Lois Andrews passed away on Nov. 10, 2021, in her home surrounded by her family in New Orleans, La. She was 69 years old.
Lois was a 6th Ward cultural icon; born into the culture, bearing the culture, birthing the culture, and reviving the culture. She was everybody’s aunt and she was Queen of the Tremé. She started second-lining at age 4 and accepted Christ at age 8.
In New Orleans’ cultural community, Lois held a unique and central position. She was one of the city’s few female grand marshals, a co-founder of the Lady Money Wasters Social Aid and Pleasure Club in 1975, a founder of the Dumaine Street Gang in the 1990s, and a member of the Money Wasters club for more than 30 years. She was the force behind the revival of the Gold Digger Baby Dolls and other groups in the baby doll tradition, which had thrived in 1920s celebrations of Carnival but had become nearly defunct before she spurred its renaissance two decades ago.
In 2019 she was appointed Ruler of Krewedelusion and selected for herself the fitting title of "Mother of Music." In her royal order for the Krewedelusion parade. She asked people to respect each other, be slower to judge, and support the Saints. “There is no better feeling than seeing everyone happy," she said.
In Lois’ hands, her home and workplace became cradles for an entire generation of brass bands and musicians. She made ceramics to procure instruments for the children who played in her home, and she ran “The Shop,” a store and practice space that encouraged kids to form bands and to practice parading in the streets of the Tremé neighborhood. In the early 1990s, she created a venue for those up-and-coming brass bands by transforming a 6th Ward bar room on the corner of St. Philip St. and North Robertson Streets into a community hub that she named “Trombone Shorty’s,” after her youngest son. Today, the bands that form the backbone of the city’s musical community exist because of her efforts, which nurtured the Rebirth Brass Band, New Birth Brass Band, Lil Rascals Brass Band, Soul Rebels Brass Band, Tremé Brass Band, Chosen Few Brass Band, and countless other groups, including those of her own children.
She fed the culture, and that culture kept her healthy. As she told photographer Eric Waters: “If you get out and parade, you don’t have to worry about no sickness.”
Lois Nelson Andrews was born on August 8, 1952. She was the daughter of Dorothy and the late Jessie “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” Hill and the the granddaughter of Alphonse Picou’s famed guitarist, Walter Nelson. The oldest girl of 12 children, Andrews is survived by nine of her siblings: Lionel, Linda, and Sandra Nelson; Cynthia, Jessie Lee, Eric, Dionne Hill; Dorothy Hill-Martin (Larry) and Judy Hill-Andrews (Darryl). She was married to James Andrews Jr. for 45 years and is the proud mother of seven children: James “12” Andrews III (Karen), Bruce “Fot” Nelson, Terry Nelson, Temeca Andrews, the late Darnell “D-boy” Andrews, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, and Deja Andrews. She has 10 grandchildren — Jasmine Andrews-Woods (Chris), Jenard Andrews, Dereial Andrews, Joshua Keys, Darnell Andrews, James Andrews IV, Tyree Nelson, Hassan Goffner, Terry Nelson, Gianni Nelson — and four great-grandchildren: Keyah Woods; Emerie, Amir, and Jai Andrews.
Andrews is preceded in death by family members including her father, Jessie Hill; two brothers, Louis “Fritz” Nelson, and Terry “Ship Head” Hill; and her son, Darnell “D-boy” Andrews.
In the words of Lois, "The whole world must come together and be free, New Orleans is a gumbo pot with all these different cultures coming together and I’m honored to be the roux. I know how to stomp all the evil and hatred out of the world. I like to have fun; when you have fun, it makes life better. I want the hating to stop. Let’s teach the world to parade together New Orleans-style and let the good times roll!”
On Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, the public is invited to visitation from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Chapel of Roses at Charbonnet-Labat Funeral Home (1615 St. Philip St.). The visitation will be followed by a musical tribute.
On Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, the public is invited to a visitation starting at 8 a.m., with funeral services at 10 a.m. at the Mahalia Jackson Theater of Performing Arts (1419 Basin St.). A traditional jazz-funeral procession will follow. Interment will be at Mount Olivet Cemetery (4000 Norman Meyer Ave.). Proof of vaccination or negative COVID test required for public events.
WWOZ sends our best wishes to her family and friends during this difficult time.
Update, Nov. 20: Below, video scenes and photos from the jazz-funeral procession through Treme following the funeral of Lois Nelson-Andrews at the Mahalia Jackson Theater.