New Orleans’ beloved Leigh Harris, aka Little Queenie, passed away Saturday the 21st after a long battle with cancer. She went peacefully and wrapped in love. Leigh was with her husband Rick, and her longtime friend Patti, at her home in North Carolina, in her bed, surrounded by her two cats, listening to some jazz.
She is survived by her husband, Rick Ledbetter, her son Alex MacDonald, and her sisters Sally and Ellen.
As Little Queenie, with the Percolators and on her own, she amazed people all over the world with her voice and brilliant songwriting. She will be sorely missed - there will never be another Leigh.
Services in New Orleans and a second line are being planned but probably won’t happen for another month. To all of her friends, family and fans, you are welcome to be part of the parade.
WWOZ tribute w/ Debbie Davis and Josh Paxton
After a long battle with cancer, Leigh “Little Queenie” Harris, the soulful singer of Li’l Queenie and the Percolators, died on Saturday, September 21 at the age of 65
Leigh 'Little Queenie' Harris, singer of New Orleans band the Percolators, dies of cancer at 65
Leigh 'Little Queenie' Harris, star of New Orleans band the Percolators, dies at 65
“A tried and true New Orleans native, Leigh “Lil Queenie” Harris has stomped on the swamp and stages all over the Crescent City. She’s shared billing with early hometown mentors like Allen Toussaint, Dr John, The Meters, and Professor Longhair at legendary local nightclubs, recording studios, and the Jazz & Heritage Festival from the time she was a teenager. Harris later went on to perform live and on disc from sea to sea with such wildly diverse acts as BB King, Elvis Costello, Sun Ra, Ellis, Wynton, Branford, Delfayeo and Jason Marsalis, Odetta, The Gospel Soul Children, Harry Connick Jr, The Neville Brothers, Pete Seeger, Asleep at the Wheel, Taj Mahal, Delbert McClinton, Bryan Ferry, G Love and Special Sauce, Buckwheat Zydeco, and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra.
"She was an integral part of Ron Cuccia's groundbreaking Jazz Poetry Group, and it was with that quintet the now-classic "My Darling New Orleans" was heard in a small theatre at the city's Contemporary Arts Center for the first time; the subsequent single recorded by Little Queenie and the Percolators is a global Mardi Gras favorite. The Percolators short but memorable career spawned many bands in its wake including the Subdudes, the Radiators, and many others. She continued to form various genre-busting New Orleans bands around her style-defying voice, and she has been named Female Performer of the Year by Gambit Entertainment Weekly.
"With pianist Lawrence Seibirth she recorded three tunes for SRT's Patchwork: A Tribute to James Booker, one of which, "Providence Provides", was nominated by Offbeat Magazine readers as Song of the Year. Few people have encapsulated the ecstasy and torture of New Orleans’ summers better than Harris’s “Dawg Days.” Her album “House of Secrets” is a gorgeous and emotional work of art that continues to reveal depths and beauty 20 years after it was released. Working with jazz, pop, funk, blues, folk and rock artists from all over the planet, she's provided music for film and television in the US and Europe, including the acclaimed HBO series Treme; produced and recorded 4 albums of her own, and contributed to countless others as a performer, composer, producer, babysitter, psychiatrist, beauty consultant, love broker, pharmacologist, and diplomatic ambassador.
"After relocating to North Carolina in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, she joined forces with artists of all stripes in her adopted region, and continues to surprise, disarm, and blow away new audiences, carrying musician and listener alike with her through the music of her roots, beyond the swamps, and into the 21st century. Simply put, Leigh Harris is a legend of late 20th Century New Orleans music.”
Images: Leigh “Lil Queenie” Harris (left) and her 1980s band called The Percolators (right). The band photo was taken in the old Tipitina’s in the 1980s before it was remodeled, and also features keyboardist John Magnie and guitarist Tommy Malone who went on to form the Subdudes. These photos were generously donated in 2009 by Professor Connie Atkinson, former publisher of the New Orleans magazine “Wavelength,” and are now included in the Wavelength Archive at the Louisiana State Museum. (Louisiana State Museum 2009.030.0453.25 and 2009.090.0452.24) - David Kunian
On July 25, 2019, a proclamation sponsored by Councilman Joe Giarrusso was presented in a declaration accepted by Harris’ son, Alex Harris MacDonald. Harris’ birthday is July 27
CD's and merchandise are still available including t-shirts.
Started prior to Katrina, this record contains previously-unreleased tracks that typify Leigh's prodigious range and an eclectic collection of perfectly curated tracks, Purple Heart will be familiar and precious to old fans and revelatory to new fans as well
Shortly after her first birthday, New Orleans native Leigh "Little Queenie" Harris was humming entire lullabies back to her parents; six months later, she'd added the lyrics, "...and I haven't ever really shut my face since," she told journalist-poet John Sinclair in a 1999 interview.
Sharing billing with early hometown mentors like Allen Toussaint, Dr John, The Meters, and Professor Longhair at legendary local nightclubs, recording studios, and the Jazz & Heritage Festival from the time she was a teenager, she later went on to perform live and on disc from sea to sea with often wildly diverse acts, including BB King, Elvis Costello, Sun Ra, Jerry Jeff Walker, The Guess Who, Bonerama, Wynton, Branford, Delfayeo & Jason Marsalis, Odetta, They Might Be Giants, The Gospel Soul Children, CC Adcock, Harry Connick Jr,Buckwheat Zydeco, The Subdudes, The Neville Brothers, Astral Project, Pete Seeger, Asleep at the Wheel, Michael Wolff's Impure Thoughts,Linton Kwesi Johnson, Roomful of Blues, Taj Mahal, Li'l Band o'Gold, NRBQ, The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Bryan Ferry,and Delbert McClinton.
Working with funk, jazz, blues, folk, pop, and rock artists from all over everywhere, she's provided music for film and television in the US and Europe, including the acclaimed HBO series Treme; produced and recorded 3 albums of her own, and contributed to countless others as a performer, composer, producer, babysitter, psychiatrist, beauty consultant, love broker, phamacologist, and diplomatic ambassador.
Now relocated to North Carolina, she has joined forces with artists of all stripes in her adopted region, and continues to surprise, disarm, and blow away new audiences, carrying musician and listener alike with her through the music of her roots, beyond the swamps, and into the 21st century.
Leigh supported and inspired many during her life. Her journey has come to an end on this plane, but her legacy will live on through her son Alex and all she touched with her music and gargantuan spirit.
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