Ironing Board Sam & the Underwater Blues Show!

inIroning Board Samon October 30, 2014

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Ironing Board Sam preparing to enter the water tank. Photo by Walter Lenk

It is always interesting when stories are told and there is no photographic evidence to validate the story. This is particularly true when the story is so outrageous that it is borderline unbelievable. This was definitely the case with Ironing Board Sam’s infamous underwater blues show. I always believed that Sam actually performed this show given that there is nothing too crazy for Sam to pull off, but I did postulate over the years as to how this incredible feat was accomplished.

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Sam doing a test run before the show. Photo by Walter Lenk.

Music Maker recently the subject of a PBS NewHour segment that included a prominent Ironing Board Sam feature. While mining through our archived photos of Sam I decided to reach back out to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation to see if they had uncovered any “new” photos of Ironing Board Sam from his past performances at JazzFest. Much to my delight, that had recently received a contribution from one of the technical directors of JazzFest during the late 70s, Walter Lenk, who took many photos while on the job.  I cannot explain how EXCITING it was to finally see these images after listening to Sam and others describe what happened that day.

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Sam in the tank! Photo by Walter Lenk

The most interesting part about finally receiving these photos is that I still don’t fully understand the technical aspects of how this performance was accomplished. After several lengthy discussions with Sam and the photographer, Walter Lenk, the only thing that I am sure of is that this was and incredibly dangerous stunt and everyone involved was fearful that Sam would seriously hurt himself. I guess it makes sense that I don’t exactly understand and this mystery only adds to the larger than life character that is Ironing Board Sam!

-Corn Lewis
unnamed-9The keyboard that Sam played wrapped in plastic. Photo by Walter Lenk

  • Christine

    Thanks so much for this post and these pics! I got to meet Sam at the Homecoming and he is one of the nicest and sweetest guys I’ve ever met. When he told me about this underwater performance story…I was like, “Whaaa…?!?” and kinda was in disbelief myself. So, it’s amazing to see these pics!
    This definitely “only adds to the larger than life character that is Ironing Board Sam!”.
    Love ya, Sam! You are truly a gem and I feel lucky to have met you and get to know you a little bit & see you perform. Even without going underwater, you’re amazing! 🙂
    Christine

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