American Routes Shortcuts: Ira Padnos

Oct 6, 2017

Raised in a Jewish suburban family from in Chicago, Dr. Ira Padnos is an anesthesiologist who uses music to bring relief and especially joy to many. Known here as Dr. Ike, he's got a bush of curly hair packed under a fez, and can be seen urgently pedaling his bike through the streets of New Orleans arranging the details of his meteoric masterpiece — the Ponderosa Stomp — since 2002. We slowed him down long enough to talk about it.

Nick Spitzer: How did you get the name Ponderosa Stomp?

Ira Padnos: I was looking for songs for inspiration, and there was the Ponderosa Stomp by Lazy Lester. When I decided to get married, I wanted to- I don’t really like weddings, because they’re usually boring and the wedding band sucks. So I decided, let’s go through our record collection, and let’s go find everybody that I’ve always wanted to see and have them play. Now, I didn’t know anything about this, so I said, “Okay let’s see what I can do.” So I wanted to get hold of Freddie Roulette, D.J. Fontana, Elvis’s drummer, Billy Lee Riley, Sonny Burgess and James Burton. This was really the first Stomp, and it was amazing because we stayed in touch afterwards and they kind of became friends. Somehow we kept going and every year it was like we could lose our house at any moment. Well we did it anyway because we just wanted to see some great music. It’s kind of like watching a record collection come to life.

NS: You’ve got an amazing lineup. What is it that draws you to Gary U.S. Bonds, aside the fact that he’s got this great song about New Orleans?

IP: Oh yeah, that’s a great song, and we’re going to have him play it at the Stomp. This is stuff to me that just grabs you by the throat and makes your feet want to move.

NS: You talk about rhythms that grab you. You’ve got Archie Bell, the leader of Archie Bell and the Drells. And of course that was a huge Top 40 hit.

IP: Yes, Archie had a played for us a few Stomps ago. We haven’t had him in a long time. He’s a great showman, but I’ve never been able to get Archie to do a set of all Drells stuff. So I’m real excited, we got him to commit to do a whole set.

NS: You have been a big supporter of Barbara Lynn, some called her the black female Elvis, and you’ve presented Barbara Lynn a fair amound.

IP: We love Barbara, she’s like a Ponderosa Stomp mainstay. I mean you see her, she just oozes star, but she’s incredibly talented. I mean they found her when she was young and you know, not only was she playing left-handed guitar and killin’ it, but she was a great singer and writing her own material.

NS: Dr. Ike, who are some of your headliners this year?

IP: Roky Erickson. He’s going to be doing an all complete set of Thirteen Floor Elevators stuff. Thirteen Floor Elevators were a rather unique thing because you have Roky, the singer, and then Tommy Hall was this guy who took a jug and blew into it with a pick up on it and it was like crazy.

NS: Is there a singular memory for you over the years at the Stomp that just stands out?

IP: One thing that really is amazing, it’s not even a performance, was literally watching Link Wray get down on his hands and knees and start kissing Scotty Moore’s feet, telling him, “You are my idol.”

NS: How’d Scotty take that?

IP: He was like, “Get up, get up!” He was so embarrassed he didn’t know what to do.

To hear the full program, tune in Saturdays at 7 and Sundays at 6 on WWNO, or listen at americanroutes.org.