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New Orleans funk legends the Meters to receive Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has yet to honor the Meters. But this year, the Grammy organization will.

The pioneering New Orleans funk band is among the 2018 recipients of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

This year’s other honorees are Tina Turner, Queen, Neil Diamond, Emmylou Harris, Louis Jordan and Hal Blaine, the drummer in the famed Wrecking Crew studio band that backed Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys and many others.

The Lifetime Achievement Awards are determined by a vote of the Recording Academy’s National Trustees, who seek to recognize performers “who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording.”

Previous winners from Louisiana include Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino and zydeco legend Clifton Chenier.

The Lifetime Achievement Award honorees and other recipients of the Recording Academy’s “special merit awards” will be celebrated at an event this summer.

Meanwhile, the main Grammy Awards will be telecast from New York on Sunday, Jan. 28.

The Meters have been nominated for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame four times, most recently for the 2018 class. Each time, they fell short in the final voting.

The band originally consisted of keyboardist Art Neville, bassist George Porter Jr., guitarist Leo Nocentelli and drummer Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste. Art’s youngest brother, Cyril Neville, later joined the band as a percussionist and singer.

Formed in the mid-1960s by Art Neville, the Meters evolved from a band called the Neville Sounds. They originally held down a residency at an Uptown bar called the Nite Cap, then slimmed down to a quartet when they accepted a steady gig at the Ivanhoe on Bourbon Street. 

Producer Allen Toussaint recruited them to be the house band for his recording studio. Over the years, they backed Lee Dorsey, Dr. John, Paul McCartney, LaBelle, Robert Palmer and many others.

Starting in 1968, the Meters released a succession of classic singles, including the instrumentals "Sophisticated Cissy" and "Cissy Strut," which reached No. 4 on the national R&B chart. Neville's sing-song organ, Nocentelli's slinky, chicken-scratch guitar, Porter's deep, rubbery bass and Modeliste's crisp, syncopated rhythms forged a template for much New Orleans music that would follow.

In the 1970s, Cyril Neville joined the roster; his vocals are featured on the band's albums for Reprise/Warner Bros. Records. Those albums contained songs that have endured as New Orleans standards including "Hey Pocky A-Way," "Fire on the Bayou," "People Say" and "Africa." The band embarked on long tours of North America and Europe with the Rolling Stones.

Though their record sales were modest, the Meters largely defined the sound of slinky New Orleans funk and influenced successive generations of musicians. Samples of their recordings have turned up in dozens of hip-hop songs. The likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Beastie Boys, Phish and Galactic cite the Meters as a major influence.

The Meters were featured on the 2017 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival's commemorative poster by artist Francis X. Pavy.

And the band's music continues to find fresh life. A commercial for Google's Pixel smartphone that aired nationally during the 2017 Grammy Awards telecast featured the Meters' jubilant "Hand-Clapping Song."

Groove Masters: 11 Guitar Champions of Funk

Yes, you got it right. Funk guitarists. They do exist, even though you’ll rarely hear a flashy guitar solo in a funk track. The guitar part usually centers on the rhythm and is equally as important to the overall groove of the tune as bass and horns. Funk songs are often built around a single guitar chord vamp, and it is this vamp that forms the very backbone of the song.

This list is dedicated to the humble guitar champions who pioneered the new flavourful approach to playing the instrument back in the day. Their contribution to the history of music is irrefutable, and they deserve to be remembered.

Leo Nocentelli

Leo Nocentelli, often called the King of New Orleans Funk, perfected a style built on a crisp tone, imaginative chord voicings and syncopated rhythms. Whether it’s a funky single-line melody, killer jazz work, or some big fuzzy rock tune, he can handle it all.

Being the original guitarist of the band Meters, Nocentelli made huge contributions to their repertoire via his composing such songs as “Cissy Strut,” “Chicken Strut,” and others.

Gearwise, Nocentelli has long favored his black 1976 Fender Starcaster for more than 25 years now.