Family Underground’s Once In A Lifetime LP
(Roland Treaudo and Manuel Herrera, Jr.)
Family Underground was one of New Orleans’s most prominent soul/funk bands of the 1970’s. Lead producers Roland Treaudo and Manuel Herrera, Jr. grew up on opposite sides of the Hollygrove neighborhood, but due to segregation they attended the same grade school where they first met.
Born in 1952, Roland was brought up in Stone Weasel Baptist Church with seven siblings and extended family members who made up half his congregation. In strict sanctified tradition there were never any instruments save a minimally used organ. His uncle Clarence Treaudo led the way through a vocal styling marked by growls, grunts, harmonies and pared emotions in religious worship.
Born oldest of four siblings in 1950, Manuel attended St. Lukes Episcopal Church, a Hispanic congregation. The Spanish spoken was steeped in indigenous tongue, and the music was conservatively stiff in character. Manuel learned a sense of classical and harmonic tones that invariably led to perfecting his soulful yet reserved background singing.
In 1965, the two friends created their first band, The Delltones. In high school, together with other friends and classmates they turned into The Fabulous Fantoms. Still underage, they were chaperoned to various venues by Manuel’s father Mr. Herrera, Sr. and became a local sensation.
By 1968 they were opening for Lou Rawls, The Commodores, Dorothy Moore, Etta James, Bobby Womack and Jackie Wilson in the Greater New Orleans area. Mismanagement caused the members to disband and a musical hiatus ensued.
In 1974, Roland and Manny now of legal age brought all but two original Fabulous Fantoms musicians back to create The Family Underground: Winston Shy (drums), his brother Parker Shy (bass), Milton Lewis (sax), Arthur V Bell (guitar) and Thomas Mitchell (trumpet). They quickly gained a Sunday residency at the all-black nightclub Whitey’s Devil’s Den on Banks and Galvez Street in the heart of New Orleans’s business district. The party warmed up at midnight, Roland and Parker rocking the mic with Manny manning the grand piano, and by 4am Monday morning the sweat-drenched dancefloor exceeded capacity with 400 clubbers strong. For over 250 straight weeks, Family Underground was so popular no flyers were ever necessary.
Following the success of their five year Whitey’s Devil’s Den weekly and frequent tours around the South (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida), the members separated. But Roland and Manny immediately went to Ultrasonic Studios, hiring musicians Nick Daniels (bass), Roy Joseph (guitar), Earl Smith, Jr. (background vocals) and Willie Green (drums). They cut the first five songs of Once In A Lifetime and included “All We Have Is A Song” and “Nowhere To Run” produced a year earlier with the original band into a seven song demo looking to contract with a major label. Motown and Capitol turned them down; “too Earth Wind & Fire” was the response they got. They then gave the demo to a local entrepreneur named Eddie Stewart who reportedly burned all the tapes.
Many years later, never fully believing Stewart’s story, Roland decides to contact his widow early August 2005. Few weeks later, Roland meets her at her house, where he finds the multi-tracks missing, but among a stack of discarded tapes he finds the production master, which he gives to Manny a mere days before Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans. While everything in Hollygrove and Manny’s house was destroyed, he safely evacuated with his wife and family. The one belonging he took with him: the production master, not only saving Family Underground history but became the sole inspiration for Hollygrove Records.
We are proud to present The Family Underground’s Once In A Lifetime, a defining moment in New Orleans soul history. Every purchase benefits the artists living in the reconstruction of a permanently affected city.