Updated April 17, 2023
Boogaloo Swamis on Parade
by Ryan Thomson
It sounded like an interesting gig, and probably a lot of fun. The entertainment agency promised the Boogaloo Swamis a performance on a float in the 4th of July parade in a small town in Massachusetts. All that we had to do was play cajun and zydeco dance music, our specialty.
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Ryan Thomson - fiddle, Jeanne Boyer - bass, Micky Bones - percussion, Pete Weatherby - guitar, Ralph Tufo - accordion
We showed up early on a beautiful and sunny July day, and were led to our "float" by the parade committee. Our first reaction was disappointment as we viewed an open top cattle trailer enclosed on all four sides by wooden posts and slats. I visualized the James gang being led through town one last time before the lynching.
As an amplified band with electric guitars, drums, and PA equipment, we questioned our hosts about electricity. We were shown a gasoline powered generator that was to be loaded up into the trailer bed. As a trial run we cranked up the generator. It produced a sound reminding me of a cross between a chain saw and a Go-Kart, and put out an unspecified voltage.
The extreme loudness of the generator meant that using microphones was impossible, and also raised the question about whether our amplifiers could even compete successfully. We declined the offer of the generator, and being adaptable creative folks, decided to wing it, as a means to guarantee our pay.
The drummer left his drums behind and grabbed a portable rhythm instrument to bang on. The electric guitar player used a tiny battery operated $9.95 toy amplifier that could be clearly heard at a distance of 2 feet. I can't remember what the electric bass player did, but it probably involved beating on a tambourine or some such noisemaker.
The accordionist and I on fiddle were in luck because we had acoustic instruments that produced a little bit of sound. I will always wonder what the folks that lined the parade route thought of the 5 odd characters (prisoners?) in brightly colored clothing that were charging around inside the enclosed cattle car. They certainly couldn't hear much of anything due to the din of activity along the parade route.
At the end of the parade we brushed bits of stray hay off of our clothing, picked up our check, and left the scene, off to the next gig!
Written by Ryan Thomson, 1998
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