Margie Perez gets a Wonderful Surprise

Anything can happen on Frenchmen St. when the stars align! Margie Perez recounts a magic night on Frenchmen, capturing a moment in time: shortly after Hurricane Katrina, before smart phones, and populated with a few local legends who we have since sadly lost.

When world-famous musicians come to perform in New Orleans, sometimes they then go sit in on local gigs, and lucky audience members occasionally catch the magic moment.

As Margie Perez remembers: “It was the first anniversary of Katrina, in August of 2006, and Stevie Wonder played a concert I think at the Super Dome, or the Arena, and then he came down to Frenchmen.” Margie has deep roots as a musician, bandleader and listener on Frenchmen St. Over the years, she found her whole band on the street, meeting each musician on various gigs. Even in a constellation of musical moments assembled over years, the occasional moment shines extra bright. 

“This was 2006, everybody had flip-phones. I was hanging out at Cafe Negril, it was a Wednesday night and I would make my rounds.”  Making the rounds is a time-honored tradition on Frenchmen, musicians and listeners alike walk up and down the 3 blocks of music venues, seeing people.

“I was hanging out outside—and it looked like the zombie apocalypse: everybody was sloooowly heading down the street. And then somebody said, ‘Stevie Wonder’s at DBA.’ Walter “Wolfman” Washington played every Wednesday at DBA, up until he passed away in 2022.

“I went in. There wasn’t a cover at the time, and there was barely anybody on the street because it was a Wednesday. Well, everybody was in DBA, and that’s when they had the seats on the side, so he [Stevie Wonder] was sitting, he was absorbing it all. Like I said, everybody who was on Frenchmen Street—I think every musician that was playing in every other club—stopped what they were doing and went to DBA. And then Walter invited him to play. He sang, because they didn’t have a piano, and every single flip phone was up in the air taking pictures, and my phone died! It wouldn’t have taken a good picture anyways.” 

And then a few days later, Margie saw her friend who was part of Walter Washington’s backing band. “I remember Kevin O’Day was playing drums for Walter, and a few days later I went to a gig he was playing and I said, ‘Sooooo, what was it like to back up Stevie Wonder?’ And he was like, ‘Oh-my-God-I-can’t-believe, I just jumped up and down on the bed!’ Sadly, Kevin O’Day also passed away in 2022.

It is striking that in Margie’s story, local beloved community members like Wolfman and Kevin O’Day figure just as large as a world-famous musician like Stevie Wonder when he joined them onstage for a magical moment. Frenchmen St. has proved home to many such moments over the years, for those lucky enough to experience them.



618 Frenchmen Street