Big Chief Alfred Doucette,
born Oct. 27, 1940, has been a lifelong resident of New Orleans and is considered a living legend. He is a man of many talents as his previous careers show. Big Chief Doucette is a New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian who has been inducted into the Mardi Gras Indian Hall of Fame twice—once as Big Chief of the Flaming Arrow Warriors and again as Chief Council of the Flaming Arrow Warriors. He is also a master carpenter; master race car builder and driver; owner of the legendary Nite Cap lounge; thoroughbred horseman trainer and racer; an artist who designs and creates Mardi Gras Indian suits; a Creole chef; and a renowned musician, songwriter and entertainer.
In 1970, Big Chief Doucette, along with his brothers Roland and Sterling, opened the premier New Orleans nightclub of the day. The Nite Cap 1 featured such famous local acts as the The Meters, the Neville Brothers, Cool Enterprise, Stop Incorporated, Flashback and Chocolate Milk, as well as international artists The Manhattans, The Chi-Lites , Bobby Womack, The O’Jays, Betty Wright, Johnny Guitar Watson and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. In 1977, the Nite Cap 1 was replaced by the Nite Cap 2 on a bigger, grander scale. The Nite Cap shut its doors in 1980 and the Doucette brothers ventured on to different pursuits.
In 1980, Big Chief Doucette bought a 25-acre thoroughbred horse farm in the town of Lumberton, Miss. There, he pursued a successful career training and racing horses. He owned 11 horses, training and racing two of them with winning results at the New Orleans Fairgrounds Race Track.
In 1989, Big Cbief Doucette was bestowed the title of Big Chief of the Flaming Arrows tribe, a title he inherited from his oldest brother Merc. Merc had inherited the title from longtime family friend, Big Chief Jabby who started The Flaming Arrows Tribe in New Orleans’ 7th Ward. Big Chief Doucette had already been working with his brother sewing the traditional Mardi Gras Indian suits years since the 1950s and in 1989 he began designing and making his own creations, a skill he acquired from his mother, a commercial seamstress who ran a factory in New Orleans. Big Chief Doucette remembers Jabby creating Indian suits using fish scales, broken pieces of mirror and iridescent stone instead of the sequins and beads that are used today. They dyed feathers with Kool-Aidâ and food coloring. They used Coca-Cola bottle caps for tambourines and shakers.
Every single suit tells a distinct story and is an indescribable work of art. His first suit, “Pegasus,” tells the story of that mythical flying horse. This was followed by “They Came In Peace,” which depicts the burial spirit scene of the mythical New Orleans legend Brother John. In 2000, he created the ever-popular Marie Laveau Suit, which depicts a graveyard scene of the Voodoo Queen who visited Big Chief Alfred Doucette in his dreams on three consecutive nights giving him inspiration for the suit, the words for his song and the ability to sing outside his normal range, “Marie Laveau.” Since that time, Marie Laveau has been his continual guardian spirit in music and life, sending him messages to write more songs including “Louisiana Pray,” “Three In The Morning,” and “Tired of Wine and Whiskey.” In 2001, Big Chief Doucette was inspired to create a suit in commemoration of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The “White Buffalo Suit” depicts the fall of the Twin Towers using the Indian legend of the White Buffalo as a spirit of peace. It has been exhibited in the Buffalo Bill Museum in Golden, Colo. In 2004 he created the “Spirit of the Soul.” This suit tells the story of “Strange Fruit,” a song popularized by Billie Holiday which references the many lynchings of African Americans. This suit has been exhibited at the Historic New Orleans Collection Museum and The Cabildo museum of New Orleans which further solidified Big Chief Doucette’s standing as a living legend. Big Chief Doucette continues to design and create new suits and artwork.
In 1997, Big Chief Doucette created his popular song, “Marie Comin’ Out” written to the traditional tune of “Lil Liza Jane.” It has been casting its spell on all who hear it. Big Chief Doucette has performed this and other songs with such notable acts as Bamboula 2000, James Andrews, Trombone Shorty, Dr. John, Cyril Neville and Juice to name a few. He has been featured at local venues including the New Orleans Contemporary Arts Center, Audubon Zoo, House of Blues, The Maple Leaf Bar, Tipitina’s, Banks Street Bar & Grill, Vaughn’s, The Apple Barrel, DBA, Café Brazil, Café Negril, The Saenger Theatre, The Spotted Cat, The Cajun Pub, Ray’s Boom Boom Room and others. Big Chief Doucette also regularly performs at major festivals including the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, French Quarter Fest and Satchmo Fest to name a few. The R&B dance music, Mardi Gras Indian songs and tremendous artistry of Big Chief Doucette attracts an international audience and promotes his rich New Orleans culture.
Big Chief Doucette has been featured in numerous films, television specials, music videos, magazines and newspapers. He has appeared on the television show New Orleans Live, and articles in The New York Times, USA Today, The Times-Picayune, OffBeat Magazine, and Minnesota (the magazine of the University of Minnesota) as well as many cultural and musical shows. He also regularly gives lectures about his cultural heritage at schools and universities.