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"Being dropped by Epic was sort of a downer, but it wasn't the nail in the coffin," he says. "A record deal has never been the Radiators' bread and butter. It doesn't play the same role in our lives as it does in a lot of bands'."
As musical life expectancies go, the Rads are ancient. Casual friends who had played in local bands like the Dogs, the Palace Guards, Road Apple and the Rhapsodizers, the Radiators first got together to jam at Volker's house one Saturday afternoon in 1977. Joining Volker and Scanlan that day were guitarists Dave Malone and Camile Baudoin and drummer Frank Bua. After five hours of jamming, the consensus was that this group was meant to be a band. With the exception of percussionist Glenn "Kul" Sears, who was added in 1980, the Rads have the unheard-of distinction of having never had a personnel change. Starting out as Earl King's back-up band, the Rads quickly moved to sets of originals, and their now-infamous "Fish Head Music." Because they've been on the scene so long, the thirtysomething members of the Rads have participated in a large slice of N.O. musical history. Scanlan brings his own piece of New Orleans pedigree to the band. Back in 1977, the band's founding jam session broke up when Scanlan had to go play his last gig as the bassist in Professor Longhair's band.
"Playing with Fess was like going to grad school," Scanlan says. "Basically, the bass in his band was superfluous. With the possible exception of George Porter [the Meters], his left hand was the equal of any bass player. He kept me because onstage he needed something louder than just his hand. The trick for me was to just try and stay with him.
"The thing I remember most was he was really a super nice guy. A lot of the older players didn't mind letting the whole club know if you made a mistake. But with Fess, if you fucked up onstage, he'd give you a look, but it was between you and him."
With the death of Professor Longhair, Clifton Chenier and others, former upstarts like the Radiators have been thrust into the weighty role of being the old men of the N.O. music community. But instead of being tired and ready to give it up, the Rads seem eager to move on to new heights like the upcoming Phoenix show--the band's first-ever concert in Arizona. "Personally, we're beyond the bickering and arguing that goes on in most bands," Scanlan says. "Musically, time has made us all better players. What we want to do now is circle in on our essence. We'll never get there, but we want to try and finesse it.