Hi everybody, I’m John Sinclair and I‘ve been invited to contribute to the frenchylive blog on a regular basis, so I’ll call this column Adventures With Frenchy and get started at the beginning of things by going back to my first encounter with this great artist who was to become one of my very closest friends in the world.
I lived in Michigan for my first 50 years and moved to New Orleans in 1991 to begin 12 of the happiest years of my life here with my wife Penny, writing for music magazines, performing my poetry, producing records, and serving as a volunteer broadcaster on WWOZ radio.
I hosted the New Orleans Music Show every Wednesday afternoon and had the unbelievable pleasure of meeting many of my musical idols when they came to the station or played at events we sponsored. I shared a microphone with scores of New Orleans musicians and produced a series of live broadcasts featuring their music, including Piano Night at Tipitina’s and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
In January 2000 my wife Penny and I were out of town when a terrific hailstorm ravaged New Orleans and our house on Rampart Street caught fire and suffered serious damage. Most of our possessions were destroyed by fire and water damage and the place was uninhabitable.
Our shock and trepidation when we returned to the smoking ruins of our home were allayed when our friends Jerry Brock and Bill Taylor met us to say they were arranging a benefit concert at the House of Blues to raise money for the recovery of our household.
The show was held a couple of weeks later featuring a host of musical friends including Coco Robicheaux, Eddie Bo, Deacon John, James Andrews and the Treme Brass Band, Snooks Eaglin, and Big Chief Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias.
From my vantage point on the stage I could see a little cluster of light at the back of the hall and what looked like some frenzied character slashing away at a huge canvas with a succession of paint brushes. I couldn’t tell what he was doing, but it was quite a compelling sight.
At the end of the night, a paint-spattered individual wrestling with a huge canvas came staggering up and introduced himself as Frenchy the painter. He wheeled the canvas around and showed me what he’d been doing back there: while the musicians were playing, Frenchy was painting each of them in action and situating the performers in sort of an on-stage circle pulsing with life that beautifully captured all the energy and excitement of the evening.
I was blown away by the painting and almost overwhelmed when he presented me with the painting itself as his contribution to the spirit of the event. Our long friendship began at that very point, and that painting served as an inspirational centerpiece around which we began to reconstruct our living quarters after the building was repaired.
— New Orleans
March 10, 2016