Redbone – Witch Queen Of New Orleans

20th August 1971 · 1970s, 1971, Glam, Music

This sultry steamy concoction, with its spooky intro, voodoo chants and twangy guitars, gave Redbone their one and only UK hit when it reached No.2 in 1971.

Little did I know then that the band’s two singers were Native American brothers (“Red Indians” as they were called then) who had been encouraged to form the band by no less a man than Jimi Hendrix – himself part-Cherokee.

“Redbone” is the Cajun term for a mixed-race or mulatto person and was adopted by the band to emphasise their ancestry – a mixture of Yaqui, Shoshone and Mexican heritage – and the song exhibits that heady brew of funk, soul, blues and swamp rock so characteristic of steamy, sub-tropical New Orleans.

Written by those brothers, Pat and Lolly Vegas, the song’s a tribute to the legendary New Orleans voodoo queen Marie Laveau (“Marie, Marie la voodoo veau – she’ll put a spell on you”), who fans of American Horror Story might remember – she was played by Angela Bassett and got tortured and dismembered by Kathy Bates.

The band’s back story is fascinating. In the Sixties the brothers wrote and played on records by Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Tina Turner, Little Richard and Sonny & Cher, before forming their own group to play surf music in LA, first as the Vegas Brothers and then the Crazy Cajun Cakewalk Band.

Lolly Vegas died a decade ago but Pat continues to tour to this day, both solo and in a new Redbone line-up, which headlined the inaugural Indigenous Peoples Day in Los Angeles two years ago with The Black Eyed Peas, who also have a Native American-Mexican member, rapper Taboo (aka Jaime Luis Gomez), belatedly honouring the largest native community in the USA and the first inhabitants of LA, the Tongya people.