THE ICON: Frank G. Painia
THE LEGACY: Frank Painia was a barber first, but he was also a businessman. So, not long after opening his barber shop on LaSalle Street in the late 1930s, he started expanding. First came a bar, then a hotel that would become known as the Dew Drop Inn, the home away from home for countless black musicians visiting the then-strictly segregated Crescent City. Names like Ray Charles, Little Richard, Ella Fitzgerald and B.B. King would lay their heads there when in town for concerts. Then, often as not, they would unwind with post-concert jam sessions at the Dew Drop’s music hall, added in 1945. Word soon got out, and from the 1940s through the 1960s, the Drew Drop earned a national reputation as the city’s ultimate after-hours hotspot for black and white music fans alike, segregation laws be damned. The legal end of segregation in 1964 would eventually spell the end of the Dew Drop, which stopped hosting musical acts around 1968. But by then, its place in New Orleans’ musical history — as an incubator of local talent and one of its most memorable musical meccas — would already be cemented.
THE ARTIST: Jeremy Paten
THE INSPIRATION: “(It) was like home. In fact, it was home. The … Dew Drop is where I used to live back in the day. Walter (‘Wolfman’ Washington) and I both did. It was the place. Everybody would come to town, and we would be the first to see them. It was great days around that time. Wasn’t making no money, but you didn’t have a lot to pay for.” — musician Johnny Adams, in a 1994 interview with The Times-Picayune