Big Chief Theodore Emile ‘Bo’ Dollis, leader of the New Orleans’ Wild Magnolias, who brought Mardi Gras Indian music to a worldwide audience, died on Tuesday (January 20) at the age of 71.
“It is with profound sadness that I must inform you of our newest ancestor. Big Chief Theodore ‘Bo’ Dollis passed this morning,” reads a message posted to the Mardi Gras Indian’s Hall of Fame’s Facebook page. “His wife, Big Queen Laurita Dollis, has requested prayers for the family and his soul at this time. Please honor her request and refrain from calls and text messages as she prepares for his public life celebration.”
Dollis was born in New Orleans in 1944 and raised in Central City. He first began singing in church but became fascinated with the Mardi Gras Indians and their costumes. After joining the tribe as a teenage, he became chief of the Wild Magnolias in 1964. Ill health forced him to hand over to to his son, Gerard ‘Bo Jr.,’ several years ago.
The Wild Magnolias performed at the first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1970 and later recorded several albums, including The Wild Magnolias in 1974 and They Call Us Wild in 1975.
The Wild Magnolias visited Australia and appeared at Byron Bay’s Bluesfest in 2002 as well as performing other gigs, including one at Byron’s Beach Hotel. The group also performed in London, Berlin and Nice, France as well as at Carnegie Hall in New York and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C.