The Musicians ‘Down in the Tremé’

Tuning in on Sunday nights to catch David Simon's latest HBO television series, Tremé? Let The Root introduce you to -- or reacquaint you with -- a few of the performers behind the music.

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  • John Boutte

    John Boutte

    Born in the Seventh Ward of New Orleans, Boutte got his start in music by playing the trumpet and cornet in area marching bands. Although he grew up with a heart beating to New Orleans’ rhythms, he didn’t start singing professionally until Stevie Wonder encouraged his talent. The series’ bouncy theme, ”Treme Song,” originally appeared on Boutte’s 2003 Jambalaya album.

    Captions by Jada F. Smith

  • Kermit Ruffins

    Kermit Ruffins

    Ruffins began playing the trumpet in the eighth grade, and he hasn’t been able to put it down since. In the early 1980s, he co-founded the Rebirth Brass Band on the streets of the Treme neighborhood, where they eventually became the house band at the Glass House in New Orleans. Known for always cooking barbecue at his shows, Ruffins founded the Barbeque Swingers in 1993, a group that has played at popular bars all over the Big Easy. The show’s creator, David Simon, consulted with Ruffins as he developed the series.

  • Trombone Shorty

    Trombone Shorty

    Troy ”Trombone Shorty” Andrews grew up in Treme, earning his nickname from being the only child playing in the New Orleans Brass Band Parades. At 6 years old, he became a bandleader and expanded his musical repertoire to include the trumpet, too. He’s gone from a Gulf Coast musician to an international recording artist, making music with Lenny Kravitz in 2005, and performing with U2 and Green Day during the re-opening of the New Orleans Superdome for the NFL’s Monday Night Football pre-game show in 2006.

  • Coco Robicheaux

    Coco Robicheaux

    The Ascension Parish native took his name from an old Louisiana legend about a naughty child named Coco who gets abducted by a werewolf. He’s been howlin’ ever since, with five albums and an appearance as himself in the second episode of Treme.

  • Elvis Costello

    Elvis Costello

    Famous rocker Elvis Costello represents those in the outside world who took an interest in the lively action and exciting rhythms of New Orleans music. He appeared as himself in the first two episodes of the series, and in real life recently jammed at the New Orleans Jazz Fest.

  • Dr. John

    Dr. John

    Born Malcolm John Rebbenack Jr., Dr. John takes his stage name after the 19th-century legendary New Orleans witch doctor Dr. John the Night Tripper. Blues, pop, jazz, zydeco, boogie woogie and rock-and-roll music — Dr. John does it all, combining popular genres with Gulf Coast flavor. He started his music career as a guitarist, but after his ring finger was injured by gunshot, the piano became his main instrument. He is best known by mainstream audiences for the 1973 hit single “Right Place Wrong Time.” In 2008 he was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, and in 2009 he sang the opening number, “Down in New Orleans,” for the Disney film The Princess and the Frog.

  • Michiel Huisman

    Michiel Huisman

    He’s one of the few real-life musicians on Treme who don’t play themselves. Instead, Huisman, a Dutch-born singer-songwriter-guitar player-actor, plays Sonny, a Dutch-born piano player-street musician with some major issues (drugs, booze, major-league-sized jealousy and possessiveness). On Treme, Huisman makes sweet folksy music with the violin-playing Lucia Micarelli (Annie), proving that in New Orleans, not all music dances to a zydeco-jazz-blues-brass band beat.

  • Lucia Micarelli

    Lucia Micarelli

    Micarelli, a New York native, started playing the violin when she was 3. Since then she’s toured the world with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Josh Groban, Jethro Tull and Chris Botti, a Grammy-winning trumpeter and composer. (She does her own thing, too, releasing several solo CDs, including her latest, Interlude.) Treme marks the Juilliard-trained Micarelli’s acting debut. In it she plays Annie, the violin-playing girlfriend of the terribly troubled Sonny. (From what we’ve seen so far, Annie should dump Sonny with the quickness. You’re too good for him, Annie!)

  • Anwan Glover

    Anwan Glover

    Though he’s not from the New Orleans region, if there’s one thing Glover knows, it’s regional music. He is one of the founding members of the Backyard Band, playing go-go music that illustrates D.C. the way Treme musicians have illustrated New Orleans. He’s no stranger to David Simon shows, having appeared in The Wire before Treme.

  • Steve Earle

    Steve Earle

    Known by some as “the hard-core troubadour,” Earle is a singer-songwriter who has made a career in rock and country music. He has been nominated for a Grammy Award 14 times and won three, including the 2010 award for Best Contemporary Folk album. Earle is also a David Simon vet, having had a recurring role in The Wire.

  • Big Sam

    Big Sam

    The self-proclaimed ”King of the Party” leads Big Sam’s Funky Nation, an urban funk band in the Big Easy. Known for his wildly energetic stage show, he wields his trombone while encouraging the audience to do the classic New Orleans ”second-line” dance and participate in the improv-style show he and the Funky Nation never fail to deliver. Although they perform and tour frequently, they were most recently guests on Live! With Regis and Kelly.

  • Deacon John

    Deacon John

    This Louisiana Music Hall of Famer is a legend in New Orleans, known for his blues, R&B and rock-and-roll tunes. He grew up in a family of 13, and like many other Southern musicians, he started out in the church choir. He learned to play the guitar and eventually played sessions with Allen Toussaint, Fats Domino, Johnny Adams and Little Richard, among others. Most recently he released a CD and concert video called Deacon John’s Jump Blues. It comes with a documentary about New Orleans’ place in the origin of rock and roll, told through his own experiences.

  • The Rebirth Brass Band

    The Rebirth Brass Band

    The Rebirth Brass Band was born in the midst of the 1982 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and they have been marching strong ever since. They have released 14 albums and toured across North America and Europe. They combine second-line music, funk, jazz, soul and hip-hop to define their own space in New Orleans’ musical history.

  • The New Orleans Jazz Vipers

    The New Orleans Jazz Vipers

    This seven-piece swing band got its start playing on the famed Frenchmen Street in New Orleans, second only to Bourbon Street. It has since split in two, with several members forming the New Orleans Cottonmouth Kings. The original band has three CDs that are still available at the locally owned and operated Louisiana Music Factory.

  • J.T. Ka-Nection Band

    J.T. Ka-Nection Band

    These Crescent City natives have teamed up with the New Orleans Horns. They pride themselves on rebounding from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, helping to keep the city alive with the same music that has sustained it for so long. J.T. Ka-Nection Band and the New Orleans Horns can be seen regularly at the Fat Catz Music Club on Bourbon Street.

  • Galactic


    Galactic defines themselves as the quintessential modern-day New Orleans band, infusing New Orleans jazz with funk and brass beats. Quite possibly living in their own musical galaxy, Galactic has earned quite a reputation around the Big Easy, after working with both classic and modern-day NOLA musicians. We must admit, they’re pretty fly for some white guys.

  • Paul Sanchez

    Paul Sanchez

    He was booooorn by the river — maybe not in a small tenement, but literally across from the Mississippi River. Pre-Katrina, he toured the world with the country-rock band Cowboy Mouth. But then the levees broke, wiping out everything he had. Now he rolls solo, writing songs for John Boutte, the Eli Young Band, Darius Rucker and Hootie and the Blowfish, among many others. These days the award-winning singer-songwriter calls the famed Treme neighborhood home. “In New Orleans,” he once said, “baby comes out the womb chasing the rhythm.”

  • Glen David Andrews

    Glen David Andrews

    Growing up down in the Treme, Andrews had enough musicians in the family to start his own New Orleans-based band: his cousins, James and Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews — well-known Treme musicians — as well as Glen and Revert “Peanut” Andrews. Although no family band was ever started, Andrews has performed with almost every other brass band in the city. Now a star in his own right, he has won numerous awards for his music and performs all across the country.

  • Treme Brass Band

    Treme Brass Band

    To say the Treme Brass Band is a marching band is like saying that Tabasco is a condiment — it’s an accurate description, but it doesn’t capture the flavor of all that heat and spice. Led by drummer Benny Jones, the Treme Brass Band has a constantly rotating lineup that includes Kermit Ruffins, James Andrews and Lionel Baptiste. Count on them to marry funk with brass for a big, bold, raunchy sound. Two of their trademark tunes: “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Rascal You” and the “Food Stamp Blues.”

  • McCoy Tyner

    McCoy Tyner

    At 17 the Philadelphia native got his start playing piano with John Coltrane. To this day, the Grammy-winning composer-bandleader remains one of the most influential jazz pianists of the last half-century. In episode 4, he makes a cameo appearance alongside famed bassist Ron Carter.