- Associated Press - Sunday, December 25, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Cowboy Mouth drummer/vocalist Fred LeBlanc is now both a father and a children’s book author. Asked which role his younger self would have deemed more implausible, he answered, “Yes.”

Both were highly unlikely.

“I didn’t think my lifestyle, in terms of a rock ‘n’ roll band being the main focus of my life, would be amenable to having kids,” he said recently. “And everything’s so dicey financially - I didn’t want to subject kids and a family to that.

“But sometimes life makes different decisions for you.”

Thus, as Cowboy Mouth powers into its 27th year, LeBlanc finds himself the father of 5-year-old Sebastian and 2-year-old Evangeline.

He is also the author of “Fred: The New Orleans Drummer Boy,” a collaboration with illustrator Marita Gentry. It tells the story of a young boy who loves the drums and builds a band with friends in New Orleans.

LeBlanc’s various roles - father, author, drummer - will overlap throughout the holiday season.

And on New Year’s Eve, he’ll plug in with Cowboy Mouth for Big Night New Orleans, joining Big Sam’s Funky Nation, the Chee-Weez, Kid Kamillion and other deejays for a blowout at the downtown Hyatt Regency.

It was his “genteel, Southern” Aunt Dottie, a Baton Rouge resident, who first suggested over dinner he write a children’s book. “She gets these feelings, where she’ll say things and they come to pass,” LeBlanc said. “It was such a great idea.”

He bounced the idea off Blue Cypress Books owner Elizabeth Ahlquist, to whom he had sold his old house. She put him in touch with Scott Campbell, founder of New Orleans-based publisher River Road Press.

They worked together to bring “Fred: The New Orleans Drummer Boy” to fruition. LeBlanc slipped in references to important touchstones and people in his life, from the St. Augustine High School Marching 100 to the French Quarter to the late Jimmy Glickman, proprietor of the New Orleans Music Exchange.

The kid band’s female guitarist, “E.V.,” is modeled after Evangeline. Bassist “Little B” is “Bash,” LeBlanc’s nickname for Sebastian, who famously made a cameo appearance onstage with Cowboy Mouth at the 2015 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (“Now his favorite game to play is ‘Jazz Fest’,” says his proud papa).

And “J.T.,” the other kid guitarist in the book? That would be LeBlanc’s “oldest child,” longtime Cowboy Mouth lead guitarist John Thomas Griffith.

Some years are better than others for the hard-touring Cowboy Mouth, which its founder jokingly refers to as “the thing that refuses to die.” In early 2016, the band released “The Name of the Band Is .,” a best-of collection. LeBlanc, Griffith and relative newcomers Matt Jones, the band’s second guitarist, and bassist Brian Broussard recorded new versions of Mouth classics, plus three new songs.

The old songs, which often advocated “letting go” after a breakup or similar trauma, have fresh resonance for LeBlanc. In 2015, he went through a bitter divorce with the mother of his children. When not on tour, he spends much of his time in north Mississippi, where his ex-wife and kids live.

Listening to, and performing, Cowboy Mouth music helped him through some dark days. “That was a great way to deal with it, by going out and beating drums and howling at the top of my lungs for two hours,” he said. “I recommend that highly.”

Thousands of fans have been uplifted by Cowboy Mouth’s evangelical brand of rock ‘n’ roll over the decades, so why not one of its creators?

“I’d ask friends, ‘What do I do? I’m lost. I’m broken.’ And all of them said, ‘When I get depressed, I listen to you guys.’

“So I went back and listened to the old stuff. It reminded me of the joy at a time when I really needed it. I needed to reconnect with that part of myself. This band saved my life.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, LeBlanc is also nurturing a second career as a motivational speaker, building on the same message he’s shouted from stages for years: It’s great to be alive, and life is to be enjoyed, not endured.

“It seems kind of natural for me,” he said. “I’m a lot younger than I was a few years ago. I’m definitely enjoying life more now.”

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com


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