Who Did "Who Dat"?

01 January 2010 — by Kathleen McCann, Offbeat Magazine

The first time Carlo Nuccio heard the phrase “Who Dat” was from the mouths of radio show characters Amos and Andy. “‘Who dat say who dat when I say who dat?’” he quotes. “I remember that, and to tell you the truth, when we went to do it, I got the words wrong. You know, it’s New Orleans. I’m pretty familiar with the diction, and we’ve all read A Confederacy of Dunces, but actually, ‘Who dat talking bout’ was well more proper than ‘Who dat say.’”

Who Dat 1983 session (L to R) Dave Waymer, Brad Edelman, Steve Monistere, Jim Hill, Carlo Nuccio, Reggie Houston, Aaron Neville, Lewis Oubre, Ron Swoboda and Art Neville. Photo by Rick Olivier.

In 1983, the New Orleans Saints were facing what could be their first year in the playoffs, and Nuccio, a lifelong, hardcore, thick-and-thin Saints fan, was 22. He saw his opportunity. He and his friend Steve Monistere, a musician and producer, decided to take the “Who dat” chant, heard at the time from the St. Augustine High School marching band, and put it to a song.

“I think we mutually agreed the song would be ‘When the Saints Go Marching In,’” Nuccio says. “We didn’t know how we were going to do it. I opted for a traditional arrangement. It’s not really second line; it’s more of a military type of thing. I figured out a place to put it in that felt good, felt right.” Once the skeleton of the song had come together, Nuccio says he felt committed to continue. He called pianist Dave Torkanowsky, whom he enlisted to get the rest of the musicians together.

“I was listening to rock ’n’ roll at the time,” Nuccio says. “I didn’t really know a lot of Dixieland horn players, and I knew that he would. He ended up playing bass and piano, I played drums, and he got the horn players. We got that in an afternoon.”

To fill out the song, Nuccio, a Hawkettes fan, decided on Art Neville. Neville told Nuccio it might be more his brother Aaron’s style. Aaron agreed.

“It was so exciting when we first recorded it,” Neville remembers. “I’ve been a Saints fan since there were Saints. We used to hang with the players in the late 1960s and early ’70s at the Nite Cap on Louisiana and Carondelet, and I was working with some of the actual players on the original.” Neville recorded “When the Saints Go Marching In” and the “Who dat” chant with the Saints’ offensive line.

From then on, there was no stopping it. “At the time, B97 was a big chain station, and Walton and Johnson were here in town,” Nuccio says. “They did this crazy stunt. They locked their door and played it back to- back their whole show. We were laughing about it, but at the end of that day, it was kind of sewn into the fabric of New Orleans. A week or two later, Howard Cosell opened Monday Night Football—a very educated man. They played the song, and after the music stops, the first words you hear were, ‘Who dat say they gonna beat them Saints,’ and that was it.”

Twenty-six years later, the song is nowhere near the end of its run, and neither is Nuccio. As a diehard Saints fan, he couldn’t resist a revamp, not now, in the best season the team has played yet. So he gathered a who’s who of local musicians, gospel-fied the song, and “Glory Bound” was born.

Aaron Neville returned to help, joined by Theresa Andersson on vocals. “It was cool working with Theresa,” Neville says. “She was a big fan, and she put a lot of energy into it. It was amazing. It was nice to be rerecording and refreshing the song.”

“It was just Carlo and me recording,” Andersson says, “and then Aaron Neville came in. It was such a huge honor to work with him; he’s one of the great New Orleans musicians. I met him, we said hello, and then all I could do was take a big deep breath and go for it. We had really good energy.”

Andersson, a native of Sweden, says she’s been converted to Saints fandom. “It’s very exciting to me that the Saints are so strong. It means so much to so many people. It’s been tough for me to learn all the rules, but I’ve been getting more and more into it. I didn’t really follow football, but I’ve been watching the games, and even more I find myself sneaking a peek at the score if I’m not watching, or checking the score on my cell phone. You get involved because it’s your town and your team.”

The original recording “was a whirlwind,” Nuccio says, “and who could’ve known where it would go. I would’ve said you’re out of your everloving mind.” When he saw Neville for the re-recording, Nuccio says he told him, “You weren’t driving a Cadillac back then.’ Things have changed a lot for all of us. It was a different time. I think it really helped us all career-wise. I certainly have had a good run in life, in my business.”

“Glory Bound” is available for download from iTunes; a portion of the proceeds from song sales to the New Orleans Musicians’ Clinic. 

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