Tipitina's opened just before I left Louisiana as a young man.
I saw Gatemouth Brown, Professor Longhair and Asleep at the Wheel at the club at the corner of Napoleon Avenue and Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans' warehouse district. No act matched the excitement of Lil' Queenie and the Pecolators.
Leigh Harris, the diminutive woman with a big, raucous, New Orleans voice, died Saturday at age 65 from breast cancer. Performing as Li'l Queenie with her high-octane band, she blasted out soul, funk, rhythm and blues, and jazz, the city's musical gumbo. Dying her hair orange and pink, she created a stage persona as New Orleans-marinated as Dr. John's.
Leaving New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Harris found a serene life in rural North Carolina with her husband, musician Rick Ledbetter. She kept making music, recently releasing the album "Purple Heart." In February, she was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
Her New Orleans anthem, "My Darling New Orleans," was one of the songs featured on the soundtrack of "Treme," David Simon's HBO show about the corruption and resilience that surrounded the city's recovery from Katrina's devastating flooding.
That recognition was welcome; Li'l Queenie and the Percolators' sound was too New Orleans-flavored to gain widespread national success.
She was magical in her hometown, commanding the stage's light, true New Orleans royalty.