Second Lines Originally printed in The Soul of New Orleans
"Those parades were really tremendous things, the drums would start off, the trumpets and trombones rolling into something like 'Stars and Stripes' or 'The National Anthem' and everybody would strut off down the street, the bass drum player twirling his beater in the air, the snare drummer throwing his sticks up and bouncing them off the ground, the kids jumping and hollering, the grand marshall and his aides in their expensive uniforms moving along, dignified women on top of everybody - the second line, armed with sticks and bottles and baseball bats and all forms of ammunition to fight the foe when they reached the dividing line. It's a funny thing that the second line marched at the head of the parade but that's the way it had to be in New Orleans."
--Jelly Roll Morton to Alan Lomax
Few musical traditions abound in the Crescent City quite like 'Second Linin'. The term and event is as old as the advent of the Brass Band, which began to emerge in the first quarter of the 19th century. As the early Brass Bands were moving in a procession or a parade performing the 'song of the day,' young boys would tag along, generally at the rear of the procession. According to Danny Barker, these youngsters would be so obsessed and delighted with the music emanating from the band, they would gather at each event to dance and prance and strut to the tempo as they would emulate the motions of the musicians and the Grand Marshall.
If you are in the vicinity or hearing range of a New Orleans Marching Band, it is quite impossible to resist joining the band in an impromptu reaction to the music and as they say in New Orleans, 'Boogie.' And rarely does a day pass that you will not find yourself in the earshot range of a parade or party in the Crescent City. And it was that sweet New Orleans Jazz Music that makes you just want to dance.
Michael White, one of New Orleans finest young Jazz musicians wrote, "the social and spiritual dimensions of the jazz culture became especially evident in processions - parades by benevolent societies (also called 'social and pleasure clubs'), church parades, and jazz funerals - where large segments of the community would gather in an almost religious- like 'celebration' to commemorate special events and occasions (or just to gather in revelry 'for no reason at all')."
Second Linin' is another great New Orleans musical tradition that you will surely want to experience in your visit to the city. Remember, it requires no pre-qualification other than the "wish to have a great time."
Your monthly guide to NOLA's foods, drinks, music and more