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Donna Poniatowski-Sims, Venue Proprietor Interviewed at Donna's Bar and Grill, St. Ann and Rampart Streets, November 1001 Donna's Bar and Grill Photo by Barry Martyn lavas born right here in New Orleans,soI grew up with an understanding of what the music is all about. I stayed here until I was five and then went away to school.It was at the ageof eighteen that I came back, after I graduated. I always loved it—myfirsthusband and I had a littleplace onBourbon Street where a lot of musicians like the French brothers, George and Bob, used to come; that was back in 1977. The Olympia and all the older brass bands were around then, but not theyounger ones. The Treme Brass Band didn't get going until about ippi—thej were the first brass band we had in here. I knew about the brass band tradition, and I'd seen brass bands. But in thepast the brass bands were rather limited to thejazz funerals, and that'sone big difference between them and theyounger bands. My first husband had alwaysplanned to have aplace like this. When we had the Bourbon Streetplace, wealso had three very small children, soI couldn'tput in the time. You know, whenyou run a small business,you have toput in more time than whenyou run a large business. Wemoved to Florida, and I was teaching there. But we alwayssaid that when we retired, we'd open a littlejazz bar. SoI stayed over there about twoyears, and then I decided to do what we had always said we would do together.I didn't have any realplans, but settled on thisplace. Westarted off kind of slow, asfar as featuring the brass bands; Ijustplayed them largely on weekends. 147 Also, through me knowing Benny Jones, Kermit Rujfins started here on Monday nights. Then we added the Soul Rebels, because they had a new hip-hop brass band sound; there was a marketfor that. I told my husband Charlie, "If we stick to New Orleans music, we'll never be big, but we'll have our niche." Wealso had the New Birth, and the Pinstripe played in herefor about threeyears. Then the leader of Pinstripe got his ownplace for a while, so he stopped playing in here. Ifigured the brass bands would last about threeyears in here, and that's what happened . Basically, we're a smallplace. As the brass bands started tofill theplace up, other clubs started seeinga market for them. That was in direct competitionwith us, especially on weekends. So some of the brass bands wouldprefer toplay at Tipitina's—I never figured out why, because they got their gigs out of playing here, and thej weren't being paid more at those otherplaces. I guess they must have thought that the other clubs were more prestigious. I really regret what happened, but as Iphased the brass bands out, no one else was booking them either. You don't see the brass bands much today in clubs. The only one that'splaying a lot is the Rebirth, and they've always kept the Tuesday night at the Maple Leaf. Le Bon Temps Roule on Magazine Street sort of picked up where we left off. Theyoung brass bands didn 't know me and that I knew the older musicians. So they didn't understand that I had an alternative topresenting the brass bands. Looking back on it, I enjoyed having thosebands here. Wenever didprofit much from it. When we started tophase them out, we had acquired a reputation for New Orleans music.Financially, we doa lot betternow—smaller bands, bigger crowds,for the mostpart. Several things contributed to stopping the brass bands. Ruddley Thibodeaux, leader of the Algiers, had a lot of problems within the band—illness and soforth, and his wife was ill.Sohe was having a hard time keeping the band together.The SoulRebelschanged their music totally—they went into a more hard rap style, which didn't really fit in with the audience that I have here. New Birthjust sort of faded out and startedplaying mostly at the House of Blues or Tipitina's. Our main bands were Treme, SoulRebels, New Birth, Algiers, and Pinstripe. And Mahogany played here on Sundays for quite a while. Brice Miller came in and asked usfor agig—he usedtoplay here with theAlgiersand the Treme. Most of the brass bands nowjustplay mainly at festivals, that sort of thing. I'm glad that they have that opportunity. But the...


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