Dave Malone: From The Radiators to Raw Oyster Cult
Photo by Bob Compton
I’ve been an admirer of all things New Orleans since 1984, my freshman year at Tulane University. Sure the food and culture are astounding, but what’s left the most indelible impression on me is the music. Needless to say the first New Orleans band I saw was The Radiators, and I was addicted from my first show. As a “Fish Head” I literally caught every possible gig in the New Orleans area, and played my part in spreading the good word. As the band’s popularity exploded in the 80’s and 90’s I forged a solid friendship with its members, and continued to enjoy their live shows all over the country. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and when The Rads announced their disbanding in 2010, we were all left with a massive void. However, all of the band members have continued to do what they do best; play music. The most noteworthy outcome of the break up is Raw Oyster Cult. Radiators alumni Dave Malone, Camile Baudoin, and Frank Bua Jr. have teamed up with John Gros from Papa Grows Funk and Dave Pomerleau from Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes to take the music scene by storm. A number of new original songs, an eclectic mix of Radiators classics, the tunes of John Gros, a solid list of funkified covers, and some great vocal harmony all contribute to the sweet repertoire of Raw Oyster Cult.
My most recent foray into this semi-new world of New Orleans music occurred last April at The Craw-Debauchery Festival in Pompano Beach, Florida. A long list of great Big Easy bands made the line-up, but Raw Oyster Cult received the headliner slot. Their two hour set, that featured visits from the horn boys of Bonerama, left the crowd in awe, and eagerly anticipating the next night’s gig at The Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton. Hosted by The Monkey Krewe, an old gaggle of South Florida Fish Heads, the party on the second night of the weekend allowed for great revelry. ROC delivered two sets of solid jams that included sit-ins by Rockin’ Jake on his harp, and Al Poliak on Key boards.
It was raining on Sunday morning when I finally caught up with Dave Malone. I had planned on meeting him at the hotel in Pompano Beach, conducting our interview, and then dropping him at the Fort Lauderdale Airport. We had plenty of time, so we drove up to Palm Beach for coffee and food, and then sat down for our chat.
First of all, thanks for taking time for me this morning. How are things at home with the family?
Oh every bodies doing fine! You know you stay busy with 5 grandkids. There’s 4 boys and 1 girl, and they all love coming to visit us in Prairieville and swimming in the pool. It’s a lot of fun, and I’m really enjoying it.
*Okay, now let’s talk music. I want to take you back to September of 1984. I saw my first Rads show when I was a new freshman at Tulane. It was a T.G.I.F party on the quad and you guys were playing. What you remember from those days? *
I remember playing those shows and I remember they were always a lot of fun. There was a bar in The Union Center, and there was plenty of alcohol on campus and everybody had too much fun. But what I really remember was the fans. I went to a T.G.I.F. there recently and all I saw was a bunch of kids who could’ve cared less about the music. I remember looking around and just seeing everybody playing with their phones. They weren’t even drinking, and the band may as well have not even been there. You know they all just pretty much need more beer I guess? But you know, we do have very fond memories of all the T.G.I.F.s. Of course you know they all happened on Fridays…
So those were special shows?
Well sure, we’ve always had a strong connection with Tulane. You know I was born in New Orleans and then I grew up in Edgard, Louisiana. I couldn’t wait to graduate and get out of that country town, and get back to New Orleans. My older Brother, John, was going to Tulane at that time and so I hung out there a lot. As a matter of fact, Ed Volker was going there also, and that was where I first met him. I remember the first time I played with Ed was in one of the “listening rooms” that they had upstairs in The Union Center. One of those rooms had a little Spinet piano in it, so Ed played that and I played an acoustic guitar. That was long before the Rads, and so yeah, I was at Tulane all the time.
The Radiators formed in 1978, and really took off in the 80’s. How did that happen?
Well, some fans/ friends, who happened to be Tulane students invested some money in us. So we decided to invest some money to record our first album and we started to get serious. There’s no question that the Tulane base helped us out tremendously. You know we always allowed people to record our live shows so what happened was a lot those old cassette tapes were brought home by Tulane students and shared with their younger brothers and sisters. I remember when the Rads started going on the road a lot and expanding our tour schedules to play more places across the country. We’d go to cities and towns we’d never played before and there would be lines around the block to get in to our gig. We were like, what the hell is going on? How do these people even know about us? So yeah we had this built in crowd in places we had never played before and we were just flabbergasted. Tulane was very, very important to us and probably one of the stupidest things we ever did was to lose that connection and not stay affiliated with Tulane a little bit.
So how did that happen? Did you guys just get too big?
No, that wasn’t it. We just started touring a lot more all over the country, and the world for that matter. So you know we just somehow lost that connection, and I’m sorry that happened. You know when we would finally get home from long tours we just kind of wanted to be home.
Well it’s funny to hear you talking about how the word got out about the Rads. I was definitely one of those Tulane students who spread the word.
Oh yeah, we had pockets of popularity all over the Northeast especially between, say Maryland to Maine, and everywhere in between. We also did very well in Southeastern cities like Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Atlanta. Then the mid-west cities were always a lot of fun. And, of course, we also had a nice following in Colorado and all over California.
The Radiators developed many traditions over the years. Do any of them stick out in your mind as being more special than others?
Well as our popularity exploded, our Mardi Gras shows at Tipitina’s got more and more crazy. And of course, because we were such an important part of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, a large number of clubs, that were designed to party, called Krewes started to develop. The oldest was the Krewe of Moms, which threw the craziest party every year during Mardi Gras. We just loved playing this party! So after that, all those Tulane Kids, who went to Moms Ball, would go home and start their own Krewes. Like, there was the Krewe of Empire Zeke in New York, the Krewe Dads in Minneapolis, Monkey Krewe in Florida, and of course the Krewe of the Grey Lady on Nantucket. I don’t know I probably even forgot a few there were so many. So yeah, there was a lot of tradition there.