS, no ads, just the good stuff, the music. The DJ’s were all volunteers, doing it for the love of music. Tom listened for a few years, then he volunteered.
To him it was a youthful daydream, finally happening. “I thought it would be listening to the music I love with BIG speakers in a small studio. And, I could crank it up!”
But Tom needed help.
Maddy, “I’d just retired, and was a bit reluctant to give up my Saturday mornings. I thought it would be a six-week gig at most. My intentions were to stay just long enough to teach Tom how to work the board; he’s not a techie. (I still believe he purposely did not learn it so he could keep me around.)”
Their plan was to play a mix of music, crooners and Doo Wop in between The Beatles and Rolling Stones, throw in some Cajun Swamp Pop and Zydeco for local flavor.
They named their show, Rock ‘n Roll Gumbo. 7-11 am, every Saturday morning. They had two secret weapons. One, was their innocence. They didn’t sound like DJ’s.
Husband ‘n Wife
They knew their music, but not how to DJ. “We tried to script the first show,” she says. “We tossed out the script within the first hour,” says Tom.
Maddy, “We couldn’t go by the rules. We seldom speak on our ride to the studio. We might choose a weekly theme, to jumpstart the music and comments, but early on, even in the first hour, we might deviate madly. Sometimes it’s the callers, that give us something to discuss; more often, it’s something one of us brings up…and then, we’re off!”
Their other secret weapon is that they are a married couple. The minute they embraced that, the show took off. Tom, “We threw away the script, just ad-libbed, talking like we talked at home, and people responded. Our listeners say we sound authentic. Some listeners enjoy the banter as much as they enjoy the music.”
Five Years Later
Maddy, “On our very first show, it was raining heavily. A knock at the station’s door reveals a woman, crying, wet, bedraggled. From under her raincoat comes two boxes of hot, glazed donuts. (She has Tom’s attention now.) We had just played Cat Stevens’ “Morning has Broken.” She didn’t leave a name; she didn’t divulge her story. “You may never know how much I needed to hear that song at this moment. I had to stop and say thanks.” Whenever I’ve needed a reason to continue the show, I remember her.”
Tom remembers an early caller, “He said listening to our show is like fishing in the Gulf, you never know what you’re gonna pull up, hardhead catfish, a barracuda, or a shark. I asked the caller, “Is that bad?” He answered, “No, that’s exciting!”
What’s it like, looking back on the five-year anniversary of the Rock ‘n Roll Gumbo Show?
Tom, “It’s everything I wanted. The audience kept growing.” They knew it would attract locals. What surprised them was having regular listeners from other states, even from other countries! “We developed friendships worldwide that we anticipate will outlast the show.”
Maddy, “Five years out, as odd as this may sound, it has become like a ministry, which is perhaps a very spiritual-sounding word for a radio gig. Still, it fits. Callers, Facebook posters, and drop-ins have all confirmed that they “look forward” to our show for many reasons, among them reliving memories, musical entertainment, and the relief among couples that picking on each other can be fun, healthy, and even therapeutic. Who knew?”
Tom and Maddy’s Rock ‘n Roll Gumbo Show airs on 88.3 FM, KBYS, on Saturday mornings from 7-11am.