I was deeply saddened last night watching the ’10:00 Blues’ to hear of the extinguishing of one of New Orleans brightest and enduring lights – Cosimo Matassa.
Is it even possible for one blog to begin to capture this gentleman’s contributions to not only New Orleans history, but the collective musical soul of America? Too bold a statement? Run with me….
In 1945, at age 18, young Cosimo opened J&M Recording Studio at the back of his family’s shop on Rampart Street in our French Quarter. And went to work.
As engineer & producer, Mr. Matassa quickly became the seminal driving force behind the Rock ‘n Roll and Soul sounds of America in the ’50s & ’60s! Really.
Together with Fats Domino, he took us to ‘Blueberry Hill’ and then mixed fruit salad with Little Richard in ‘Tutti Frutti’! The Cos steered and engineered the biggest chart-topping hits of the day – from Sam Cooke to Jerry Lee Lewis … from Dr. John to Ray Charles.
Think about it – every time you hear ‘Mother-In-Law’ by Ernie K. Doe, ‘Barefootin” by Robert Parker, or ‘Working in a Coal Mine’ by Lee Dorsey – take your hat off to Cosimo Matassa!
Together with Dave Bartholomew & Allen Toussaint, he created ‘The New Orleans Sound’, recording the Neville Brothers, The Meters, and Irma Thomas. And ‘the Cos’ was performing at this level long before Berry Gordy even dreamed of the Motown Sound.
A member & inductee of the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame AND the Blues Hall of Fame, Cosimo’s contributions to both the history of music and the collective Soul of America are both wide and deep.
I’ll never forget the night we first met. It was the Big Easy Entertainment Awards Show at the Fairmont Hotel. I was honored to be performing as Live Announcer for the show, and that night in 1998 we paid homage to Cosimo and his talented ears, fingers … passion and spirit!
What a guy. Quiet, reserved and humble, with a ready smile, contagious laugh, and a most gregarious spirit. We shared a table that night – and along with Harry Shearer, more than a laugh or two.
But let us not weep over his passing – let’s celebrate his life and uniquely creative accomplishments. And the fact that we even ever had a chance to bask in his talents in the first place.
So the next time you’re toolin’ down the highway with the oldies station cranked-up on the radio, tapping the steering wheel or thumping the dashboard to Frankie Ford’s ‘Sea Cruise’ or Aaron Neville’s classic ‘Tell It Like It Is’ … smile, tip your hat – and thank ‘the Cos’!
GodSpeed brother Cosimo … and Thank You for your service!