THE ICON: Bo Dollis
THE LEGACY: At the time that Bo Dollis sewed his first suit in 1958, the Mardi Gras Indian culture in New Orleans was a violent one, with rival gangs often engaging in bloody clashes in the streets. But, armed with a powerful singing voice and a natural-born joyfulness, Dollis quickly rose to the rank of Big Chief of the Wild Magnolias Mardi Gras Indian gang, and — with guidance from Big Chief Tootie Montana of the Yellow Pocahontas — succeeded in emphasizing the beaded, feathered masterpieces they wore over fisticuffs. Later, he would be part of the first commercial recording of Mardi Gras Indian music, cementing his legacy as a key voice of one of the city’s most treasured, and colorful, traditions.
THE ARTIST: Gabriel Flores, WhereYart.net
THE INSPIRATION: “He was the modern musical face of the Mardi Gras Indian culture that broke through to the outside world. … Bo wasn’t an angry Indian. He was a joyous Indian. Bo had this joy about the whole culture. He had this joy about the fact that he was leading it, and he could sing it. That infused what he was singing.” — Jazz Fest organizer Quint Davis