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Professional Street Musicians Undaunted By Second-Line Shooting

Maureen McMurray

The Mother’s Day shootings, which injured 20, rattled residents of New Orleans and led some to question the security around second-line parades. For many, the prevailing tradition brought them out to yesterday’s Divine Ladies Parade, but for the professional musicians who participate in the parades it was also a matter of their livelihood.

“This is how I eat. This is how I feed my family. Without this, I have to go look for another job. I never worked a day in my life. I play music all the time,” says Chris Terro, a percussionist with the TBC Brass Band.

Terro was performing in the Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club Mother’s Day parade when the shooting erupted. Although none of the band members were struck, costly instruments were trampled in the melee — including a tuba, trombone and trumpet. It was also a painful reminder of what happened on Mother’s Day three years ago, when TBC’s saxophone player Brandon Franklin was shot to death in a domestic dispute.

For most professional musicians, the recent shootings would put a damper on their schedules. But for TBC, it’s business as usual. With borrowed and duct-taped instruments, they marched in yesterday’s Divine Ladies parade and will perform in second-lines the next two Sundays. 

“It’s just like a normal Sunday,” Terro says. “Even though the incident happened last week, we can’t prevent the violence. You just hope it doesn’t come down around your surroundings.”

Since forming in 2002, the TBC Brass Band has made a name for itself by playing on the city streets, most notably at nightly gigs on the corner of Bourbon and Canal. Each year they participate in approximately 25 second-line parades, and at this year’s Jazz Fest, they paraded with the Original Lady Buckjumpers and Prince of Wales Social Aid & Pleasure Clubs.

Terro says that experience highlights what second-lines outside the festival grounds need most.

Credit Maureen McMurray / WWNO
The TBC Brass Band leads a second-line parade in Feb. 2013.

“The only thing we can ask for is that they give us more security around the parade so that we can actually get things going and have a more peaceful day then what happened last Sunday,” he says. “’Cause if you look at Jazz Fest, you can’t walk across the street without seeing a police officer. So we can — as second-line clubs and musicians — get together and talk to the police as an organization, and maybe we can get better help then we already got.”

While there was heightened police presence at yesterday’s parade, there is no guarantee that extra effort will continue. The city’s Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs are responsible for obtaining police permits and security, which can cost upwards of $3,000.

In the wake of the Mother’s Day shootings, some simply want Louisiana’s concealed handgun law, which prohibits firearms at parades, more strictly enforced.

“The gun law they have at parades, I vote for that,” Taylor says. “Yeah, that gun law — you get caught at the parade with a gun, you should do the time if you want to play with that.”

Charles Taylor’s brother was shot and killed at a second line parade three years ago.

“Just like it happened down there, same way it happened up here,” Taylor says. “Somebody passed by with a gun and started shooting. He didn’t hear the shooting. He seen the crowd move, but he moved the wrong way and got hit by the bullet.”

As for Chris Terro, regardless of the random acts of violence or whether or not he’s performing, he’ll still be at the second lines.

“I actually parade with Sudan Social and Pleasure Club” he said. “So, I’m in it both ways. We can’t stop our tradition. It’s been going on over 100 years.”

This news content made possible with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.