Cosimo Matassa Remembered ~ Part II

Epic & Legendary New Orleans Recording Engineer & Producer Cosimo Matassa Service Prayer Cards ~ September 16th, 2014 ~ and this card pretty accurately summed-up the way Cos lived his life


I’ve only just now returned from the service at Lake Lawn for our old friend & mentor Cosimo Matassa, and came here to just unpack a few things.

The crowd was really something!  A veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of New Orleans and New Orleans music — I had the chance to talk & reminisce with Dr. John (who flew in special from NYC), Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Deacon John Moore, Benny Grunch, Bobby Cure … 

And fellow recording engineers – Jay Gallagher & Dave Farrell of Ultrasonic Studios (which opened it’s doors in 1974) & Gary Edwards of New Orleans Sound.

Even N.O. Jazz Fest impressario Quint Davis and Councilwoman & mother of actress Patti Clarkson – Jackie Clarkson were there to pay their respects.

And Karen V’s stories of visiting Cosimo in his final hospice days at Notre Dame ~ wherein she played CDs of Italian music…from opera to Prima, in his final days to elicit smiles ~ were especially poignant.

‘Do not stand at my grave and weep; I am not there, I do not sleep.  I am the thousand winds that blow; I am the diamond glints of winter snow; I am the sunlight that ripens grain; I am the gentle autumn rain… Do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there. I did not die.’ ~ Ziants


Airlift Productions ‘Airlift Mike’ Twitter Page Screenshot featuring my re-tweet of Dr. John’s Cosimo Sentiment & Testament ~ “Cosimo was the one real guy in a world of make believe.  We will always miss his spirit.”

R&B Grandpa Cosimo Matassa Exits the Stage

Legendary, Seminal New Orleans Recording Engineer & Producer COSIMO MATASSA Exits the Stage at 88 {1926-2014}

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.

New Orleans R&B/Soul Grandpa COSIMO MATASSA putting in ‘another day at the office’ ~ What a talent. What a guy!

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!

Cosimo Matassa sharing a table with Airlift Productions’ Micheal Ziants at the Big Easy Entertainment Awards Show, Fairmont Hotel, New Orleans, 1998


Airlift PROductions & Airlift Mike – making NEW memories from NEW Orleans every day … since 1984!

Pooyie! It’s a Cajun Airlift – To Houston!

Cajun Comic & New Orleans Voice Talent LUNO BORDELON plies his trade at Airlift Productions ~ along with some help from his pal Tee-Claude


Well, I don’t know exactly how you spent your weekend, but the S.O.S. had come in from Brooks & Company at BB’s Cafe in Houston for some HELP on their phone system – STAT!

Apparently, BB’s business is so booming that management thought keeping their Cajun-dish-craving patrons entertained while on-hold needed some attention, Airlift style –  so the call went out to Cajun Comic Voice Talent Stud-like-dude LUNO BORDELON!

The main problem I had was tracking Luno down – I mean, this Cajun gets around … Italy, Canada, Bar Harbor, Maine … even deep sea fishing in Hawaii!

 While some faux-Cajuns talk the talk – Luno ‘chalks it’, walks it, talks it, hunts it, shoots it, fishes it, and then cooks it up over an open fire!  True-Dat.

Cajun VoiceOver Artist LUNO BORDELON deep sea fishing – in Hawaii, no less. Pity ‘da poor fish, huh?


So, as soon as I could get Luno back on New Orleans terra firma, cher, we got to work.  Make it fun! Make it sing!  Let the BB’s Cajun Cafe crowd know that they’re in for some authentic, off-the-chain damn good Cajun food ~ with a Texas touch! 

After all, so many business on-hold phone messages are so dry … so boring … so (yawn) ho-hum.  Enter Airlift Mike at the controls, punching the buttons ~ as Luno pushes YOURS!

Listen to Luno charming the masses in Houston.  The boy gives good phone.

Pooyie! NOW Houston understands what it’s IN for when they hit the door at BB’s Cafe!  The Real Deal. Authentic. Genuine. No off-the-rack dishes here.  Load-up the wagon, bring the kids.

(In soft disclaimer voice…) ‘No animals were harmed in the making of this phone message.’  🙂

Long-time runnin’ partners Luno & Airlift Mike – hiding out in a Breaux Bridge, LA cabin (as part of the Cajun-Confidential witness protection program back in the day)


Why not tune-up YOUR business phone system today at Airlift Productions Recording Studio, New Orleans

Murder, Race & The South – Airlift Mike Tells The Tale

“Murder in Coweta County” Face Book Page Screenshot

I guess it’s not just any true crime drama story that has it’s own Facebook page – with a legion of fans nationwide.  But, then again, this is not any ordinary story.

Written by Margaret Anne Barnes, “Murder in Coweta County” tells the rather incredible true story, ripped from the headlines, of a brutal murder, it’s investigation, and the fallout in Coweta County, Georgia.

In 1948, John Wallace was a powerful and feared man, whose family holdings were known as ‘the Kingdom’.  But when he killed a poor tenant farmer, the ensuing investigation led to a trial – the very first in Georgia to condemn a man to the electric chair:  a white man convicted & sentenced to die … on the testimony of two black men.


While the 1983 made-for-CBS-TV film starred Andy Griffith (against type) as the villainous John Wallace, and Johnny Cash as lawman Lamar Potts ~ yours truly has been invited to audition for the audio book version!

A-hem!  Now, audio books are a whole different animal.  And a story such as this deserves a rich, straight-ahead narrative … while s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g the ‘actor’s chops’ to embrace the colorful sounds of the south, yet at the same time tread that oh-so-thin line between authenticity and stereotype. 

How’d I do?

~  Micheal Ziants Audition for “Murder in Coweta County” ~

You know, the life of the VoiceOver actor and talent is always interesting and never a boring one, that’s for sure.

And if selected to commit the pages of this gripping, dripping-with-blood, salacious page-turner into it’s audio bedtime story counterpart, I will certainly have my work cut out for me. 

How does that old line from radio/TV days around the newsroom go?  “If it bleeds – it leads!”  And now “reads”…”Chapter one, page one …”


Airlift PROductions Recording Studio & Airlift Mike …. telling                                 America’s story from New Orleans since 1984!

Airlift Mike Spices-UP WWL ~ Cajun Style!

Airlift Productions’ Micheal Ziants Writes, Voices & Produces “Once Upon A Time” Radio Spot for Frere Jean Cajun Seasonings ~ for air on WWL Radio


You know,  it occurs to me that the last few blogs have been all about the rear view mirror …. radio memories of Walton, Johnson, Chapin & Rundgren from the ’70s & ’80s – so let’s tap the brakes a second and re-enter the 21st century ~ 2014!

Tonight “Once Upon A Time” debuts on WWL Radio, with it’s unique-to-New-Orleans totally awesome, 50,000 watt, clear channel AM night-time signal.  I mean, Hello … it covers and reaches 37 states in America!

I was entrusted by Brother John Foods to create ~ conceive, write, voice & produce ~ a sixty second radio spot to promote their one-of-a-kind SALT-FREE Cajun seasonings product.

The spot came out to be so much fun!

Pause to consider, the four most magical words in the English language are “Once upon a time …” for they set the stage for fable, myth, legend and fantastic stories.

And to think, there’s not a Boudreaux, cher, or ‘Ay-EEEE’ shout anywhere in the copy.  LISTEN here —

*** Frere Jean ‘Once Upon A Time’ radio :60 for WWL Radio  ***

The tinkling of the music box, the Chinese bell tree and the evocative music track sure help to set the stage for magic, huh?  And I had a riot writing and developing the story-teller copy points, right down to the idea of rescuing damsels, er ah,  princesses in distress – and their waistlines!

In fact, there’s so much packed into this sixty seconds of airtime that you hear and catch something different in it every time you listen.  In my estimation that is what great radio should be all about.

Using the medium for what it does best … to light-up the imagination – and then take that imagination  to front stage center in the Theater of the Mind!

{ Oh, and could you please clean this place up a bit?!  Apparently some clown spilled popcorn & soda and my feet are sticking to the floor…  LOL, LMFAO, BFF  🙂  ~ the management}


Micheal Ziants – New Orleans Voice Over Talent & Airlift Productions Studio Owner ~ 2012 promo pic


Airlift Productions Recording Studio ~ Telling America’s Great Stories from New Orleans …. since 1984!

Classic N.O. Eatery Gets a FaceLift … Airlift Style!


Airlift Productions & Micheal Ziants Add the Voice & Sizzle to Tujague’s Radio spot


I was reminded of this gig just last night when I caught the spot on WRNO-99.5-Rush Radio in New Orleans.  Man, how times … and dimes have changed.

When it came time for legendary French Quarter restaurant Tujagues on Decatur to roll-out it’s new Brunch menu and shout it from the rooftops via WRNO, the bat signal went out into the night sky for Airlift Mike.

What followed is kind of like the ‘alley-oop’ play in basketball – Bo Walker (then-production chief at Clear Channel) emailed me the copy … I voiced it and sent it back to him, along with some sound effect cues … he added his music track and mixed it down, then ping-ponged this mp3 back to me … and voila!

Part history lesson, part menu … and all sizzle! And when it all comes out of your car speaker on WRNO or worldwide via their I-Heart radio app, ‘Tujagues Brunch Menu’ radio :60 sounds like this….


Yeah, pretty amazing times we’re living in, huh?

Please though, do not attempt this kind of radio production at home.  These men are trained professionals.

Note: No animals were harmed in the making of this commercial.

Tujagues Brunch Menu Radio :60 Voiced by Micheal Ziants & Airlift Productions

Boots On The Ground … At Airlift Productions


Twitter ScreenShot with details of today’s Airlift Audio Book session with Michael Pitre


Airlift Productions & I are honored to aid the audio book crowd today – 7-18-14 – recording some additional tracks for Michael Pitre’s stunning and unflinching portrait of the Iraq war.

A novel informed by first-hand experience through two tours of duty in Iraq, “Fives and Twenty-Fives” is Pitre’s no-holds-barred story of not only life in Baghdad – but readjusting to life, love and work back in the U.S.

Yes, from IEDs to PTSD.
Marine, Iraq Vet & Author Michael Pitre


Louisiana native & New Orleanian, LSU grad with a double major in History & Creative Writing,  a U.S. Marine Captain  … and now, Author – this is the book Michael was destined to write.

And together today, we’ll attempt to tie a few loose ends together and help tell ‘the rest of the story’.

“Fives and Twenty-Fives”, coming soon to an audio book and download near you.

From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli, indeed the toughest battles of all may be the ones fought here, post-war, in the hearts and minds and lives of those who came home.

Semper Fi, Michael, Semper Fi!


Pitre “Fives and Twenty-Fives” Book jacket cover


Doctor Morgus Still Makes Housecalls…With Airlift Mike

Sid Noel aka Dr. Morgus the Magnificent Records Internet Story Club Vocal Tracks at Airlift Productions


In the mythology of the American Tribe, Superman will always have his Clark Kent, the Batman his Bruce Wayne…and iconic New Orleans TV late-night horror movie host Dr. Morgus (the Magnificent) will always have Sidney Noel Rideau. 

Here in the 21st century, ‘Uncle Sid’ has moved on from his haunts at the Old City Ice House and yet embarked on his boldest experiment ever – using technology, the internet and TV to help mold and shape the thought and character of today’s youth!

It may all sound a bit zany and bold, but when did that ever stop Dr. Morgus before?

Airlift Productions and I are proud to have been tagged personally by Sid (just call me Chopsley) to produce and voice the public service announcement campaign for New Orleans television to promote his Sidney Noel’s ‘Internet Story Club’ website .

Witness a sample of the PSA promotion as it appears On Air – through the talents of Blaine Strawn & his uber-capable crew down on Jefferson Davis Parkway – now showing on a WVUE-TV/Fox-8 flat screen near you …

To read more on about Sid’s latest adventure, follow the story here ‘Dr. Morgus: the Man Behind the Mask’  

After all, it’s not enough for our legal system to just keep locking-up bad guy after bad guy after bad guy … Our society simply has to stop making them!

Go get ’em, Sid! Now we understand what you meant by “the Higher Order”.


Airlift Productions’ Micheal Ziants appearing with Dr. Morgus in an episode of “Morgus Presents” – circa 1989

Radio-Activity in Harrisburg, PA? TMI, it Ain’t!


Airlift Proprietor Micheal Ziants as John Saint John, WKBO Radio,                                                     Harrisburg, PA ~ circa 1976 ~

Long before I dreamed of New Orleans – to say nothing of owning and operating my own recording studio – and in those dark, prehistoric days before the dawn of the internet, I was radio-active in the state capital of Harrisburg, PA.

This has nothing to do with the infamous Three Mile Island incident, although it did make for a rather clever blog headline, no?

Actually, America’s most volatile and scary nuclear accident occurred in early 1979 shortly after I exited Harrisburg for my first major market radio job at the Pulitzer family-owned 55/KSD Radio in Saint Louis, Missouri.

Yes, long before New Orleans and long before Airlift Productions, I was thrilled to be the #1 Arbitron-rated afternoon air personality/disc jockey in Harrisburg, PA! Along with the largest cumulative audience between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. I always kind of looked at my ARB ratings as ‘bowling trophies’.

WKBO Radio was just smokin’!  The air was filled with the sounds of the Steve Miller Band, David Bowie, BeeGees and Donna Summer … weekends were spent in the sun, sand & surf at the Jersey shore.  And the internet, mp3s, i-pods & downloads were but dreams in a tech-head’s head. Radio – and AM at that – was it!

A name like Micheal Ziants just wouldn’t cut it for 1970’s radio … so John Saint John was born!  It was my stage name, my alter ego, the Batman to my Bruce Wayne for a total of twelve years, through Harrisburg, Saint Louis, Nashville & Philadelphia.

Truth be known? I would have paid THEM for the opportunity. To be hanging out, stoned  backstage with George Carlin and on-stage with Cheech & Chong … to ride the largest elephant in the Ringling Bros/Barnum & Bailey circus – bareback!  And fly upside down at 500 mph with the Blue Angels.

Radio active?  You betcha’! Catch just some of the fever ( Saturday night and otherwise ) with Harrisburg’s ‘politically apathetic, though ultra-liberal, and semi-hippie rock ‘n roll disc jockey’ –  John Saint John here… 

Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n Roll, everything was on the table, er… ah Turntable … and ‘On The Air’in this edited WKBO AirCheck of Micheal Ziants as John Saint John from June 1978, Harrisburg, PA ~

MichealZiants-aka-JohnSaintJohn-Behind-JoeyTravolta-WKBO1977-AirliftProductions ~ Micheal Ziants aka John Saint John, standing behind John Travolta’s brother Joey at a WKBO Radio promotion, Harrisburg, 1977 ~

When Is A VoiceOver MORE Than A VoiceOver?

Veteran New Orleans VoiceOver Talent Micheal Ziants, 2012 Promotional Pic


You know, when you think of a VoiceOver in the 21st century it is so much different than a VoiceOver in the 20th century.

In radio & television’s infancy last century the V/O was all about “Announcing” – Loud, shout-it-from-the-rooftops, in-your-face … arresting and intrusive, with letter-perfect pronunciation and tones.  Also read ‘abrasive’.

Just as in all things, the VoiceOver has changed too.  Today, think of the candid, reflective, pensive tones in Morgan Freeman’s work in ‘Shawshank Redemption’, or even DiCaprio’s V/O tones in ‘Wolf of Wall Street’.

While these were movies, indeed all VoiceOver work today – radio, tv,  industrials, software, etc – is the domain of the actor.  The ‘announcer’ is just so passe.

The challenge for the VoiceOver talent today is to ‘inhabit’ the copy, get ‘inside’ the words, convey and emote so as to make the words jump off the paper – and live and breathe … and motivate!

(tone shift…) As America prepares for yet another 4th of July, with hot dogs, apple pie, beer, fireworks and … family, allow me to share a project of mine that takes the VoiceOver and applies it to matters of the heart.

In one of America’s fave romantic comedies, one of America’s fave Brits,  Hugh Grant opens up ‘Love Actually’ with a rather poignant and pointed soliloquy about love and families … and heartbreak.

With poetic license, I changed the name of the airport from ‘Heathrow’ to ‘Louis Armstrong’, borrowed the movie music and a few sound effects and came up with this …

Quiet.  Relaxed.  Pensive.  Reflective.  Real.  Warm. Thoughtful.

You know, in the last century – somewhere between the ‘Mad Men’ and the beginning of the 21st,  there used to be an ad that contained the line,  ‘If you want to get someone’s attention… just … whisper.’

Works for me.  Howzaboutchoo? ‘moving’ America … from NEW Orleans since 1984

Airlift’s Micheal Ziants Recording VoiceOvers for New Orleans with Clear Channel’s Production/Creative Director Don Banks, Summer 2013

VoiceOver Recording & Production … with a New Orleans twist