Friday, July 13, 2012

Harry Connick Jr. to host TV music show

Stacey Plaisance/Cain Burdeau/Bloomberg

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Grammy-winning jazz singer Harry Connick Jr. will host and perform in a television show that pays tribute to the music of Louisiana and the industries that have shaped its culture and history.

The one-hour show, a Louisiana Public Broadcasting special set to air in December, will be available to PBS affiliates nationwide next year. It will include performances of "You Are My Sunshine" by many of Louisiana's most famous musicians — among them Tim McGraw, Irma Thomas, Zachary Richard, Better Than Ezra, Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Guy. The production will cross many Louisiana musical genres such as Cajun, zydeco, jazz, blues, gospel and rock.

"This is the fun part, assembling a bunch of Louisiana musicians," Connick said Friday. "There's not a lot of states that can pull from that many genres. If you think about it, it's amazing."

The as yet untitled show will mix music, interviews and video snapshots of Louisiana's economic drivers like tourism and oil and gas.

Connick, a New Orleans native, and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne unveiled the project Friday at the Old U.S. Mint in the French Quarter.

BP PLC is paying for the TV production and its promotion with $1 million in funds. After its massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, BP gave tourism officials in Louisiana $30 million to help the state win tourists back. Funding for this new TV production comes on top of that money, said Jacques Berry, a spokesman for the lieutenant governor.

Dardenne called the show a celebration of the state's rich musical history on the heels of the Louisiana bicentennial. He said music and food are vital to the state's culture and tourism — one of four industries that will be featured in the TV show for shaping Louisiana's economy and history. The other industries to be highlighted are agriculture, oil and gas, and the Mississippi River and its port system.

For the show, Connick and roughly a dozen other musicians will perform "You Are My Sunshine" — one of two state songs most notably associated with former Gov. Jimmie Davis.

Dardenne said Connick was the "obvious and logical choice" to host the show.

"He's not only one of America's most recognized and loved crooners of this era, he has such a close connection to New Orleans and a love for his native city," he said.

The show is one of two LPB projects Connick is hosting. The Grammy-winning singer and actor is narrating a bicentennial documentary called "Louisiana: 200 Years of Statehood," which is set to air at 7 p.m. CDT Aug. 13 on LPB. It is scheduled to air on a sister station, WLAE-TV32 in New Orleans, at 9 p.m. CDT Aug. 14.

The one-hour documentary will look at some of the most significant events in the state's history, including floods, hurricanes and the Civil War. The state's cuisine, music and political figures such as former Govs. Huey and Earl Long and Edwin Edwards will also be included.

The LPB projects are an extension of Connick's ongoing efforts to revive his hometown after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Connick and his longtime friend, jazz saxophonist Branford Marsalis, founded the Musicians' Village after the storm. The pair launched the rebuilding effort in the Upper 9th Ward with the help of Habitat for Humanity.

Musicians' Village includes more than 70 new homes for displaced musicians and 10 duplexes for seniors. They also established a music center at the site.

Last month, Connick and Marsalis were recognized for their work to help New Orleans as recipients of the 2012 Jefferson Awards, a national prize for public service that was co-founded 40 years ago by former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

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