The Making of Nine Lives – Filling in the Story: Gloria On The Phone

Gloria On The Phone

This song follows Bring The Mountain To Him and takes us back to the story of Dr. Frank Minyard.  Frank has now become Coroner and keeps his finger on the pulse of the city through his trusty secretary, Gloria Boutté.

Colman and I has some material from the book on some of the messes Gloria helped clean up but we wanted a bit broader scope of Frank’s career so we could show how much he had grown into the job.  We asked John Boutté to help us write this song as he had done on a few other songs for Nine Lives.  He happily told stories of the old days and in no time I had more choices then I could use to fill out the story of  Gloria On The Phone.

Like most of the songs in the final fifteen, we kept things simple for budget’s sake.

I asked Matt Perrine to arrange it as a small jazz combo in keeping with the tone of the other Frank songs and Frank’s own love of jazz.

On this track Matt plays bass, Larry Sieberth plays piano, Alex McMurray plays guitar and Eric Bolivar plays drums.

The arrangement was to be sparse as it is a phone call between Gloria and Frank as she calls him at his beach house so she can troubleshoot problems for him back at the office in New Orleans.  The band was great to work with on this second round of Nine Lives sessions because they knew each other and, by this time, were familiar with the concepts behind this project.  We got a breezy feeling backing track in no time.

Arséne DeLay plays the voice of Gloria and it was a wonderful casting choice because she is the real life granddaughter of Gloria Boutté.  My affection for the Boutté family is well known if you have read any of The Making Of Nine Lives stories I have been writing or any of the interviews I have done in the last few years.  They are a beautiful Creole family with a strong sense of the city’s history and an even stronger sense of their place in that history.

Gloria Boutté worked for Frank for years as did many of the Boutté siblings including John Boutté.  Those of you who are John’s fans and think of him as “The Soulful Voice of New Orleans” and one of it’s treasures, take note: He paid many dues in finding and becoming that voice and working in the Coroner’s office was certainly paying dues.

Arséne stopped by to visit her grandmother and asked about working for Frank.  Gloria just laughed and said that it was true they had dealt with some crazy situations over the years.  As Gloria told Arséne more stories about working for Dr. Minyard to add to the stories John had told us, Arséne absorbed her grandmother’s accent and speech patterns so she could bring as much of Gloria to the studio as she could.

I had performed Frank songs in Nine Lives shows all over the country by this time and was very comfortable slipping back into Frank mode.  I have been complimented on my performance on the record and in live shows by people that knew Frank or covered him for the local news who have told me I “have him down.”  They are close… but it is the wrong Frank.  The truth is when I sing Frank Minyard songs I am trying to sing and act like Frank Sinatra.  Perhaps Frank Minyard was channeling Sinatra at times as well.

The track did not take long to cut.  Arséne and I have become great friends.  She is like a little sister I never had.  We cut it in two takes pausing only long enough for me to collect myself when she pronounced the name “Pete Fountain”, the great jazz clarinetist, with the accent on the back end using the French pronunciation “Foun-TANE.”  It was something she picked up that morning talking to her grandmother and it makes the track for me.  It is a small thing but so very distinctly Creole New Orleans that Gloria would use the proper French pronunciation because that’s how it should be said.  The rest of the world, other New Orleanians included, could call him Pete Fountain when they saw him on The Lawrence Welk Show but to Gloria he was and remains “Pete Foun-TANE.”

There are so many personal treasures and touchstones on Nine Lives and this moment is one for me. To have Arséne voicing her grandmother who happens to be someone I know and love and who’s kindnesses I have enjoyed for many years is special.  Gloria’s sons and daughters have been my friends, my supporters and my refuge from pain and fear in the years since the flood.  The Boutté family has a way of making people they meet feel like they are family, protected and loved.  Frank Minyard enjoyed that protective love for all of his career and, because the Boutté family is for real, it is a love and support he enjoys to this day.  If his name comes up in the Boutté household Dr. Minyard is talked about with fondness.  On his 80th birthday members of the Boutté family, (some who do not like leaving the Treme even to cross Canal Street and go Uptown), went across Lake Ponchatrain to take Gloria to the party and were honored to have a chance to thank him one more time.

It is special to me that John Boutté has a co-writing credit on a song that bears his mother’s name and that John himself had worked for Dr. Minyard.  It is also special that Arséne, who has sung and acted so many voices on Nine Lives, should be the voice of her own grandmother for this track, Gloria On The Phone.

~ Paul Sanchez – January 16, 2012

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