Big Chief Bo Dollis of the Wild Magnolias dies aged 71

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Big Chief Bo Dollis of the “Wild Magnolias” Black Indian Tribe (January 14, 1944 – January 20, 2015)

His voice had the sound of someone who had eaten a dozen saltine crackers without the benefit of drink.  Yet, it was exactly perfect for his job as Big Chief of the New Orleans Indian tribe the “Wild Magnolias”.  Sadly, that raspy voice has been quieted by the death of Theodore Emile “Bo” Dollis.  Big Chief Dollis passed at the age of 71 in his home on Tuesday January 20, 2015.

During the first Annual “Asante’ Awards”, I had the good fortune of photographing Big Chief while being completely ignorant of my being in the midst of such greatness.  Because of my many years of travelling the world, I was not aware that I was in the presence of one of the architects of the incredible culture which evolved within New Orleans’s black community.  I can boast that he saw my camera and posed for this incredible portrait for which I am eternally thankful.

A huge chunk of our unique New Orleans culture which evolved from fusion between African and Caribbean contributions has broken off.  Yet another from our old guard, who predates digital recording and all that wizardry, is gone.  His name was Bo Dollis and his job was “Big Chief”, Big Chief of the Wild Magnolia Indian Tribe.

 Big Chief Bo Dollis can be heard while he was at the top of his game in the following performance of “Handa Wanda” recorded in 1970.  It was the first commercial production of a Mardi Gras Indian single.  Though I have very strong opinions about the effects that commercialization “as applied” has and is having on black New Orleans culture, I will defer from expressing them until a more appropriate time.

In the spirit of celebrating the life of this extraordinary New Orleanean, I invite you to visit the following links to hear and experience the voice of the Big Chief who was “Bo Dollis”.  Enjoy!

To learn about New Orleans Black Indians, Click Here

Allen Yhorst Kimble, Jr. | The New Orleans Jazz Beat

Last modified: July 15, 2018