Brother Tyrone & The Mindbenders

  • 12:45pm / April, 12th 2014
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    Abita Beer Stage

As excitable as Al Green in the pulpit, blues and soul singer Tyrone Pollard, known professionally as Brother Tyrone, declares his new “Mindbender” CD to be “slap ya mama-type soul.”
As his high-pitched exhortation dissolves into a rasp of a laugh, he further pronounces the song “If You Ain’t Cheating” to be “First and Danneel Street-type soul. It’s not just salt and pepper soul. It’s the real deal.”
Even in his hometown, Pollard is little known outside the Central City and Treme barrooms he’s worked for 30 years. But the back-to-basics “Mindbender” has generated favorable reviews as far away as Europe. It could pass for a long-lost recording from the catalog of Mississippi’s Malaco Records.

On Friday, Jan. 30, Pollard performs at the relaunch of Chickie Wah Wah, the Canal Street club that first opened in June 2006. For months the venue has been mostly dark as owner Dale Triguero installed a kitchen. Triguero formerly owned the Old Point Bar and occasionally booked Pollard there.
“He’s unbelievable,” Triguero said. “It would be criminal for people to not know who he is. It’s that real. He has no idea how talented he is.”

Pollard grew up in the Irish Channel and graduated from Walter L. Cohen High School. At age 8, he sang James Brown’s “I Feel Good” in a talent contest. He later incorporated elements of Otis Redding, Sam Cooke and Willie Hutch into his voice, and considers Cyril Neville to be one of the “baddest” singers around.
“Somewhere along the line I heard Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, got hooked on the blues, and I’ve been there ever since,” he said.

Given the low wages — he recalls a 10-piece band splitting $60 — he decided not to pursue a full-time music career. As a teenager, he often worked at his father’s gas station. That prepped him for a lifetime spent in automotive-related jobs — parts driver, warehouse worker, undercoat applicator. . .
“Music was something I did on the side,” he said. “I always wanted a job — I had bills to pay, and I knew I had that money. (Music) was my play money. Most of the time I’d buy records with it.”