The Making of Nine Lives – Filling in the Story: Disrespect


This one follows I Wish It Was Tomorrow.

Wilbert Rawlins Jr. is 8 years old and his father, Da, is a giant to him in every way.

In this scene in Dan Baum’s book, Da is trying to teach his son lessons about responsibility by meeting his own.  He is rushing from his day job as a dockworker to his night gig of playing drums for Irma Thomas, The Soul Queen Of New Orleans.

In the song Disrespect Da leaves to go play with Irma and in the bridge Irma takes over the song until the next verse when Da comes back in as singer.

I looked up some New Orleans R&B from the 60’s and dialed up the musical muses of a thousand nights of falling asleep to WTIX playing the best regional hits of my lifetime.  I can still see the labels of the 45s spinning on my sisters turn table and I still remember my sister Margaret teaching me to dance to Art Neville’s All These Things so I would know how to dance when I went to my first boy/girl party.

Matt’s arrangement was straight-forward New Orleans R&B.  He knew well enough what kind of song Colman and I had written and  had played plenty of New Orleans R&B gigs in the years he has lived here.

On Volume One we were learning the songs and each other as players as we went along.  This time it was different because we had played a few Nine Lives shows and had a core band that we knew and that understood the project.  It made it easier to move quickly and created a smaller more intimate vibe for completing the project.

Matt plays bass, Eric Bolivar drums, Alex McMurray on guitar, Larry Siebert plays piano, Kevin Clark on trumpet and two very special guest vocalists.  This band could play R&B in it’s sleep and they wasted no time coming up with a smoking track for this song.

Vance Vaucresson was singing the role of Da and he brought his own 8 year old son, Vance Vaucresson III, to the studio to play the role of 8 year old Wilbert Rawlins Jr.  A young friend named Chad Robert is the other voice.  It was a quietly magical moment for me as producer to watch Vance lead his son through this scene of a man teaching his son about responsibility.  I could hear the anxiousness behind Vance’s “stern” voice as he tried to get the boys to calm down about being in a recording studio long enough to actually record.  It was just lovely, one of countless magical moments which occurred during the making of Nine Lives that don’t matter to the story or the songs but which give Nine Lives a sweetness and a place in my life far beyond music or any business success the project may achieve.  Nine Lives is chock full of musical postcards I have sent myself from different periods of my life.  Family members, my oldest musical pals and the new friends I have made on this confusing, song filled, learning adventure called life.

Vance Vaucresson has a beautiful baritone singing voice which I knew would light up this track.  He also has an inner strength and a stoic acceptance of what a man has to do in life that I knew would be perfect for this song.  Vance is third generation in a family of Creole sausage makers in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans.  Before the flood Vance proudly and successfully operated the business he had taken over from his father.  The image of his dad “Red” painted on a large mural on the side of the building is a testament to the love and respect Vance has for his father.  That building was completely flooded after Katrina.  Vance lost all of his equipment, kitchen materials, the building, his father’s business and his own home.  He took his family to live in another city, out in the country, safe from the madness that had become New Orleans.  He and his wife had a new baby and Vance did not know how but he knew he would make it back and get Vaucresson Sausage up and running again.

Like most chefs, musicians and business owners in New Orleans, Vance knew that being up and running in time for Jazz Fest and festival season was the difference between surviving as a business or going under.  He bought a huge portable smoker, more money than he had to spend but he needed it for Fest.  But then his smoker was stolen just before the season began and it looked like he was ruined. Friends came through and Vance pulled off purchasing another cooker.  He made it through that first season by dragging himself back and forth to his family in the country and his work in the city, never giving up on himself, his business or his father’s legacy.  This is the man I asked to sing a song in the voice of Da, a man teaching his sons about respect and responsibility.

Irma Thomas was affordable and available when we were making Volume One but money and time constraints were against her participation when we were finishing these songs.  Arséne Delay had been singing the Irma Thomas role for a year so it made sense for her to play Irma on this song.  Mark Bingham used production styles from 1960’s female pop records with double tracked vocals and heavy reverb and Arséne makes a fantastic Irma.

Arséne comes on in the bridge sounding like a star arriving on stage as Irma Thomas.  Arséne has a voice that can stop a room and turn every head in her direction.  She makes the star entrance work because that girl is a star in the making.  She works hard at being a performer, every day of her life and makes the most every chance she is given at work.  Arséne moved herself across country from Los Angeles to be a part of Nine Lives. S he learned every female song in the show for cross country acoustic performances and gave up lead vocals for bigger shows when more singers became involved.  She does whatever is asked of her to make the project move forward and what most folks don’t realize is that all of the hard work you do off stage is what really makes you a star on stage.

Arséne and Vance are cousins, both members of the Boutté family who have adopted me as one of their own though I believe they have the gift of making every friend feel as if they are a member of the family.  They have that much love in them.

Arséne and Vance have sung together countless times at family gatherings since they were children.  Their chemistry in the studio and on the song was instant and palpable along with the kind of back and forth joking that family members or old friends like Irma and Da have when they address each other.

Nine Lives is packed with music, songs arrangements, musicians and singers enough to take your breath away.  It is every thing I dreamed it could be musically and more but the hidden emotional treasures and the effects of the emotional healing that I was allowed to experience through the songs and the voices that bring them to life are far beyond anything I could have anticipated.  I was allowed to piece back together lost bits of my life through Nine Lives.  Not just the parts that I lost in the flood but parts that the rock business had taken from me, joy, friends, memories from high school, grade school.

The hopelessness of post flood life and the boundless hope for what tomorrow may bring that Dan Baum suggests in his book and that I continue to try to live and search for with my wife and in my life.

This song, a simple enough R&B song, reminds me of all of that because Disrespect is about loyalty, responsibility, respect and love.

I think that is what Da was trying to teach young Wilbert.

It is what I have learned from this experience.

~ Paul Sanchez – January 9, 2012

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