According to Ira “Dr. Ike” Padnos, rock and roll is an American export that paved the way for many different types of music, laying a base for performers to experiment with rockabilly, R&B, jazz, blues, garage, soul, funk, and swamp pop. Even some renowned country guitar greats such as Keith Urban and Brad Paisley can link their smoking riffs to the early great artists. It’s these unsung heroes, such as Lil Buck Sinegal, Roy Head, and Classie Ballou, who are highlighted and given tribute in “Ponderosa Stomp,” a short documentary film that chronicles the foundation, music event and conference of the same name that is currently struggling and seeking funds to continue a legacy of preserving the history of American music.
Ponderosa Stomp is a non-profit organization and two day festival that acknowledges what can be called “one hit wonders” and brings awareness to their place in music history. This year, in the grip of a national recession, two huge nights of music transpired in New Orleans. The Stomp then staged three July shows at Lincoln Center in New York City.
The New York Times, New York Post, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone Online, Sirius and WNYC all covered the east coast Stomps, which showcased the rockabilly and soul genres as well as the work of New Orleans producer and arranger Wardell Quezergue. Simultaneously, the finishing touches were being put on the first Ponderosa Stomp film a labor of love for a crew of music lovers including Brian Gourley, the Butler Brothers and acclaimed director Jeff Nichols.
Peter Guralnick, a music critic and historian, called the event “an environment to encourage the spontaneous eruption of music.” The two day festival in New Orleans was non-stop music from some of the great musicians who helped blaze a trail for countless guitarists and musicians to follow.
Ponderosa Stomp, the festival and music conference, is all about getting to know the performers, some key contributors to music history, and learning how rock and roll – and all that followed – evolved.
Ponderosa Stomp the organization, however, is much more than that: the non profit also puts musicians in schools to introduce children to an older generation of music, to teach them about the performers who were etched onto 78s and 45s instead of downloaded onto a mobile device.
“It’s important to acknowledge these individuals as contributors to music,” said Padnos, an avid music fan and Ponderosa Stomp founder.
He explains the motive behind the movement as music being a patchwork, a hidden history, full of players that most people don’t know.
“You know the stars, but you don’t really know who’s behind it, how it developed. The Stomp is rock and roll stripped to its core, to the roots of what the fun is.”
“Ponderosa Stomp,” the short film, delves into the experience just enough to make you want to see the show, to learn more – and to help out, which is what the organization needs from you the most. Padnos said that while crowds are increasing revenue is dripping.
Musicians at the Stomp, such as Sinegal, Head and Ballou, are a draw and bring awareness to the organization’s mission, but as a non profit funding is always an issue. These three exemplary artists enjoyed early success, but found themselves toiling in obscurity later in life. The festival has been like a re-introduction not only to their own craft but to some of their own work as well, which is explored in the short documentary by Ballou, who admits that in recent years he hadn’t even been playing his own music, only covers of other artists.
But that, he grins, isn’t what “the doc” wanted.
“They just forget what they do, and their feats and their accomplishments,” Dr. Ike Padnos said, “and it’s great to get some of these guys back into what they’re known for, and then they realize themselves what they’re known for historically.”
After seeing this moving film, it is easy to see the importance of the Stomp’s mission and the impact of its work. Continuing to recognize influential artists like Ballou, Sinegal and Head and hundreds of others and documenting their stories is a fundamental part of the Foundation’s mission. Plans to expand an oral history archive are moving forward and the “Secret History of Rock n’ Roll” is currently on exhibit at the Louisiana State Museum.
Visit www.ponderosastomp.org to watch the short film and learn more about Ponderosa Stomp and how you can help.
Just by spreading the word about the organization and events, you’ll know you’re helping the reemergence of some talented, influential musical greats and passing on what we all already know: that music gives meaning and reflection to our lives, it lights us up, it is always there, and we owe it to the pioneers of song, of riff, of soul, to keep their legends alive.