He led his band out from under and during Katrina, bringing love and moral support to thousands of displaced New Orleanians by bringing New Orleans to them across the U.S. He is like the wind… You may not see him, but you can hear him… And you know you are going to feel him.
He’s Phil Frazier, aka “Tuba Phil”, a quiet force to be reckoned with.
When one mentions New Orleans, Louisiana, many images can be conjured up, to be sure. It’s all relative to one’s own experiences and perspective. If you were born uptown your perception of the city would vary from someone who lived their whole life downtown, or in the East, or in Metairie, or on the West Bank, and so on and so on. What most New Orleanians and those in the New Orleans diaspora living in other U.S. states and abroad can all agree on is one thing: If there ever was a city where characters flourished and boredom always dies an unseemly death, that place, without doubt, is New Orleans!
The unique culture which is derived from its storied past as a former French and Spanish colony has, over time, created a storybook-like backdrop for some of the most unique characters that have called this virtual swamp home for the last three centuries or so. Men like John James Audubon, Jean Lafitte, Dominique You, Huey Long, Edwin Edwards, Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme Drew Brees and our dear Steve Gleason, just to name a few…
Women like Marie Laveau, Delphine LaLaurie, Leah Chase, Ella Brennan, round out just a small fraction of their colorful rankings.
Enter Phil Frazier, a co-founder of the Rebirth Brass Band that has played in New Orleans since….like….forever.
So much so that we can make this statement: If the NFL practically owns Sundays in the U.S., Phil and his Rebirth comrades have owned Tuesday nights at the Maple Leaf uptown for almost three decades!
And while Mr. Frazier is born and raised in New Orleans, he would stand apart from most if not all of the characters that were mentioned above. That’s because “Tuba Phil” does it his way. Phil Frazier is always heard at every single performance. There is no way you can miss the pulsating vibes that thump and grab you in any Rebirth gig. That’s the tuba. And that’s Phil, leading his bandmates on point, directing them in a way that is often unseen but always heard. And while his demeanor and style have always been mostly humble and low-key (especially toward his legions of fans), he is known to get on his bandmates from time to time if he feels they need a little more fire, so to speak.
That said; Phil, along with brother Keith “Bass Drum” Shorty have led what is arguably the most successful New Orleans brass band ever! Playing since he was a child, Phil Frazier, aka “Tuba Phil” is a living legend. And not one to be taken for granted. Before the term “Rebirth” was mentioned all over the city of New Orleans for all things post-Katrina, Phil Frazier and his band had used the term as its namesake since the early 80’s! The point is Phil and Rebirth have been steady as a rock, consistent in their local shows and national tour dates.
They have forged their legendary status the hard way – they earned it.
In a day and age where celebrity comes as cheap as a half-ass hurricane drink your aunty just threw together, Phil Frazier’s Rebirth Brass Band continue to play on. When New Orleans was dead and under water, it was Phil and Rebirth who went to countless U.S. cities to play for the NOLA Katrina diaspora, some of whom have never been able to return to the city they love. But when Rebirth comes to their city, New Orleans comes to them.
In a city of characters; this man, “Tuba Phil’, has continued to lead the greatest Brass band in the greatest musical city in the U.S., and arguably the world. Now, that’s saying something. But unlike those characters that we have come to love, now and then a gent like Phil comes along and just does his thing… Night after night, and gig after gig. He’s a man of few words. But then again, his Tuba usually does all the talking.
WDD was fortunate to come across this legend who I last met and reported on a few months after Katrina out in Los Angeles.
Here is Phil Frazier who chose to “Dish” with WDD about his love for the Saints throughout child, boy, and adulthood!
Phil Frazier – Hey brother Gagnier!
WDD – How are you doing sir?
PF – I’m well, how about you?
WDD – Excellent man, and very appreciative of you giving us this interview. Let me just kick and get right down to it. How long have you been a New Orleans Saints fan?
PF – From the day I was born it was black and gold bruh!
WDD – Was it your entire family?
PF – It was understood in my family early on that if you were born and raised in New Orleans, you were going to be a Saints fan.
WDD – What do you remember about your very first game?
PF – I was about eleven years old, and I think we played the Houston Oilers.
WDD – What players from back in the day made the greatest impression on you when you were really young?
PF – I can remember Archie Manning running for his life on virtually every play. I used to think that was so funny. I liked Aaron Brooks too, especially since he led us to our first playoff win.
WDD – What about players from defensive squads from the past?
PF – Oh yes. I can never forget the Dome Patrol, the greatest linebackers in NFL history no doubt. Vaughn Johnson, Sam Mills, Rickey Jackson and Pat Swilling. Problem them was we had no offense! lol
WDD – Which players do you run into from time to time?
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PF – I see plenty of them here and there, but always seem to run into Rickey Jackson and Morten Anderson, and Deuce.
WDD – What went through your mind when the Saints reached and ultimately won the Super bowl?
PF – I thought I was in heaven. Yes sir!
WDD – Where was Rebirth when the Saints actually won the game, were you travelling at the time?
PF – No sir! We were right here in New Orleans.
WDD – Just for the record, how long has Rebirth been playing Tuesday nights at the Maple leaf?
PF – About 29 years!
WDD – When did Rebirth first appear at a Saints game in any capacity?
PF – We have been honored to play so many times man. U-Tube us-you’ll see! One of the most memorable was when we played before, during, and after the game against the Falcons when the dome fist opened back up. Now that was memorable-truly classic.
WDD – How many times do you play at the dome now?
PF – It varies, but once or twice a year for sure.
WDD – What do the Saints need to get back to the Super Bowl?
PF – Our defense needs improving badly. We are terrible in that respect.
WDD – Last question….what are your thoughts about number 9, Mr. Brees?
PF – I love Drew Brees man. He has done great things for our city, and I look forward to having him back under center again next season.