RIP Uncle Lionel

Lionel Batiste

Photo by Infrogmation


Someone stole Uncle Lionel’s bass drum.

It was resting in the courtyard of a bar on

Frenchman Street next to a palmetto

palm under the moonlight .

Uncle Lionel was inside slaking his

thirst with a cold draft Dixie

bought with tips from anonymous

tourists and devoted locals.

The word went out in the humid New Orleans

night, wafting from bar to bar on

the notes of wailing saxophones

and indignant trumpets.

Someone stole Uncle Lionel’s bass drum.

The news hit the streets and ran

on a second line of lightening,

traveling on the dancing feet of the

pissed off patrons of Maison’s and Donna’s

of The Dragon’s Den and The Starlight Lounge.

By word of mouth and cell phone

the call went out; on Facebook and

Twitter, the interwebs

hummed with a purpose.

It’s high alert, New Orleans, because

Someone stole Uncle Lionel’s bass drum.

A varmint is among us.


This poem was originally posted on this blog on February 11. 2010 and was published in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature in their January 2011 issue. Uncle Lionel (as he was known)  passed away Sunday – another New Orleans icon gone.  He is greatly missed already. Although he will be missed by the locals who loved him and saw him regularly, his legendary persona will be missed by others outside the city as well. Following are some links to stories about the man, his life and his death:

The New York Times

The Huffington Post

ABC News

The Washington Post

8 thoughts on “RIP Uncle Lionel

  1. First – I’m so glad the drum was found. Secondly, thanks for this lovely bit of local lore – very well told – I could imagine that cold beer with the humid air lurking outside, and the missing drum! k.


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