Al’s Spring Break

 Posted by
May 172016

Savoy Truffle

Savoy Truffle

I spent the last 10 days of April in Louisiana: 5 days in New Orleans, 3 days in Cajun country, and 2 more in NoLa.

Thirty years ago, I learned about Festival Tours International, a small operation that does music-based tours. And 29 years ago I convinced my fiancée that a 23-day music tour of England and Scotland was perfect for a honeymoon. And it was!

Festival Tours is run by Nancy Covey. She has lots of connections in the music world, especially from having booked the music at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Los Angeles during the 1970s and early 1980s. Her tours are very un-tour like—not rigid, skipping lots of the touristy spots, and heavy on local experiences only possible because of Nancy’s research and connections.

This England & Scotland tour used to be an annual event, tied to Fairport Convention’s annual musical festival in Cropredy. I’m not sure how often Nancy does that tour now but I know it’s no longer annual. One is planned for 2017 to tie in with Fairport’s 50th anniversary.

Many of her tours are one-offs; she’s done one to Russia, one to Sardinia, one to Zimbabwe that I can recall offhand. We’ve been interested in all of them but kids and work and life have always gotten in the way.

RTHers with better memories than I have might recall that my wife and I went to Cuba in February 2014, on Nancy’s initial tour of that island; she has since done two others there. This was before the recent thawing and the trip was spectacular. Cuba is filled with music; it is literally everywhere you turn in Cuba (and I am using the word “literally” in the true sense of the word, not the way it is often used nowadays). With Nancy, it was special. For example, we got to visit the studio where the Buena Vista Social Club album was recorded and to speak with two of the players from those sessions (not the big names—I believe they have all passed away—but with studio musicians). This was made possible because Nancy knows Jackson Browne from back in the day and he was able to facilitate this.

Well, another tour that Nancy does every year is to New Orleans, coinciding with the Jazz & Heritage Festival. It’s something we’ve wanted to do since that England tour in 1987, and finally, with an empty nest here at home, we’ve checked that off the bucket list.


  5 Responses to “Al’s Spring Break”

  1. These tours sound really cool – and I’m usually averse to tours of any sort. Nancy Covey sounds worthy of an RTH interview.

  2. I can try and arrange that if you’d like.

  3. BigSteve

    If I’m not mistaken, she’s Mrs. Richard Thompson.

  4. BigSteve

    All the years I lived in New Orleans, I never went to the Fair Grounds for JazzFest. I’ve been to some of the concerts around town associated with the Fest, some very memorable, but never the main event. I don’t like big crowds, and for someone in academia it was inopportune that they always held it right at exam time.

    The Cajun part of your trip sounds very cool. Years ago I went to Marc Savoy’s music store, where he had some decent guitars. I picked up a Gibson SG and started playing, and he tried to convince me to get an accordion, because the guitar was “on its way out.”

    Too bad the tour did not include the Festival International de Louisiane, which takes place in Lafayette on one of the same weekends as JazzFest. In addition to Cajun stuff they also feature music from other French-speaking parts of the world, and the time I went they had cool African and Haitian bands.

    It sounds like you met some cool people. I didn’t realize D.L. Menard was still alive! Cajun culture is not exactly accessible to the casual visitor, because the best parts of it are not commercialized (not for lack of trying). It takes place in the homes and kitchens of real people, and for a package tour you really seem to have gotten behind the scenes.

    But dude, you passed up Pearl Jam?!!!

  5. I go to a lot of shows, but I never travel. These tours you’ve been on, especially the Cuban trip, have got me thinking…maybe.

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