Wardell Quezergue, New Orleans Bandleader and Arranger, Dead at 81

Known for arranging numerous '60s hits

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Wardell Quezergue

Wardell Quezergue, a highly regarded New Orleans bandleader, arranger and producer who contributed to numerous rhythm and blues hits, died August 30 in Metairie, La. He was 81 and the cause was congestive heart failure.

Nicknamed “The Creole Beethoven,” Quezergue (pronounced ka-ZAIR) was involved in many of the biggest 1960s hits to emerge from New Orleans, including the Dixie Cups’ “Chapel of Love” and “Iko Iko,” Robert Parker’s “Barefootin’,” Earl King’s “Trick Bag,” Professor Longhair’s “Big Chief,” Dorothy Moore’s “Misty Blue,” King Floyd’s “Groove Me” and Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff.” In later years he worked on albums by Dr. John and the Neville Brothers.

The recipient of an honorary doctorate from Loyola University, Quezergue, who learned to play trumpet at age 12, began producing recordings in the 1950s and led a band called Wardell and the Sultans. He also co-founded a label called Nola Records. Many of his greatest successes were for the Jackson, Miss.-based Malaco Records. His composition “It Ain’t My Fault” has been sampled by several rappers.

A 2009 tribute concert in Lincoln Center featured Dr. John and other artists who worked with Quezergue.