The Irish-Italian connection/tradition originates with the two cultures merging in New Orleans after WWII.
In terms of numbers and influence, the Irish were first in New Orleans. O’Reilly is an outlier on this; the Irish influence begins in the 1820s. That first wave of Irish immigrants provided the manpower to build the New Basin Canal.
Crescent City Living’s video on the Irish Channel, produced by Crista Rock, with commentary from NOLA History Guy.
These are articles about the Irish I’ve written over the years. This podcast doesn’t go into a ton of detail, since its focus is how all these folks ended up in the same parade. 🙂 Don’t let that deter you from looking further into the Irish. Their story is an important part of the bigger story of New Orleans.
In many ways, the Italians get more exposure in the touristy writing than the Irish. That’s mainly because the Italians all but took over the French Quarter. This was in the 1880s and 1890s. The Italians left a lasting mark on the French Quarter. It’s the one neighborhood just about every visitor sees. Naturally, this is going to leave an impression. The Italian groceries, St. Mary’s Italian church (next to the convent), so many other Italian-owned businesses. Even the building the Louisiana State Museum currently uses as a warehouse for their massive collection was at one time a pasta factory!
Anyway, I wasn’t kidding about going to the Beauregard-Keyes House, either. The mafia connection is fascinating!
It’s not all about the Quarter, though, for the Italians.
So, the Italians migrated from the Downtown side of Canal Street. They went to Gentilly, Metairie, and St. Bernard Parish. The folks who went out to Metairie teamed up with the Irish for the big parade.
Elmwood Planataion dated back to 1762. It was built by Nicholas Chauvin, for the first American governor of Louisiana, W.C.C. Claiborne. The two-story mansion was a fixture on the river, just above New Orleans. The house caught fire in 1940, causing heavy damage. The house was re-built as a single-story building. In 1962, a group of investors acquired the house, refurbished it, and opened it as a restaurant. Elmwood Plantation was popular out-of-the-way dining destination from the 1960s to the 1980s, when a second fire destroyed the restaurant.
“But February made me shiver,
With every paper I deliver.”
In his song, American Pie, Don McClean sings of “The Day The Music Died”, February 3, 1959. On that day, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. Richardson (“The Big Bopper”) were killed in a plane crash in Texas. Based on interviews he gave in later years, McClean was clearly quite moved by the loss of Buddy Holly, and he used the tune to get that out of his system.
I wasn’t even a year old on The Day The Music Died, but I grew up listening to the music of the men who died that day. In the 1960s, that meant listening to WTIX-AM, “The Mighty 69o”. McClean released “American Pie” in 1971, and it shot to the top of the pop charts in 1972. I was in eighth grade at Brother Martin High School in the 1971-72 school. When “American Pie” flooded the AM airwaves, I would listen to it over and over, trying to sort out the numerous references to pop culture and music in its lyrics. Fortunately, WTIX did New Orleans tweens/teens a favor by releasing an “annotated” version of the tune, where one of the DJs (Bob Walker?) cut in on the song quickly after each cultural/music reference. For example:
“I met a girl who sang the blues” – and the voice over cut in, saying “Janis Joplin”.
“And I asked her for some happy news.
But she just smiled, and turned away.”
–and the voice over cut in saying “her death”
It was a wonderful reference for a word nerd like me.
“American Pie” was very much a pivotal point for me. Moving from elementary school (St. Angela Merici in #themetrys) to high school exposed me to music the older boys listened to, which was album-oriented rock. I went from the pop focus of AM radio to the folk-rock of CSNY and Joni Mitchell, the spacey rock of Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and the funk/R&B of War. I never gave up on The Beatles, The Who, Motown, etc, but 1972 was the summer where my interests expanded.
To Holly, Valens, and Richardson: Thank you, gentlemen. Your music was cut short, but you inspired oh so many.