A flood, an auction, and a lost Meters project: The wild story of Leo Nocentelli’s ‘Another Side’

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Leo Nocentelli of The Meters breaks down the “spiritual process” of his long lost “country-folk” album surviving Hurricane Katrina, and the L.A. flea market scene to (finally) get a proper release from Light In The Attic Records. Photo by Rick Olivier.

On Monday, October 4, magic happened as the story of legendarily funky (and frequently sampled) New Orleans band The Meters intersected with Morning Becomes Eclectic. 

Perhaps you were tuned in that day. We shared a previously unreleased song from Leo Nocentelli, vocalist and lead guitarist of the famed funk group. It was a song recorded in the early 1970s from an album titled “Another Side,” at long last being released today. Just before playing the song we shared a bit more of the last album's backstory. 

But while we were still on air, Leo Nocentelli himself called into KCRW. He left a voicemail saying it was very important that we call him:

This is Leo Nocentelli. Please, someone please give me a call. You just played my song... my record. There's something I'd like to correct you on. It’s very important that you call me. Thank you.

So as soon as the show ended we called him, and we pressed record.

KCRW: If you can, tell us the true story of what happened to your album when you first wrote it and recorded it.

Leo Nocentelli: I was doing a lot of songwriting, a lot of songs for The Meters. I was still into the funk thing. However, there was an album came out called “Sweet Baby James” by James Taylor. I liked the material on there. 

I got involved with the album, and I started writing songs that were  complementary to that album. I wrote about eight songs like that…  kind of country-folk. It had a lot of funk to it, but you know, it was still basically country-folk. So I went in the studio, I started recording it at Cosimo studio, very historical place in New Orleans. This was over 50-some years ago. I did about eight tracks. These tracks are very organic tracks. When you record something, you tell them — “Make me a copy I'm gonna go home and listen at it, and if there's anything I need to tweak it out, or take out, or add on then I'll come back in and do it.” That's the reason for the rawness of the track, the unfinished track, but just enough there that's audible to make them make a song.

It was 8 tracks on there, and I was financing this myself. And it just so happened to be stored at Sea-Saint recording studio... without you know,  not having it at my home... I just left it there. So all these years passed by and I just never did anything with it. Then Katrina came. Sea-Saint, the studio, got completely wiped out. Flooded, like 10 feet of water. Most of the stuff got destroyed. All the two inch masters. Evidently someone, I don't know who, but someone grabbed a bunch of tapes. It's a bunch of Meters tapes, and one of the tapes was my tape. So they lived in Los Angeles. They deposited them in a storage space, it was in the storage space for a bunch of years. He lost the storage space about a few years ago. Then this flea market bought the storage space, and they had the tapes spread across this table. This guy by the name of Mike Nishita saw the tapes spread across the table, and he bought all the tapes. One of the tapes was mine. So there was nothing he could do with the tapes because he couldn't make any money off ‘em because they were…  they just belonged to somebody else. So I think he sent a bunch of the tapes back to Reggie Toussaint... the Meter tapes, and mine. Since mine was an independent tape, he called me and told me he had mine… and I was completely blown away because I hadn't heard anything about that project for, oh man, for about 40 almost 50 years. I was completely blown away. I forgot about the song... and the whole bit, I just blew that off! He played it for a record label called Light In The Attic Records. They really heard it, and they really loved it… fell in love with it. And since I own the tapes, it’s coming out on Light In The Attic Records. And that's that's the whole story right there.

How does it feel to know that Light In The Attic and music heads are really into something you created a long time ago? That it's refreshing for us to hear this today?

It’s gratifying man, that's all I could say. I mean when I was doing those songs and writing those songs I didn't know, you know? I mean, I knew what I was doing but I didn't picture it to turn out like it's turning out now. I just thought it was a project that I’d do, and it’d have been forgotten about. You know, long gone. But I just feel like this... like I’ve said, there's something spiritual about this whole process. If you could well imagine man, just for this thing to surface over 50 years like that... and in the way it did. It's something spiritual about this, and it was supposed to happen because this was, ordinarily was not going to... it was not supposed to happen. It's happening in a way that I could never expect. What I find about this particular project is that the significance is the story more than the material on the album. Because they have the story like this, I think that's the most surprising thing about it, and the most attractive thing to me about it.

And it's amazing how the story is continuing today. Where your friend heard it on the air, and now we're talking to you about it.

I'm a paranoid person. Anytime a lot of great things happen to me, I get paranoid like — what's bad gonna happen, you know? But it seems to be consistently good things happening. It just keeps happening, and so I'll take that, I'll take it.