Leigh 'Little Queenie' Harris, an irrepressible New Orleans singer who established her considerable local legend with the band Li’l Queenie & the Percolators, died Saturday of cancer while in hospice care in North Carolina. She was 65.
Keith Spera / nola.com (2019)
Predicting big-time success for unknown pop-music groups can be a risky business. There are so many factors that can intrude: the tenacity it takes to sustain a career; the artist's capacities for growth; and finally, sheer, dumb luck. That said, Li'l Queenie and the Percolators should be stars-or more to the point, Li'l Queenie herself, whose name is Leigh Harris, should be a star and soon.
John Rockwell / NY TImes (1980)
Leigh 'Little Queenie' Harris has been a fixture in New Orleans nightlife since the ‘70s, and this disc consists of material once thought lost, but has been rediscovered after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.
Marty Gunther / Blues Blast (2019)
There are plenty of reasons why Leigh (Little Queenie) Harris is beloved in New Orleans, but here’s why she’s beloved by me: Back in 1999, I happened into Levon Helm’s short-lived Decatur Street club, where she was doing happy hour. With just piano accompaniment, she launched into a version of the Lambert, Hendricks & Ross standard Cloudburst that was astounding—it’s a tough song to master in the best of times, and she made each of its rapid-fire syllables ring with joy and sensuality.
Brett Milano / Offbeat (2018)
Recorded before Hurricane Katrina, New Little Queenie album finally sees light of day.
Harris was deep into the recording of Purple Heart with some of the Crescent City’s best musicians when she took a break to spend time in Houston. While there, Katrina slammed into the city, its floodwaters destroying the computer that held most of the album’s tracks. A work CD, however, survived. “She put it aside with the intention of someday getting back to it,” said her husband, Rick Ledbetter.
Lisa O'Donnell / Winston-Salem Journal (2018)
This unearthed album, Purple Heart, was recorded in the weeks leading up to Katrina in a studio that was flooded by the storm. It was never formally released until now, thanks to mastering and label support from her longtime friends, Lenny Zenith and Mike Hogan ... like a Queenie gig at Jazz Fest , it features a large rotating cast of Louisiana musicians - swamp pop legend CC Adcock and Jimmy Robinson (Woodenhead/Twangorama) on guitars, session musicians like Lawrence 'Larry' Sieberth on piano and Doug Belote and Jeff Boudreaux on drums. Her son, Alex Harris McDonald, plays washboards on some of the tracks, taking a break from the musical trenches of Bourbon Street.
David Robinson / jimmyrobinsonmusic.com
This song is lowdown and swingy, with its lusty lines:
Way down wicked but you just don't look it
You're so good looking but you're so damn crooked.
The zydeco/blues rock contributions of CC Adcock are undeniably bright, and the song will give you energy and perk up your resolve.
Melissa Clarke / Americana Highways (2018)
Queenie became well-known throughout New Orleans after the formation of her band the Percolators, which was co-founded by Queenie and John Magnie of the Subdudes. The band won the affection of many locals with songs like My Dawlin' New Orleans, 'Gumbo Heaven, and Telephone. Queenie (the name was bestowed upon her by an ex-boyfriend who called her 'Li'l Queenie' during heated arguments), also made it to the silver screen with her appearance in the John Sayles film Passion Fish.
After spending several years as more of a funk-laced R&B musician than a 'beautiful singer'; Queenie has experienced her own royal awakening. As far as future projects are concerned, Queenie is still up for a pure straightforward jazz record and, she is very serious about this one, a CD of Queenie singing all of her most beloved show tunes. Long live the Queenie.
Keith Pandolfi / OffBeat (1999)
In New Orleans, she is considered royalty ... Harris belts out sweet sultry soul with a southern accent, rowdy R&B with orgasmic joy, and a second-line backbeat that'll jar you down to your toenails.
... oscillating between shimmying blues and soulful, pour-it-all-out balladry, this girl can SING, honey ... indeed memorable.
New Orleans' dynamic, diminutive diva who means business ... hypnotic.
A virtuoso jazz singer with rock-n-roll in her veins and the pipes and phrasing of a great gospel belter ... even her scat singing has soul.
Harris, on House of Secrets, has re-invented herself and the American singer-songwriter tradition by incorporating a completely natural, European sensibility. Casting herself in the surprising, and wholly satisfying, role of a Delta version of Edith Piaf, Harris offers us one of the year's most inventive tributes to the power of song and a new appreciation for the richness of New Orleans' musical legacy.
... sassy and musicianly ... she imitates, instrument by instrument, a Dixieland band during her talking Ten Carat Blues, in which she asserts she's 'tuff' and backs it up ... every time she pulls off a daredevil vocal turn, like coiling a 10-note melisma around an unsuspecting word ... hurtling way, way above the band like a dolphin leaping into sunlight.
The Village Voice