First ‘Swamp Poppa’ Album In 40 Years

Brad Goins Friday, May 6, 2022 Comments Off on First ‘Swamp Poppa’ Album In 40 Years
First ‘Swamp Poppa’ Album In 40 Years

If you’ve ever wondered what’s happened to swamp pop legend Tommy McLain — or even whether he’s still alive — you may be interested in knowing that he’s about to release his first new album in more than 40 years: I Ran Down Every Dream.

The album’s title cut is a song that McClain co-wrote with revered punk singer and master collaborator Elvis Costello and that the two perform as a duet. (Costello has long been a McClain fan.) 

Also performing on the album is Costello’s close friend and colleague Nick Lowe, whose power pop ballads charted at the same time as Costello’s hits — mainly in the late 1970s and early ‘80s. (Lowe wrote Elvis Costello’s 1979 hit “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?”) 

Another long-time swamp pop star, Warren Storm, will play on the record, as will such New Orleans musicians as Ivan Neville and Augie Meyers. (Those of you who know who Van Dyke Parks is will probably be surprised to learn that he is among the musicians performing on this record.)

McLain has his own history on the charts. In 1966, he sent his song “Sweet Dreams” to No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. That was higher than Patsy Cline’s cover of the song (which went to No. 44). Emmylou Harris’s 1976 cover topped the country charts but failed to crack the Hot 100.

He wrote Freddy Fender’s 1977 sleeper hit “If You Don’t Love Me (Why Don’t You Just Leave Me Alone?)” (In the late 1950s, Fender lived in South Louisiana, and even did a three-year stint in Angola for marijuana possession. He strongly identified with swamp pop musicians, and titled his 1978 album Swamp Gold.)

During his long career, McLain has performed with such diverse musicians as Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, ZZ Top, The Yardbirds and Robert Plant. He recently worked with the Lonely Nights of Austin when they recorded a ballad McClain wrote after Hurricane Katrina titled “Don’t Make Me Leave New Orleans.”

At the age of 82, the “Swamp Poppa” continues to live in Lafayette and perform with his band The Mule Train. (McLain and the band can be seen in the 1979 Paul Newman film The Drowning Pool, which was filmed in Lake Charles.)

If you go to Bandcamp, you can pre-order I Ran Down Every Dream and listen to the title song. Just go to and search for Tommy McLain. 

MSU Student Wins Symphony Competition

Jaylan Jones is a junior flute performance major at McNeese State University. He was recently named the winner of the young adult division of the Rapides Symphony Concerto competition in Alexandria. The competition, which is held every two years, is intended to encourage young people who are learning how to play wind, percussion, and string instruments.

Jones won in the young adult division, which earned him a prize of $1,000. He also got the chance to solo in a performance of the flute concerto “Poem” by American composer Charles Griffes. Jones and the Rapides Symphony Orchestra performed the work at the Coughlin-Sanders Performing Arts Center in Alexandria.

“The experience was truly amazing,” Jones says. “Being able to play with an orchestra of this caliber has given me a chance to remember why I love music so much.”

Jones is currently the principal flute in the McNeese Wind Symphony and the McNeese Symphonic Band. He says the mentorship of faculty at McNeese, and especially that of associate professor of music Dr. Judy Hand, has helped him succeed in the classroom and professionally.

“Dr. Hand has been so supportive of me; everything I’ve learned comes from her,” says Jones. “McNeese has given me a variety of opportunities to thrive as a musician, whether through the Wind Symphony, Symphonic Band, Marching Band or the Flute Studio.”

More Pay For Teachers (Probably)

In this year’s main session, the Louisiana Legislature is working with a nearly $38 billion budget. On tap is a $1,500 salary increase for elementary and secondary teachers. (Edwards would like to see it go to $2,000.) House Bill 1 (the state’s operating budget) also contains provisions for pay increases for college faculty.

At this stage, any increase in teacher pay is probably a smart strategy. But the increases aren’t quite a done deal. When the House finishes its work on the budget, the Senate will have the chance to negotiate any objections with the House and then settle on a final agreement. Look for that to happen in early June.

Paper Or Plastic?

Different places have different ways. When I shopped for groceries in Portland back in the day, the one question every shopper got asked when he or she reached the cashier at the grocery store was “paper or plastic?” So few people requested plastic that I wondered why the grocery stores didn’t just get rid of the plastic bags.

I only mention that because of a curious bill that just appeared in the legislative session. State Sen. Patrick Connick put forward a bill that would have made it impossible for Louisiana stores to use the little brown plastic bags that are called “single-use plastic bags.”

Connick was very straightforward in saying, “I know I don’t have the votes.” There’s never anything wrong with being a realist. I would have thought this would be a pretty fringe issue in Louisiana. But Baton Rouge politico Jeremy Alford reported that the proposal got enough attention to attract “an out of town lobbyist representing a plastic bag association.”

Brandon Trosclair, a former Republican candidate for a House spot, vocally asserted that the bill would be bad for Louisiana because the state’s chemical plants manufacture single-use plastic bags. It would be interesting to know whether there are chemical plants in Louisiana that make the bags exclusively for stores in the state. (Had he won his House seat, Trosclair would have represented Ascension Parish. He is no stranger to media attention. He led a federal lawsuit in Texas designed to eliminate vaccine mandates in the private sector. He got some media attention for the statement “I’m not anti-vaccine; I am anti-mandate.”)

So, the plastic bag legislation is dead in the water for now. But Connick says he will “stay involved” with the issue. Maybe we’ll see his name again.

Now Appearing In SWLA: The ‘Nearly Immortal’ Worm

A relatively new imported worm is making its presence known in Southwest Louisiana and other parts of the state. One reason it’s gotten attention is that it has a distinctive look. 

If you want to kill a hammerhead worm, don’t try to cut it up. Each fragment you create will simply turn into a new worm.

The feeding end of the hammerhead worm looks very similar to the eating parts of the famous hammerhead shark. The worm is quite skinny and can grow as long as a foot.

If you’re big on gardening, you might want to be aware of the hammerheads, the reason being that they like to eat earthworms. I guess that’s why they’re called “carnivorous” — they eat other worms. They also eat slugs, snails and insects. Although the worms could (conceivably) mess up the balance in a personal garden, their “net impact on the [area] environment is probably zero,” says LSU Ag Center expert Chris Carlton.

These worms came from Southeast Asia. So they get along in south Louisiana just fine. They like places that are moist and dark. If you walk around lifting up old boards, you may see a few. 

If you do want to kill one, don’t try to cut it up with a hoe. Each fragment you create will simply turn into a new worm. (That’s why a Shreveport Times story recently called them “nearly immortal.”)

The Ag Center says the best thing to do is pour salt or vinegar on them. If you happen to touch one, you’ll want to wash your hands, as the worms do release a toxin (though not one that will do you any serious harm).

Tackling The Tough Cases

Given the way that Lake Charles has been hammered by violent crime in recent weeks, I find it hard to believe that LCPD officers are sitting around chit-chatting about how nice it would be to knock out panhandling in Lake Charles. Is the Lafayette police force all that different? Yet, I read in Lafayette’s The Current that the Lafayette police have started a “special panhandling detail to crack down on roadside beggars.”

Really? You really want to make that one of your law enforcement priorities?

I still say that some very important terrier in Lafayette has gotten hold of a bone he just won’t let go of. Unfortunately, whenever a politician gives in to a personal obsession, it’s taxpayers who pick up the tab. 

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