The Meters are an American funk band based in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Meters performed and recorded their own music from the late 1960s until 1977. The band played an influential role as backing musicians for other artists, including Lee Dorsey, Robert Palmer, and Dr. John. The Meters acted as the house band for Allen Toussaint's New Orleans soul classics of the 1960s and are responsible for bringing New Orleans second line grooves into popular music.
While The Meters rarely enjoyed significant mainstream success, they are considered, along with artists like James Brown, one of the progenitors of funk music and their work is influential on many other bands, both their contemporaries and modern musicians working in the funk idiom.
The Meters' sound is defined by an earthy combination of tight melodic grooves and highly syncopated New Orleans "second-line" rhythms under highly charged guitar and keyboard riffing. Their songs "Cissy Strut" and "Look-Ka Py Py" are considered funk classics.
The 1960s and 1970s:
Art Neville, the group's frontman, launched a solo career around the New Orleans area in the mid-1950s while still in high school. The Meters formed in 1965 with a line-up of keyboardist and vocalist Art Neville, guitarist Leo Nocentelli, bassist George Porter Jr. and drummer Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste. They were later joined by percussionist/vocalist Cyril Neville. The Meters became the house band for Allen Toussaint and his record label, Sansu Enterprises.
In 1969 the Meters released "Sophisticated Cissy" and "Cissy Strut", both major R&B chart hits. "Look-Ka Py Py" and "Chicken Strut" were their hits the following year. After a label shift in 1972, the Meters had difficulty returning to the charts, but they worked with Dr. John, Paul McCartney, King Biscuit Boy, Labelle, Robert Palmer and others.
In 1975 Paul McCartney invited the Meters to play at the release party for his Venus and Mars album aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California; Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones was in attendance at the event and was greatly taken with the Meters and their sound. The Rolling Stones invited the band to open for them on their Tour of the Americas '75 and Tour of Europe '76. That same year, the Meters recorded one of their most successful albums, Fire on the Bayou. From 1976 to '77 they played in The Wild Tchoupitoulas with George & Amos Landry and the Neville Brothers.
Art and Cyril Neville left the band in early 1977, but The Meters still appeared on Saturday Night Live on March 19, 1977, during the show's second season. After the Nevilles' departure, David Batiste, Sr. took over on keyboards while Willie West joined as the band's lead singer. Porter left the group later that year and by 1980 The Meters had officially broken up.
After the break-up, Neville gained fame as part of The Neville Brothers, Modeliste toured with Keith Richards and Ron Wood, while Nocentelli and Porter "became in-demand session players and formed new bands."
1980s and 1990s:
In 1989 Art Neville, George Porter Jr. and Leo Nocentelli reunited as The Meters, adding drummer Russel Batiste Jr. to replace Zigaboo Modeliste. When Nocentelli left the group in 1994 they replaced him with guitarist Brian Stoltz, formerly of The Neville Brothers and renamed themselves The Funky Meters. (They were referred to as "the Funky Meters" as early as 1989. They were billed as such when playing in a tiny venue at Bordeaux & Camp Street behind Le Bon Temps Roule.)
The Funky Meters continued to play into the 2000s with Stoltz being replaced by Art Neville's son, Ian Neville, from 2007 to 2011 while he went to pursue a solo career. Stoltz returned to the band permanently in 2011.
In 2000, a "big offer" enticed all four original Meters to reunite for a one-night stand at the Warfield in San Francisco; by this time Modeliste wanted to make the reunion a permanent one, but the other members and their management teams objected. It wasn't until Quint Davis, producer and director of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, got them to "put aside their differences and hammer out the details" and perform at the Festival in 2006.
In June 2011 The Original Meters along with Allen Toussaint and Dr. John played the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. The six men performed Dr. John's album "Desitively Bonnaroo" which was originally recorded with the Meters, to a sold out crowd. On May 5, 2012 The Meters returned to New Orleans for a performance at the Howlin' Wolf. Tickets went on sale and sold out in one and a half hours.
On October 31 and November 1, 2012, Zigaboo Modeliste, Leo Nocentelli, and George Porter Jr. played concerts with Phish keyboardist Page McConnell at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill under the name The Metermen.
During his time off from manning the role of Chairman of The Boards in PHiSH, Page McConnell has continued to play with Porter Jr., Nocentelli, and Modeliste under the moniker of The Metermen since those shows in 2012. The Metermen had performed 16 shows together as of spring 2015, with their third annual appearance as a late night act during New Orleans' Jazz and Heritage Festival on the horizon (the two shows were scheduled for April 24th and 25th, 2015, at NOLA's Joy Theater).
In 2014, during The Metermen's second appearance as a late night act during Jazzfest, the band performed at The Republic on Saturday, April 26th, 2014, after McConnell had headlined the NOLA Jazzfest at the New Orleans Fairgrounds with PHiSH earlier that day. The Metermen had also played the previous night (4/25/14) at The Republic.
The states The Metermen had appeared in as of spring 2015 were Massachusetts, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Colorado, and Vermont, with one other performance in Washington D.C.
The Meters have been nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times since becoming eligible in 1994: 1996, 2012, and in 2013.
Currently, The Funky Meters tour consistently performing songs by The Meters, while The Meters perform sporadically. The line up of Neville, Porter, Nocentelli and Modeliste typically bill themselves as The Original Meters to avoid confusion with The Funky Meters. When not performing with The Original Meters, guitarist Leo Nocentelli leads his own group, The Meters Experience which also performs the music of The Meters.
Art Neville - keyboards, vocals (1965-1977, 1989-present),
George Porter Jr. - bass, vocals (1965-1977, 1989-present),
Leo Nocentelli - guitar, (1965-1980, 1989-1994, 2000-present) - currently only in The Original Meters,
Zigaboo Modeliste - drums (1965-1980, 2000-present) - currently only in The Original Meters,
Brian Stoltz - guitar (1994-2007, 2011-present) - currently only in The Funky Meters,
Russell Batiste - drums (1989-present) - currently only in The Funky Meters,
Cyril Neville - percussion, vocals (1970-1977),
David Batiste, Sr. - keyboards - (1977-1980),
Willie West - vocals- (1977-1980),
Ian Neville - guitar - 2007-2011 - only in The Funky Meters
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