Some raucous New Orleans music history is poised for a revival when New York City garage-rockers the Fleshtones and longtime local music promoter Jimmy Anselmo reunite for a show at Southport Hall on Tuesday.
Anselmo booked the Fleshtones many times at Jimmy’s Music Club, the music venue he operated from 1978 to 2000. In the spirit of great ’80s and ’90s nights that happened there, he’s created a classic-style poster for next week’s return of the Fleshtones.
Peter Zaremba, the band’s Farfisa organ-playing lead singer, loves it.
“It reminds me of the old posters for our old Lundi Gras bacchanals with Jimmy and Dash Rip Rock,” he said on his way to a Fleshtones gig in Rochester, N.Y. “And Jimmy’s got a brass band hooked up for the show. That’ll be fun.”
“That’s my idea,” Anselmo said of the brass band. “Because I know Peter and the band love New Orleans and they love our culture here.”
Zaremba also digs the colorful Southport Hall history that Anselmo told him about. Opened in the early 1900s, the venue has variously been a speakeasy, illegal casino and pool hall.
“Jimmy tells me it’s a legendary place, an old gambling den that might have bodies under the floor,” he said.
Zaremba’s rooting for Anselmo’s ongoing career as a music entrepreneur, which includes the in-the-works documentary, “Jimmy’s Music Club The Movie.” And Anselmo sees Zaremba and the Fleshtones as much more than an act he’s booking.
“It’s not just a music promoter promoting them, it’s a friendship that goes back a long ways,” Anselmo said. “They’re a great rock band, they’re still together and they’re nice people.”
In addition to nights at Jimmy’s Music Club, Zaremba’s New Orleans memories include hanging out with Bobby Marchan. One of New Orleans’ classic rhythm-and-blues singers and personalities, Marchan sang with Huey Smith and the Clowns (“Don’t You Just Know It”) in the late 1950s and got a national solo hit in 1960 with his remake of Big Jay McNeely’s “There is Something On Your Mind.” Marchan’s version features his dramatically funny recitation about a jealous lover who commits double homicide.
“Bobby was emceeing his gong show then,” Zaremba recalled. “He made it a point several times during the show to announce that we were his special friends from New York. What an amazing person, what an amazing talent.”
While in New Orleans, too, the Fleshtones made a disastrous attempt to record an album with John Fred (Gourrier), the Baton Rouge singer-songwriter who got a No. 1 national and international hit in 1968 with the great novelty song, “Judy in Disguise (With Glasses).”
“We hung out for like a week and recorded but the whole thing was, quite frankly, disorganized,” Zaremba said. “And at the end, all of a sudden, this monsoon came in and flooded the studio.”
The Fleshtones, unlike their New York City ’70s and ’80s peers Blondie, Talking Heads and Patti Smith, never took a lengthy sabbatical from performing. Nor did they break up only to reunite years later. They’ve been at this art and business called music non-stop for 38 years. “It’s what we do,” Zaremba said.
The Fleshtones’ latest tour follows last month’s release of the group’s new album, “Wheel of Talent.” In the studio and on stage, Zaremba said, the band is doing what it does better than at any time in Fleshtones history.
“It would be unnatural if we didn’t improve after all these years,” he said. “But we still attack our instruments and music like amateurs. And that’s fun. It’s like it’s new every day.”