New Orleans street performers entertain for millions each year. With the sidewalks as their stage, they serve as ambassadors for their city's rich cultural heritage and a defiant symbol of the struggle to rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Photojournalist Jim Flynn spent two years documenting the lives of fifty of the French Quarter's finest street entertainers. Each story is told in the performer s own voice, creating the feel of an intimate conversation. Some notable Sidewalk Saints include:
Grandpa Elliott: sixty-six-year-old harmonica player who began performing on the streets of New Orleans as a six-year-old tap dancer on Bourbon Street. Despite going blind and losing everything in Hurricane Katrina, Grandpa never abandoned his love for his music. After two decades of performing on the street, Grandpa was catapulted to international fame by the documentary film Playing for Change. Despite his recent success, Grandpa still loves playing on the street: "The French Quarter ain't got no roof. My concert hall is as far as the eye can see. This is my home. This is where I belong."
Keith Wolf Anderson: trombone player for the Rebirth and Dirty Dozen brass bands: "On the streets you can t fake the game on credit. Average tourist don t know that I been all around the world and played for thousands of people. They don t know who I am, but they know I m playing from the heart. To me, that s all that matters."
Mark Tuba Smith: Traditional brass band musician who introduces his best friend, a forty-year-old tuba donated to him from Wichita, Kansas: "Ain't nothing like a horn that done been whipped and beat up on. That way before the horn can beat me up, I m beating up on the horn...See me and my music done been seasoned. I gotta have me a horn that got the same flavor."
Big Mamma Sunshine: Sixty-seven-year-old piano player who abandoned her life as a beautician in a small Florida town to come to New Orleans and become a "troubadour of the trails."
In addition to musicians, Sidewalk Saints features magicians, mimes, tarot card readers, break dancers and a sidewalk astronomer. Their colorful stories and beautifully rendered photos take the reader on unforgettable journey to heart of America s most unique city.