Da Rockits is a local five piece band specializing in the music of the 60’s.
Since 2011, the band has entertained at Gretna Heritage Festival, multiple 60’s high school class reunions, the Gretna Riverfront Concerts and other local venues.
Leader of the band and keyboard player is Ray Markase and his lovely wife Wanda Markase is the singer who has “the voice of an angel.” Ray was previously the leader of the cover band, Burgundy, for 34 years, from 1978-2012.
“We played at Gattuso’s in Old Gretna on March 14, 2020 and then the Covid-19 shutdown started on Monday the 16th. I remember it explicitly since the 16th was my birthday. Like everyone else, we just stayed home waiting for things to get better. Compared to a lot of musician friends that we know, thankfully the band was not our livelihood, we played for the love of the music,” Ray said.
“We didn’t rehearse because we were all isolating during the pandemic. We did get together twice to rehearse a few weeks before everything started to open up. A month past a year from the shutdown, on April 10, 2021 we played the “Babo Fest” to honor our good friend, BJ “Babo” LeBlanc who sadly was a victim of Covid-19.
“A big loss to locals was cancelling the Woodstock dance for both 2020 and 2021 that disappointed the 600 people who attended every year!
“Since Covid, Gattuso’s no longer has live bands, but we have been playing up the street at Rivershack, where we celebrated Cinco de Mayo and also played at the Blue Crab, an outside venue.”
Ray began to tell the story of how da Rockits came to fruition.
“To my knowledge, when we started da Rockits, we were the first and only all-60’s band in New Orleans. While almost all of the local cover bands are into 80’s rock and rap, we chose to go in a different direction. To us, the greatest decade of music is by far the 60’s. We know there is a definite audience for 60’s music. We are surprised at how well our band has been received over the last 10 years,” Ray said.
“We started da Rockits because we had decided long before that it was time to retire Burgundy. We had no interest in totally revamping our song repertoire to include 80’s rock and rap. We had a great run with Burgundy, with fantastic memories to share. Never sure if it’s the right time, we followed our gut feeling and retired Burgundy.”
Throwing in a little Gretna history, Ray Markase got his start in music with a Gretna band called the “Swingin’ Vines,” later the group dropped the word Swingin’ and became “The Vines.” He remembers playing many engagements at a local teen club called “The Pink Daisy.”
“The Pink Daisy was the first club of its kind in New Orleans because alcohol was not served, so the age limit to enter was 13 years-old and up. It was located on the corner of Huey P. Long Ave. and 2nd Street, where Huey P’s Pizzeria is located today. The Pink Daisy was only open for about a year and a half, but saw many great local bands and enjoyed packed houses every Friday and Saturday nights. To put it mildly, it was one of a kind.”
Besides Ray and Wanda, Billy Jaquillard is guitarist, Ronnie Arcement is drummer and Dave Larroquette plays bass. All five members of da Rockits are lead singers which allows the band to demonstrate great versatility when tackling the very diverse musical genres that the 60’s produced. Jaquillard and Arcement are longtime Burgundy members.
“We believe this music is so iconic and well known that it should be reproduced to very exacting standards,” Ray said.
Da Rockits pride themselves in the fact that each song is meticulously learned in great detail and is played live without the help of computers, sequencers or vocal enhancements of any kind. The band incorporated wigs, costumes and original 60’s lighting effects to simulate as closely as possible what a 60’s live band experience was like.
Thankfully, da Rockits fared well during the pandemic, but there is another side of the music business, that of fulltime musicians who had to sustain the trials of Covid. Tracey-Anne Jolie Edwards, aka, the “Queen Diva of Bourbon Street,” is a longtime fulltime singer. Her band is Beasts of Bourbon.
Tracey-Anne has enjoyed a career that included 21 years on Bourbon Street. Her many years at the Famous Door, BBC, the Swamp and Krazy Korner had her singing all genres. Playing at various clubs simultaneously, she also entertained for 10 years with Danny Hebert at the Caddy Shack in Harvey. She was inducted into the Westbank Music Hall of Fame in 2017. She has been a Westbanker for 32 years. She said that Covid hit her hard in the pocketbook!
“My life was going beautifully and Covid hit ending all music options. At first the shutdown was in New Orleans, but eventually it moved to Jefferson Parish and across the state. No musicians could work. Fortunately, we had some assistance with unemployment, but we went through our savings in a short period of time. Thankfully, my landlord was on track to help us as well,” she said.
“Now I am under restrictions to get tested every week in order to find work in New Orleans, I’ll be dependent on work elsewhere. I absolutely love performing. It is my life. I started singing at 14 and have enjoyed a 40 year career that I want to continue forever. Hopefully, the pandemic will end and I can get back to doing what I can do best!”
Tracey-Anne Jolie, the Queen Diva of Bourbon Street can be reached at The Queen Diva on FB and Instagram.