Friday, November 23, 2007

The Amazing Al "Carnival Time" Johnson

On December 1, FMC and Sweet Home New Orleans invite you to join Mike Mills of R.E.M. at a Washington, DC house party to aid one of the Big Easy's most beloved musicians, Al "Carnival Time" Johnson. There are a limited number of tickets available to this private event; for info on how you could attend, e-mail

We figured now is a perfect time for a few posts about Al, Sweet Home New Orleans, and the importance of protecting the Crescent City's cultural heritage. Let's start with the guest of honor.

Alvin Lee Johnson is better known to everyone in New Orleans as Al "Carnival Time" Johnson. His famous song, "Carnival Time", originally recorded in February 1960, has become a Mardi Gras tradition, and it continues to be performed every Mardi Gras/Carnival Time season.

But Al, like many musicians in New Orleans, was a victim of Hurricane Katrina. The Gambit Weekly recounts his story:

"I lost everything in Katrina. I was in Mississippi for a barbecue the Saturday before the storm, and we tried to come back that day, but they wouldn't let us in." Johnson's home was on Tennessee Street in the Lower Ninth Ward. "Water filled it up. The house got moved off the foundation and back into the yard 25 feet. We came back after the storm and Armand and Patty St. Martin and the Arabi Wrecking Krewe went in and salvaged some stuff, some laminated stuff."

But his ordeal wasn't nearly over. According to Johnson, "The city came in and bulldozed the house. I didn't request it. In fact, I was trying to get them to let it stay, but they said that it was in imminent danger."

Since then, Johnson has been spending half his time in Houston and half in New Orleans. He has been approved for a house in the Musicians' Village, and there have been several benefits on his behalf. "Everything is uncertain," he says, "I had one address for years and now I don't have one."

Check out this video of Al performing at FMC's 2007 Policy Summit in D.C.:

Stay tuned for a closer look at Sweet Home New Orleans, and the terrific work they do.

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