I grew up in between Louisiana and Napoleon on Laurel and General Taylor. Then we bought the house between Washington Avenue and Jackson. The social and pleasure club out here was the Prince of Wales. My grandfather, Walter Gipson, Sr. and my daddy, Walter Gipson, Jr., were in the club. And here I come, the third.

Straight from Cohen Senior High, I started working at K&B. I worked with the legend, Alfred “Mr. Bucket” Carter, of Young Men Olympic. We worked together for almost 22 years; I saw him retire from K&B. When I first met him, he gave me a tour of the ice cream department. I love butter pecan, and K&B made theirs the old-fashioned way. They had a big old barrel full of pecans, and a lady with gloves on scooped the pecans out and threw them in that mix. At K&B, everybody had two jobs, except Mr. Bucket who didn’t drive. He was the only one. He’d catch a ride with Mr. Cooper who lived on Louisiana Parkway. For lunch, we chipped in, and the lady in the back of the kitchen would cook for everybody. At the same time, we learned communications, and being together. When Mr. Bucket made the Jazz Fest poster, K&B made a collage of them with him carrying the umbrella.

Every time Mr. Bucket went to the timeclock, he asked me, “When you coming over?” I said, “I'm in a club already. The Prince of Wales.” I was always told, “Stay where you're at. Come with you community.” Some of the youngsters and me tried for a year and a half, but we couldn’t get off the ground. That’s how I got to go to Young Men.

Memorial for Alfred
Memorial for Alfred "Bucket" Carter, YMO parade; 2018; by and courtesy of MJ Mastrogiovanni


When I joined, Mr. Bucket was very strict. He said, “I'm gonna show you everything.” He showed me where to get my first hat, where to get my clothes. We were so tight, everybody used to call him my stepdad. All the trips that the Young Men used to take, he said he was up in age and didn’t want to go, “but I got a good man for you.” And that was me. I was the youngest one going on a trip with a lot of older guys. The first trip I went on was to Philadelphia. They taught me how to put my plane ticket in my Kangol hat so I wouldn’t lose it. We stayed at the Hershey Hotel. Every day, they placed a Hershey bar on our pillows. We second lined down Broad Street, which is one of the biggest in the city, during the Jambalaya Festival. We went five years straight and got to know the spots. People started looking for us. The festival had all our food there, and Irma Thomas, Neville Brothers, and the Dirty Dozen played. Guess who had the biggest crowd? The Preservation Hall Band. Man, the crowd was so far you couldn’t see to the end.

The Furious Five

I started off with the Swingers. The Swingers had Tuba Fats. At the time, the Original Four was the Sixth Division of the YMO, and they had the Dirty Dozen—I’ll never forget that. The Dirty Dozen wasn’t cheap then. I paraded with the Swingers for two years. The first year, we wore powder blue and white. During Jazz Fest, we made the front cover of USA Today. We bought piles of papers—I bought 50, the other guys bought 50, and we started passing them out. The next year was the Young Men Olympic’s 100-year anniversary so all the divisions wore black and white. We had the baby doll on the side and a big old “S” for “Swingers.”

One thing that surprised me was that guys were talking about how you look. I thought, “What have I got myself into? How you dress? We’re not trying to outdress nobody we're just trying to look neat, and everybody be together.” When the Swingers left, that was my concept with starting the Five. Daniel “Dogg” Mason and “Doo Right” McCloud were my right and left hand.

There used to be a division called the Big Jumpers. Big Chief Monk Boudreaux of the Golden Eagles was in that division. The Furious Five took over their spot when they stopped parading. Mr. Steve Solomon said, “Getting a division is going to come with headaches. If anything happens with the division, they gonna come look for you. They not gonna look for anybody else—they gonna look for you.” He told me how it rolls up front—a scared straight thing. But Mr. Bucket said, “You're gonna be a good leader.” 

The Furious Five and my marriage are both 35 years old. Veronica Royal Gipson and I got married the same year we started the Fifth Division. Our parade’s in September, we got married November the 16th. Everybody kept saying I couldn’t do it, but it was well planned with my parents and friends. My wife was Catholic; I was Baptist. I had to get converted. I took a whole day off to go to Notre Dame on Carrollton Avenue to attend different seminars.

My daddy was a well-known person. He worked for Schlitz back then. I told him we needed two kegs on either side of the gym, and he kept saying, “We don’t need all that.” I said. “Daddy, they gonna come.” My wife’s church was St. Mary’s on Josephine and Constance, and the wedding reception was in the gym of the Lyons Center on Louisiana Avenue. She has got a big family from around New Roads. They came down. Mr. Bucket and everybody came and wore blue and grey. We had a mob in here, and Captain Charles DJed.

On our fifth anniversary, the Five wore our colors—blue and grey. Mr. Bucket had the First Division wear blue and grey, too. They didn’t know that he was supporting us because it was a secret. To see him wear this color to represent his division meant a whole lot to me. A whole lot. Every five years since then, we wear blue and grey. You might put a little white with it, a little silver.

All my children are ten years apart. I got a son, Van Shawn Branch, with a high school sweetheart who is 42, and my wife and me have two—our daughter, Walnica Gipson, is 32 and our son, Waldorf Gipson IV is 22. When he was small, my son Stank didn’t want to do it at first. When he got older, he's all pumped up. Most of the Five’s member’s kids turned big, so they parade with us. Like Norman’s son parades with him, my son parades with me. All of them going to college, and they come back and still do it. One of my favorite years we did in black with the multicolor, and everybody’s son wore their colors. My wife's color is red, so I wore the black with the red shirt, and my son wore the same thing. In 2011, our theme was “Around the World with the Five,” and we wore white suits with different colored shirts, fans, and streamers.

Kevin Dunn’s daddy and my daddy used to work at Brown’s Dairy, the milk company. We knew each other from way back. I’m more than sure the first outside group’s stuff he made was the Furious Five. The Five can put you on the map. Kevin Dunn lives up the street, and he’d come to the Lyons Center when he was working on our designs. I’m on the field coaching football, and the other club members would sneak in here and add more on to them. At the time, we had 20-something guys. I told them, “He’s never going to finish if you keep adding. That’s the discipline part.” I told them, “Y’all wanna wear all that kind of stuff, y’all go parade with Kevin Dunn.” Two of them did. We’re not doing all that. “Nobody can out dance us, nobody can have more fun than us.” That’s our motto.

Brand Williams coming out the door with the Furious Five, YMO Jr. parade
Brand Williams coming out the door with the Furious Five, YMO Jr. parade; 2016; by and courtesy of MJ Mastrogiovanni


A lot of people think we have a try-out to get into the Furious Five, and if you can't dance, you can't get in, but it’s not like that. We let you in, but we’re going to make sure when you come in you’re going to have fun. When you come in, you’ve got to battle all of us to make sure you don’t get tired during the parade. Ain’t no walking around here. This ain’t no Audubon Park. It’s the second line; we gonna roll.

For a good 20 years, we did Rebirth. 20 years we were like brothers that couldn’t break up. All the bands came at me, “Rebirth getting old now, you gonna come get us, Gip?” I said, “It don’t go like that.” We stayed with Rebirth until they stopped playing on the streets. Now, we’re the older crowd, isn’t that something? We the older crowd.

Waldorf Gipson IV (center) and Doo Right McCloud (Saints gear) parading with the Furious Five, YMO Jr. parade
Waldorf Gipson IV (center) and Doo Right McCloud (Saints gear) parading with the Furious Five, YMO Jr. parade; 2018; by and courtesy of Charles Muir Lovell



In the early 1990s, the Five left the Young Men for a few years. They say I got hot and hostile too fast. I’m much calmer now. It was building up because our guys were saying, “Man, every time I turn around, the older guys always complaining about something.” I said, “We ain’t coming this year.”

Everybody said, “We ain’t coming?!”  I said, “No, I’m going to out there by Rock Bottom and talk to Mr. Jimmy Parker, who runs the Prince of Wales.” I asked Mr. Jimmy, “Could we come out with your parade?” This is what we going to do: We're going to put so much on the permit, pay for our own band like we do now, and we're going to go out their parade. I also said, “I'm still going to parade with Young Men Olympic.” As long as you’re a member, you can wear black and white and go parade with the Body. Might be one of the most fun years I ever had. About halfway through the parade, 15 or 20 older guys got tired and fell out. It was just me and the band left in the street.

The Five came back a few years later. We’re the last division of the YMO parade, and we got that big monster crowd back there with us. I told everybody that’s my worst day, parade day. It be so big you can't have fun. We have three or four thousand easy. When there’s a home Saints game, the fans come across the bridge from that game to catch the last hour of the parade. That’s my worst nightmare. We can never get into the clubhouse and have some fun. The band be tired, “Oh, man, it taking all day, Gip.” I said, “Man, look, patience.” We get on the sidewalk and try to get into the door.

Over the years, we’ve had other members leave and join other clubs or start their own. Derrick “Kabuky” Shezbie is with the Sidewalk Steppers. Raphael Parker stayed with us as long as he could before he had to go run to Nine Times. I remember the day Joseph “Joe Black” Baker told us he was leaving to start Revolution. I asked him, “Joe, you want to be a division in Young Men? I think at that time we were one division short. If you want to stay, I'll go vouch for you.” He said, “No, thank you, Gip. We want to go do something exotic—something that Young Men don’t want you to do. It’s not going to be in their rules.”

I coach by Clay Park at 2524 Annunciation. The kids used to go home and tell their parents who their coach was, and they’d come see me because we used to play against each other when we were growing up. I got about 20 or 30 players. We’re grooming them. When my guys get older, I send them to DJ Jubilee at Shakespeare Park. Some of them have made the big league, went overseas.

My first big banquet was at the Young Men Olympic clubhouse. Some of the kids’ moms I coach came over there: “We ain’t know you second line, Coach. You ain’t look like a second liner.”

I said, “Thank you.”

They think all second lines supposed to be buck wild or something like that. They said, “Well, I want to get my son in there.” I said, “Okay, we got a young division.” Mr. Jack Humphrey over to the little bitty ones. My daughter’s son stays with me.

(L to R) Eric Gordon Jr., Chance Gipson and Waldorf 'Gip' Gipson, YMO Jr.'s 135 Anniversary parade
(L to R) Eric Gordon Jr., Chance Gipson and Waldorf "Gip" Gipson, YMO Jr.'s 135 Anniversary parade; 2019; by and courtesy of MJ Mastrogiovanni


For our 30th anniversary, I asked Adrien “Coach Teedy” Gaddies from Sudan—he used to work with us at NORD—if he would make me a basket like their downtown baskets it. Everybody's like, “See what Gip got!” Even my members. The parade was so big they never got the chance to see it. At JazzFest everybody came to see the blue and grey layered cake with the “30” at the top.

Furious Five founders Doo Right McCloud (front), Waldorf 'Gip' Gipson (with cake basket) and Daniel Mason (in mask) parading
Furious Five founders Doo Right McCloud (front), Waldorf "Gip" Gipson (with cake basket) and Daniel Mason (in mask) parading; by and courtesy of Charles Muir Lovell


The VP’s Job: A Stack of Blue Books

My first officer job in the Young Men Olympics was with the Investigation Committee. If we read an application and someone expresses concern about a possible member, you may go a little further. You may go around and ask anybody who might know him if he's bad or good. I wound up doing that about five years. I don’t know how long I've been vice president. The president, Norman Dixon, Jr., and I are like peas in a pod.

Mr. Bucket used to come in here all the time with a big stack of blue books with money in them, paying for this guy and that guy. I said, “I never did want to do that.” Wound up doing it. We have two members who live in Houston, and two who drive trucks. I tell them, “When you're in town, bring your money over to Gerard Williams. He’s one of our members who plays with the Hot 8 Brass Band. He’s always home because his mom’s sick.

One of our members, Renee “Rat Paco” Weaver, was from the Twelfth Ward. He cut grass for a living and helped cut the lot on the side of the YMO’s clubhouse. When we gave a supper, Renee came over to pick up four or five for his family. Then he brought the guys who cut grass with him—they’d stay there and eat, and take the other ones home.

One year for our parade, Renee to the clubhouse on a 20-inch bike, clothes in the bag, already late. Our room’s in the back. The Body’s already coming out the front door. Rat’s getting dressed he said, “Man!”

“Paco, what's wrong?”

He said, “Man, I left a shoe and a sock at home.”

I said, “You coming out that door with one shoe!”

He called his house, and said, “Don’t worry about it, they coming.” We had the smoke machines at the door. Somebody opens the door, and the shoe comes sliding in with the smoke.

Paco was so happy: “Oh, I'm gonna make it now! I'm ready, I'm ready!”

A few weeks ago, his daughter came home, and Paco was on the sofa. She kept shaking him, but he was already gone. His funeral was last week.

I had to go talk to the family—that’s part of the VP’s job. I’ve been doing this for years, and now I’m breaking in the two younger guys as part of my little committee. Mr. Bucket and Mr. Norman used to do all that.

Now I got to go. I told Paco’s family, “This is our duty to go down the list of what we do.” A lot of people think that we take care of everything. We assist in the burial.  I explained, “Y’all go where you want, but he can go to the tomb if y’all want.” His daughter said, “No, we got a spot for him.” He was buried with his wife was at Providence. I said, “Okay, at the service, we will have two men on each side of the casket from when you open up till you when the preacher starts preaching. Then they’ll go sit down. The banner’s going to be up at the head of the casket.” One of them said, “Okay, thank you Mr. Gip.”

We also serve as pallbearers and take care of the band. It usually plays for ten blocks from the church. In my mind, we can't go ten blocks for Paco because of covid. I said, “We’re going to play right there in the church, bring the casket to the hearse, play one song, get into the car, and we’re gonna take care of everything at the cemetery.”

I also told them about the clubhouse for the repass. Someone asked, “Well, how big is it?” His daughter said, “I don’t care about how big it is. They offering us their space. My daddy would want it there.”

Interview conducted by Rachel Breunlin of the Neighborhood Story Project.