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GoNOLA Find: Ooh Poo Pah Doo Bar

In 1960, Jessie Hill’s hit “Ooh Poo Pah Doo (Pt. I & II)” rose to become one of New Orleans’ biggest musical success stories. Released on Minit Records in 1959, the tune’s refrain, “I wanna tell you ‘bout ooh poo pah doo,” was equal parts catchy, funky and silly — an apparently winning combination that helped launch the track to No. 28 on the national charts. It also cemented Hill’s status as an icon of New Orleans R&B’s golden era.

Today, “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” is becoming a different kind of icon. In 2013, Hill’s daughter, singer Judy Hill, opened the Ooh Poo Pah Doo Bar at 1931 Orleans Ave. to honor her father and the music he played as well as the generations of musician-relatives who followed in Judy’s father’s footsteps.

The Hill family music royalty pedigree gets a shout-out from the bar before patrons even step inside, thanks to a sign above the door bearing the names of “Miss Judy’s” grandsons, James Andrews, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and the late Travis “Trumpet Black” Hill. Most days and early evenings before the live music starts kicking, there’s a good chance you’ll hear a few selections on the jukebox from members of the Hill and Andrews families or any number of the New Orleans music luminaries they played with through the years, from Allen Toussaint, who produced the bar’s namesake hit, to Dr. John and James Booker.

“Blue Monday” nights here tend to be super popular (and not the feint of heart when it comes to volume). After the sun sets behind a mix of locals, transplants and tourists at the start of the work week, expect James Andrews, often with a stiletto-clad Miss Judy, to take the stage as visitors line up for some of the steaming trays of free red beans and rice at the back of the bar. Other nights, music can range from Brother Tyrone to Bobby Love to Mardi Gras Indian or brass bands, although the common denominator is R&B.

To find out what’s happening at the Ooh Poo Pah Doo, check out their Facebook page or call the bar at 504-435-3384. The Ooh Poo Pah Doo is open Wednesdays through Mondays, “from 11 a.m.,” as their website puts it, “until the party is over.”

Jennifer Odell is a freelance music writer. Her work appears regularly in DownBeat, Jazz Times, Offbeat and the Gambit, among other publications, and she leads the New Orleans chapter of the Jazz Journalists Association. In her spare time, she enjoys second lining to the Hot 8 or TBC, costuming, and eating all of the crawfish.

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