Maple Leaf Bar

James Booker

The Maple Leaf Bar is a music performance venue in New Orleans that opened in 1974, and is one of the longest continuing operations of New Orleans’ music clubs with live performances seven nights a week.

On that first night Andrew Hall’s Society Jazz Band played and were there every Saturday for seven years. Many of the old time musicians were featured including numerous members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Musical styles represented include blues, funk, R&B, rock, zydeco, jazz, jam bands and any combination thereof, hosting both local performers and touring national acts.

Frequent performers at the Maple Leaf have included local legends James Booker, the Rebirth Brass Band, Papa Grows Funk, Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown, Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington, ‘Money Mike’ Armstrong, The Radiators and Henry Butler. Unannounced sit-ins are not uncommon; Bruce Springsteen once dropped in to jam with The Iguanas and Jon Cleary’s band was once joined by his frequent employer, Bonnie Raitt. The Leaf, as it is sometimes referred, has also been an important incubator for the city’s many up-and-coming bands formed from the ranks of local musicians and music students at Tulane University, Loyola University and the University of New Orleans.

The poet Everette Maddox was a famous denizen of the Maple Leaf. The Everette C. Maddox Memorial Prose & Poetry Reading, held every Sunday in the courtyard is the longest running poetry reading in North America. The Maple Leaf also hosts other events, including fashion shows. The Krewe of OAK starts and ends its parades at the Maple Leaf, where it also holds its Krewe Ball. Krewes are organizations that put on a parade and or a ball for the Carnival season.

The Maple Leaf was closed for several weeks in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Owner Hank Staples stayed in New Orleans to guard the bar and his other properties, while vowing to host the first concert in New Orleans after the storm. And on September 30 Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington played the Maple Leaf’s first post-Katrina show. The band’s equipment was powered by a diesel generator because electricity had not yet been restored to most of the city. The gig was eventually shut down by police and National Guard as the city was still under a curfew. Electricity was restored to this section of the city about a week later. Some local musicians who were playing in the aftermath of the storm dispute the claim that it was the city’s first post-Katrina public performance, and consider it only the first widely publicized show.

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