Back in the sixties, the British Invasion and the new Mod sound influenced musicians from cities across the world. New Orleans was no exception. Steve Staples, guitarist and main songwriter for the group Gaunga Dyns, was swept up by that wave of British influence. In an interview he gave the Louisiana State Museum for the Unsung Heroes: The Secret History of Louisiana Rock ’n’ Roll exhibition, he talked about being inspired by the English Mod movement. He remembers fashion shows being held for teenagers at the Maison Blanche Department Store. Every Saturday they would show the latest trends in fashion followed by a Battle of the Bands.
How cool is that? Is it possible that New Orleans had it's own small Mod scene? When I listen to the compilation album Louisiana Punk from the Sixties, I tend to believe that there might have been one. When you listen to a band called Echoes of Carnaby Street, it makes a strong case for it. On the other hand, how can you trust a compilation that mentions punk and sixties in the same sentence? The punk movement came to life between ’74 and ’76. This compilation is more of a Mod and Garage compilation than anything punk. Besides, I believe that Echoes of Carnaby Street was a band from Miami, Florida.
The Echoes of Carnaby Street - No Place or Time
But that didn’t keep me from going on a mission. I wanted to find that mysterious building that was the ground zero for those Battle of the Bands. I had heard that it was most likely on Canal Street. Well, at least that's a start! Maison Blanche is French for White House. Now, there's my second clue. But white houses on Canal Street are plenty. I must of asked a dozen people and probably got 12 different answers. A few locals mentioned a building with a brown statue in front but that evasive work of art was nowhere to be found. I finally spotted someone that I was certain would solve the enigma. He was the classy 70-year-old doorman of the Ritz. If one person in this city was going to know, he was the one! That’s when he said: “You are right in front of it, sir. The Maison Blanche is now part of the Ritz-Carlton.”
I took this picture, paid my respects and left with a big smile on my face.