“That Song is Phenomenal”: Leo Nocentelli Reveals the Origins of the Meters Classic “Cissy Strut”

Leo Nocentelli performs live on stage with American funk group the Meters in London in 1976
(Image credit: Michael Putland/Getty Image)

Happy birthday to Leo Nocentelli!

One of Guitar Player’s 50 Greatest Rhythm Guitarists of All Time, Nocentelli is a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, not to mention one of the most frequently sampled guitarists in history.

As a founding member of the Meters he helped create the blueprint for New Orleans funk during the ’60s and ’70s.

Nocentelli is the guitar legend who penned the unforgettable riffs for classics like “Cissy Strut,” “Fire on the Bayou” and “Just Kissed My Baby.”

And as a sideman his ample credits include the likes of Dr. John, Robert Palmer and Lee Dorsey.

In more recent times, his folk-funk solo album Another Side finally saw the light of day – half a century after it was originally recorded in 1971!

Better late than never.

Suffice to say, whether we're waiting for his next release or just dancing to the Meters, Nocentelli certainly likes to keep us on our toes.

In this interview with Gibson, Nocentelli talks about a host of guitar-related topics from his earliest influences to the pick he's holding. 

And when asked about the Meters classic “Cissy Strut,” he exclaims, “That song is phenomenal.

“I had a melody I had been playing around with for a long time and so I introduced it to George [Porter Jr. bassist,] Art [Neville, keyboardist] and Zig [Modeliste, drummer] and we started opening up our set with this melody, before there was a name to it.”

After giving us a close-up rendition of “Cissy Strut,” Nocentelli reveals that after hearing the song played live, producer Allen Toussaint asked the band if they wanted to record it.

“It sold 200,000 copies in two weeks,” recalls the guitarist.

Browse the Meters catalog here.

Rod Brakes

Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as GuitaristTotal Guitar, Guitar WorldGuitar Player and MusicRadar in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.