New Orleans jazz trumpet icon Kermit Ruffins on barbecuing

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Trumpet player Kermit Ruffins is an icon of New Orleans jazz. His sensational Rebirth Brass Band is a jazz/funk musical extravaganza that must be experienced live for full effect. Ruffins is also the founder of the jazz quintet Barbecue Swingers and is famous for firing up his grill at their shows in NOLA. In celebration of the July 4 tradition of grilling out, Putumayo World Music Blog interviewed Ruffins about his passion for the BBQ pit. Ruffins is featured on Putumayo's New Orleans compilation and also Putumayo Kids' New Orleans Playground CD, which I heartily recommend. From Putumayo (photo by dsb nola):
Where did the name “Barbecue Swingers” come from?
Kermit Ruffins: From tailgating. I started tailgating at Vaughn’s during break-time so the guys could have something to eat. So one morning I woke up and said “Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Kings,” but by the middle of the evening I had changed it to “Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers.” I was having so much fun barbecuing during the show that it just hit me: “Barbecue Swingers”.

So you originally were barbecuing to have some hot food at the shows, then the idea just caught on?
Kermit Ruffins: Yep, the tailgating started [it] all. I would cook hot sausage for the guys during break time, and whatever was left over, we would give it to the fans. Then I bought a big grill and started cooking for everyone, still up [to] today!

BK: Do you have any recipes or tips you would like to share with us?
Kermit Ruffins: I like to use a pan. I cook a lot of things in the pan - shrimp, fish, chicken, anything. Just a little olive oil, Tony Chanceries’, granulated garlic, thyme, and a little beer. Wrap it tight for an hour and a half; it’s like cooking in the oven. After, if you want, you can put them on the grill so they get that pecan wood taste.
"July 4th BBQ Essentials from New Orleans Legend Kermit Ruffins"


  1. I loved the living in the Bywater; Kermit at Vaughn’s and free BBQ. Best neighborhood ever!

  2. Love Kermit! Saw him at the Rock’n’Bowl Jazzfest 08. He’s the best. What a character!

  3. You might have more luck replicating his style if you look for Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning.

  4. DSBNOLA @3, Total oversight due to an overly hurried post. Apologies. Fixed. It’s a fantastic picture. Thanks for pointing out my error.

  5. Thanks for pointing that out #4. Bothered me throughout the entire article. Hehe. Tony’s goes on everything.

    And that’s very true about Rebirth — definitely needs to be experienced, rather than just heard.

  6. Two blocks from my house, y’all.

    I may have to wander over and see if he’s cooking tonight, tho the crowd is a little touristy.

  7. Kermit is going to be playing in NY at Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing next Tuesday night! Hope he’ll be struttin with some bbq there too! It’s a hard choice – to dance, or eat sausage.

  8. Whenever I hear about musicians and barbeques I instantly think of the Beastie Boys bonus disc with I f***ing shot that.

    God damn that video made me hungry and laugh.

  9. Back on the Ohio music scene, circa 1996, there was a band called Cash Money (whose name was later appropriated by some rap group) whose percussionist used a cast-iron skillet while it was frying bacon during the show. As I recall, the bacon turned out rather decent.

  10. Kermit will also be a featured actor in Treme, HBOs upcoming series from The Wire creator David Simon, who promises to give New Orleans the same sort of treatment he gave Baltimore. I CANNOT WAIT for this show…

  11. Tony Chachere’s is alright but it’s a little too salty. Ya’ll need to pick up some Slap Ya Mama seasoning. That’s the stuff right there.

  12. I’ve been to a Sauce Boss show (he travels the world, but is local to where I live) – it’s great gumbo! He also has a charity to help feed the needy, Planet Gumbo which you might check out.

    I’ll have to try Kermit’s barbecue when I next get to New Orleans, Thanks for the tip!

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