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George Porter Jr. on Jazz Fest, Playing with Dead & Company and The Meters’ Lifetime Achievement Grammy

Dean Budnick | May 05, 2018
Dino Perrucci

"I lost my wife in November,” George Porter Jr. reflects. “She died a month and one day shy of our 51st wedding anniversary. I’ve been missing her every day, but I think she’s still around guiding me through this world that she created around me and helping me keep a family in one place and happy. She’s no longer here to protect me, but I’m glad that I’m not making too many mistakes.”

The founding Meters bassist remains an active creative artist, with a new George Porter Trio on the horizon featuring lyrical contributions from Susan Cowsill, Mia Borders and Denise Sullivan. He hopes to complete the record in time for Jazz Fest, when the New Orleans native will have plenty on his plate, including gigs with the Trio and his band Runnin’ Pardners, as well as special performances with Voodoo Dead (which also features Steve Kimock, Jeff Chimenti, Jackie Greene and John Morgan Kimock).

Porter and Meters drummer Zigaboo Modeliste will also revisit The Meters catalog through their Foundation of Funk project, this time with the help of guitarist Anders Osborne and Widespread Panic keyboardist JoJo Hermann. There’s plenty more in the offing as well, such as a special Foundation of Funk show at Lockn’ that will include members of The Meters extended family like Cyril Neville, Ivan Neville, Ian Neville and Tony Hall.

As you look back on Jazz Fest, what’s changed over the years?

In the beginning, it was much smaller and then, they started bringing in more of the national acts so some of the local artists lost their positioning on the main stages and started appearing on the smaller stages or in the tents. But since it’s become a larger festival, that’s helped them too.

I’ve been out there since the beginning as an artist and as a production manager. The first 17 years up at the Fair Grounds, I was the person in charge of getting the backline straightened out and whatever else the artists needed. It got hard on me, though, because I was doing that and also playing gigs all night. What would happen was someone would say, “Porter, they’re calling for you over on stage three” because some bass player didn’t show up and they needed a bass player. So I was always jumping around the site, and then someone else would say, “You’re hardly ever here anymore.”