A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from March 01, 2005
Big Easy (New Orleans nickname)
"The Big Easy" (a nickname of New Orleans, Louisiana) is related to "the Big Apple" (a nickname of New York City).

There was a dance hall in Gretna (across the river from New Orleans) named "the Big Easy," circa 1910. Its owner was Italian-born Paul Batson, who also operated an adjoining saloon at Lafayetta and Eighth streets. However, the hall was short-lived and possibly has little to do with New Orleans being called "the Big Easy" or New York being called "the Big Apple." In the early 1990s, I looked through almost all the New Orleans directories (city directory and telephone books) under "big." I couldn't find a single "Big Easy" directory name before the 1970s.

The United States had a "Big Easy" air drop to Berlin, Germany in 1948, but that doesn't appear to be related to New Orleans.

The Angolite is a newspaper that has been published by inmates in the Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola, LA) since 1953. There are several "Big Easy" citations from 1957-1959, beginning with March 16, 1957. "Big Easy" was used by several different writers, but it was never explained who first used the term, or why it was used. (Fred Shapiro, of the New Yale Book of Quotations and the American Dialect Society, and Ben Zimmer of the Wall Street Journal helped located these citations on JSTOR in 2022.) From 1954 to 1957, The Angolite had called New Orleans "Erb City," for reasons unknown. It is possible that "erb" = herb = marijuana, and that usage of "Big Easy" was related to this.

In the 1960s, "the Big Apple" began to re-emerge in jazz circles. In the mid-late 1960s, the "Big Easy" nickname began to circulate among New Orleans' black residents. New Orleans Blues (1964) by "Marty Most" (Dr. Maurice M. Martinez) contained these lines:

"It's called 'Big Easy'
way, way, down...
'Cause baby, if you haven't
den you done missed
half-o-life."


Clinton J. Scott Jr., who was an executive at NOLA Records and was later a radio dj, used "Big Easy" in his "Scotty's Whirl" column in the publication Inside New Orleans in 1965.

Newsweek magazine printed on February 28, 1966:

"Life in 'Big Easy,' as the town's Negro citizens sometimes call it, remained graciously indolent, and about this time each year, the revelry of Mardi Gras provided all the excitement required."

The St. Petersburg (FL) Times printed on January 21, 1969:

"For the 25 out of 30 blacks who tend to migrate every day to this city from rural Louisiana and other Southern towns, New Orleans is 'The Big Easy,' the sort of place (especially if you're from Mississippi), where you can forget about being 'up tight' and just sort of breathe easy."

In 1970, James Conaway published a crime novel titled The Big Easy. In 1986, the novel's title inspired actor Dennis Quaid to rename his New Orleans crime film -- not based on the 1970 novel -- The Big Easy, directed by Jim McBride and also starring Ellen Barkin, Ned Beatty, and John Goodman. This film (released in the United States in 1987) made the "Big Easy" nickname internationally famous.

Larry McKinley (1927-2013) was one of the most popular radio personalities in New Orleans, and was known as the "Voice of Jazzfest." In an article in The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA) on January 25, 1976, McKinley said of the rules on radio station WYLD: "We were told 'Don't say Crescent City' and 'Don't say black' and "Don't say right on'." It is probable that the nickname "Big Easy" was popularized on New Orleans radio, on WYLD and on other stations.

The Times-Picayune/The States-Item columnist Betty Guillaud (1934-2013) further popularized "the Big Easy" in the early 1980s, especially in contrast to "the Big Apple." However, Guillaud first used "Big Easy" in a "Lagniappe" column in The Times-Picayune/The States-Item on December 15, 1980 -- long after many others had used the term.

Despite the facts that "the Big Apple" comes from New Orleans and that it indirectly influenced the "Big Easy" nickname (two "Big Apple" bars existed in New Orleans in the 1950s), New Orleans has done nothing to recognize its own history. The black lives behind both nicknames remain unhonored and unknown.

The New Orleans Fair Grounds racetrack has a website. In 1993, I paid my own money to fly down to New Orleans and personally provide the Fair Grounds with the "Big Apple" history. I've emailed several times. "The Big Apple" is nowhere on the Fair Grounds website.

I've written many detailed letters to the New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper. The "Big Apple" story has never been published there, and it has never made any local television or radio news in New Orleans.

I've emailed several mayors of New Orleans to honor the black lives behind "Big Easy" and "Big Apple." I said that the story of "the Big Apple" must be publicized in New Orleans, where it all started. Maybe the stablehands had sons or daughters who are still alive. An April 2017 email included newly discovered "Big Easy" research. No New Orleans mayor would ever respond.

"Little Easy" -- borrowing from "Big Easy" -- is a nickname for Mobile, Alabama. "Little Easy" is also a nickname for Oxford, Mississippi.

There is a Big Easy "yo mama" joke: “Your mama is the reason this town is called The Big Easy.”

Other New Orleans nicknames include "America's Most Interesting City," "Baghdad-on-the-Bayou," "Big Crescent," "Big Greasy," "Big Sleazy," "Birthplace of Jazz," "Chocolate City," "Chopper City," "City of a Million Dreams," "City of Yes," "City That Care Forgot," "City That Forgot to Care," "Convention City," "Crawfish Town," "Creole City," "Crescent City," "Erb City," "Gateway of the Mississippi Valley," "Gumbo City," "Hollywood South," "Jump City," "Mardi Gras City," "Metropolis of the South," "N'Awlins," "Necropolis of the South," "Nerlins," "No Orleans" (after Hurricane Katrina), "NOLA," "Northernmost Banana Republic," "Northernmost Caribbean City," "Old Swampy," "Paris of America," "Queen City," "Saint City," "Silicon Bayou," "Silicon Swamp" and "Sweet Lady Gumbo."


Google Books
The Autobiography of Pops Foster:
New Orleans Jazz Man

As told to Tom Stoddard
San Francisco, CA: Backbeat Books
2005 (Originally published in 1973)
Pg. 37:
Over in Gretna we used to play the Big Easy Hall and the Drag Nasty Hall.

Google Books
Exploring Early Jazz:
The Origins and Evolution of the New Orleans Style
by Daniel Hardie
San Jose, CA: Writers Club Press
2002
Pg. 82:
The Magnolia played dates at lake side picnics, and at Gretna's Come Clean Hall, Big Easy Hall, and Drag Nasty Hall, places sometimes easier to name than identify.

Newspapers.com
14 August 1911, The Times-Democrat (New Orleans, LA), pg. 5, col. 3:
The negro dance hall known as the "Big Easy," in East Green, in the rear of Gretna, was destroyed by fire last night at 8:30 o'clock. The place was operated by Paul Batson. The blaze started on the outside, in the rear of the dance hall, which adjoins a saloon operated by Batson, which was also consumed. A third building, operated as a residence by negroes, also was destroyed. The fire department responded, but owing to the remote location and lack of water, could not check the flames, which burned out themselves. The loss is estimated at $2500.

7 September 1911, The Times-Democrat, (New Orleans, LA), pg. 4, cols. 5-6:
Paul Batson was granted the privilege of operating a saloon at Lafayette and Eighth streets. A petition protesting against the saloon was read, as well as one in favor of the place, before action was taken.

7 September 1911, The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA), pg. 5, col. 5:
The application of Paul Batson for a renewal of license for a barroom at Eighth and Lafayette was granted. This place burned March 25.

Google Books
Jazzmen
By Frederic Ramsey, Jr. and Charles Edward Smith
New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace and Company
1939
Pg. 16:
Here are the names of the dance halls:

Oddfellowers Hall
Love and Charity Hall
Come Clean
Big Easy
The Big 4
Number 1s Hall
Lincoln Park
Johnson Park

2 November 1944, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), "Deaths," pg. 2, col. 6:
BATSON -- On Wednesday, November 1, 1944, at 3 o'clock a. m., PAUL BATSON of 723 Remain street, Gretna, La., beloved husband of the late Mary Batson, father of Peter, Philip, Anthony, Sam and Lucille Batson, Mrs. T. Hackler, Mrs George Hill, also survived by six grandchildren, aged 66 years; a native of Italy, and a resident of Gretna for the past 40 years.

Google Books
The World from Jackson Square:
A New Orleans reader

Edited by Etolia Simmons Basso
New York, NY: Farrar, Straus
1948
Pg. 321:
Here are the names of the dance halls:

Oddfellowers Hall
Love and Charity Hall
Come Clean
Big Easy
The Big 4
Number 1s Hall
Lincoln Park
Johnson Park

Google Books
Queen New Orleans:
City by the River
by Harnett Thomas Kane
New York: William Morrow
1949
Pg. 285
As the 1900s approached, New Orleans had dozens of fair-sized Negro dance places, in and around Perdido, up along South Rampart, and below Canal as well. Big Easy, Come Clean, Funky Butt -- the list is a long one.

27 December 1948, New York (NY) Herald Tribune, pg. 13, col. 7, "Matter of Fact" by Joseph Alsop:
Big Easy 103
BERLIN. (...) Thirty-five minutes earlier Big Easy 103 had come in from Tempelhof.

http://members.aol.com/airlift48/page2.html
C-47's going East to Berlin were called "Easy", returning C-47's
traveling West, were called "Willie". C-54's had the names 'Big Easy' and "Big Willie".

http://www.angelfire.com/pa4/billvons/bal/navy.htm
Loaded planes flying into Berlin were designated "Big Easy" - the B indicating Rhein-Main-based aircraft. Those based at Weisbaden were designated "Able Easy." In contrast to the four engined R5D's and C54's the twin-engined C-47's carried the name of "Little Easy."

JSTOR
16 March 1957, The Angolite (Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, LA), "The Pines" by Punchy, pg. 2, col. 3:
Frenchman Brasseaux, who puts on all those Cadillac drivers from 'Big Easy' still keeps Number 3 alive each Sunday night with his most famous words: "Got a good one on the wall tonight." Huh? This announcement gives us the low-down on the weekly cinema.

JSTOR
4 May 1957, The Angolite (Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, LA), "Walnut Crackers" by Lucky Davis, pg. 7, col. 3:
If you want to know anything about big easy just ask anyone of the fellows working any place I visit almost every day.

JSTOR
14 September 1957, The Angolite (Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, LA), "Spruce Dorms" by Emmett Meekins, pg. 9, col. 3:
Henry (Bad Feet) Stearling and Lawrence (Baby) Sears, that big Warren (Pick) Evans will soon be on his way to big Easy in November. So, both of you all, play it cool!

JSTOR
21 September 1957, The Angolite (Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, LA), "Spruce Dorms" by Emmet Meekins, pg. 9, col. 3:
This is not the saddest story that has ever been told, but you can take it from me there are lots of pretty-pretties in Big Easy that you boys would like to see. Don't get so worried, they'll be right there when every one of you boys get back on the scene. As you know, the only city they call Big Easy is New Orleans.

JSTOR
19 April 1958, The Angolite (Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, LA), "Cypress Timberland" by Clyde M. Wright, pg. 5, col. 1:
I hear the little Leo was supposed to be on his way back to Big Easy, but it seems there is a little matter of a job, which went with the wind.

JSTOR
10 May 1958, The Angolite (Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, LA), "Cypress Timberland" by Clyde M Wright, pg. 5, col. 1:
Three of our most prominent citizens will bid us farewell this week. Jessie Jones will return to No. Carolina, James (Tee Hee) Walker and George (Barney Google) McDaniels will return to the Big Easy (New Orleans).

JSTOR
7 June 1958, The Angolite (Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, LA), "Camp 'A' Apaches" by Arthur 'Hooks' Essex, pg. 6, col. 1:
Shelly Amos has quit these sets. He went to the hill Thursday morning, and cut out for Easy Friday morning.

JSTOR
14 June 1958, The Angolite (Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, LA), "Camp 'A' Apaches" by Arthur 'Hooks' Essex, pg. 7, col. 1:
And dig the Chinn George 'Killer' Williams parole request was given a most favorable consideration so soon he will be cutting out for the Easy.

JSTOR
23 August 1958, The Angolite (Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, LA), "Ash Dorms" by Bob Murray, pg. 4, col. 3:
Old Adams, of Ash 3 says he's going to get everyone off his back. He's going to go back to "Big Easy" in 59 days.

JSTOR
4 October 1958, The Angolite (Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, LA), "Camp 'A' Apaches" by Arthur 'Hooks' Essex, pg. 6, col. 3:
And 'Big Stabe' says that the Easy is real frantic, so you know that -- now, there is no panic.

JSTOR
3 January 1959, The Angolite (Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, LA), "Ash Dorms" by Murray & Nieubuurt, pg. 10, col. 3:
Old Blind Tom cut out for Big Easy, so Ash 4 is now without a news carrier, who's going to take his place; maybe Bush, huh?

JSTOR
31 January 1959, The Angolite (Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, LA), "Cellblock 'Outlaws'" by Frank Vuljoin, pg. 6, cols. 1-2:
A big hello to my friend 'Snake'. who just drove up from 'Big Easy'.

JSTOR
14 March 1959, The Angolite (Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, LA), "Spruce Dorms" by Theo 'Nubby' Jack, pg. 9, col. 1:
My name is Hall...I came to 'Big Easy' to see the Mardi Gras and have a ball...

JSTOR
25 April 1959, The Angolite (Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, LA), "Listen In!!!" with Jean and Linda, pg. 4, col. 2:
And from W-2, most of the Big Easy chick...
25 April 1959, The Angolite (Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, LA), "Spruce Dorms" by Theo 'Nubby' Jack, pg. 6, col. 3:
At press time Brother Joe 'Raddy' Jenks will be splitting for 'Big Easy' via parole and says lots of luck to all the better boys, especially you Pecker...

JSTOR
13 June 1959, The Angolite (Louisiana State Penitentiary, Angola, LA), "Camp" by Arthur 'Hooks' Essex, pg. 7, col. 3:
Joe Lewis decisioned J. Powell for his second win over this high-rated 'Big Easy' fella; ...

New Orleans Blues
By Marty Most (Dr. Maurice M. Martinez)
Published by author
1964
Pg. 75 (In the section "PAPA BLUES"):
It's called "Big Easy"
way, way, down...
'Cause baby, if you haven't
den you done missed
half-o-life

4 February 1965, Inside New Orleans (New Orleans, LA), "Scotty's Whirl" by C. Scott, pg. 5, col. 3:
Jackson and La Salle is getting to be the jazz corner of "Big Easy" (New Orleans).

10 April 1965, Inside New Orleans (New Orleans, LA), "Scotty's Whirl" by C. Scott, pg. 11, col. 2:
Meanwhile, back in "Big Easy," the No. Claiborne St. jazz scene was in full swing again with members of the Lionel Hampton's band sitting in with the Edward Frank Trio.

27 November 1965, Inside New Orleans (New Orleans, LA), "Scotty's Whirl" by C. Scott, pg. ?:
Dave splits the scene for two weeks, then back to Big Easy, to prepare for the Four Kings Festival of Stars, on December 26, 1965 at I. L. A. Auditorium.

Google Books
Coda
Volume 7, Issues 5-12
1966
Pg. 44:
OLD TIME NEW ORLEANS
We played some terrible halls in New Orleans. One called Funky Butt was a rough place. Then there were two halls at Gretna, La. One was the Big Easy Hall and the other was the Come Clean Hall. Another was the No. 12 Hall. The Come Clean Hall was a little bit cleaner than the other halls. I worked with Ory and went into the Red Light District in 1908.

28 February 1966, Newsweek (New York, NY), "Spotlight on Business: New Orleans: Throes of Change," pg. 76, col. 1:
Life in "Big Easy," as the town's Negro citizens sometimes call it, remained graciously indolent, and about this time each year, the revelry of Mardi Gras provided all the excitement required.

Newspapers.com
28 February 1966, Emporia (KS) Gazette, pg. 4, col. 7 ad:
Changing New Orleans
(...)
Life in "Big Easy," as the town's Negro citizens sometimes call it, remained graciously indolent, and about this time each year, the revelry of Mardi Gras provided all the excitement required.
(...)
-- In Newsweek

Google News Archive
21 January 1969, St. Petersburg (FL) Times, "The Soul of New Orleans," Tuesday Magazine, pg. 19, col. 1:
The Pops definition of Soul City is only one of many definitions for New Orleans. For the 25 out of 30 blacks who tend to migrate every day to this city from rural Louisiana and other Southern towns, New Orleans is "The Big Easy," the sort of place (especially if you're from Mississippi), where you can forget about being "up tight" and just sort of breathe easy.

Google Books
Freedomways
By Freedomways Associates
v. 9 - Summer 1969
Pg. 197 ("Charleston's Legacy to the Poor People's Campaign" by J. H. O'Dell):
"Man, if you can't make it here, you can't make it nowhere. This is Big Easy," one used to hear so often among black folk in New Orleans as the harsh realities of segregation were avoided.

Google Books
VISTA Volunteer
By Volunteers in Service to America
v. 5, no. 11 - 1969
Pg. 9:
It is painted on the glass door of a laundromat in New Orleans, the city which some call "Big Easy." Big Easy— where it's not too hard to get a meal, where people are friendly, where even the winters are warm.

4 November 1969, San Francisco (CA) Examiner, "Pops Foster Is Gone: Greats Play Requiem in Jazz" by George McEvoy, pg. 3, cols. 1-2:
Inside the church, Turk Murphy's band played some of the same tunes Pops had slapped out on his base long years ago in places like the Economy Dance Hall, Funkeybutt's Hall, Henry Metrango's, the Big Easy in Gretna, Louisiana.

OCLC WorldCat record
The big easy.
Author: James Conaway
Publisher: Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1970.
Edition/Format: Book : Fiction : English

Newspapers.com
26 December 1970, The Louisiana Weekly (New Orleans, LA), "dig me!" by Joe Emery, sec. 1, pg 7, col. 3:
RIGHT ON
BACK TRACK -- It was a boss trip I had for the past several weeks, I met many groovy people from Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas. I don't care what you may say or, anyone else, there is no place like big easy (our town). Baby, we got a pie and lots of dessert here. You had better believe it.

Newspapers.com
1 April 1972, Fort Myers (FL) News-Press, "Mad Mardi Gras Marks 'City That Care Forgot'" (AP), pg.10-A, col. 7:
... the constant roar of the kids of Bourbon St., pierced by rebel yells in the city they call "The Big Easy," swilling Boone's Farm, ...

Newspapers.com
2 April 1972, Lima (Ohio) News, pg. D1:
Mardi Gras: Is It Worth It?
"Fat Tuesday In The Big Easy"

9 September 1972, The States-Item (New Orleans, LA), "The Fabulous Bunk Johnson" by Pepe Citron, Lagniappe TV Week sec., pg. 18, col. 1:
"From the Olivier band he jumped right into the ranks of the top Dixie band, King Bolden's, in 1895. The band played such 'hot pots' of the day as New Orleans' Charity Hall, Big Easy, Number 12 Hall and Perseverance Hall."

Google Books
New Orleans
By Sarah Searight
New York, NY: Stein and Day
1973
Pg. 123:
9. The Big Easy

Newspapers.com
22 February 1975, The Louisiana Weekly (New Orleans, LA), "Running Up The Score" by N. R. Davidson, sec. 2, pg. 6, col. 1:
... and you have the lowest per capita incomes in the country, and your beautiful tropic city (The Big Easy) is going the way of Detroit and Newark, or any big northern city and giving in to the Big Hustle.

25 January 1976, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), "Man Who Makes WNNR Gumbo," "TV Focus" sec., pg. 18, col. 2:
In 1970 McKinley (Larry McKinley, a popular radio DJ -- ed.) left the station, by then called WYLD.

"We were told 'Don't say Crescent City' and 'Don't say black' and "Don't say right on'.

"I needed freedom."

4 February 1976, The States-Item (New Orleans, LA), "N.O. business 'easygoing'" by Richard Boyd, pg. A-6, col. 4:
In New Orleans -- a city the black community calls "Big Easy" -- power is a myth and social standing is far more important than business success.
(...) (Col.. 5 -- ed.)
"The blacks call it 'Big Easy' and that appears to be what we all want," he said.
(Spoken by Joseph C. White, vice president and economist of the First National Bank of Commerce. -- ed.)

Unz.com
4 September 1976, The Saturday Review, "The South as the New America: The Supercities: New Orleans" by David Chandler, pg. 20, col. 2:
The jazz musicians called New Orleans "Big Easy."

Newspapers.com
29 November 1979, Los Angeles (CA) Times, "Hundreds of New Orleans City Workers Face Layoffs" by Jeff Prugh, pg. 1-B, col. 6:
By most accounts, it is the most severe fiscal crisis ever confronted by this 261-year-old city, which has never had to lay off municipal workers and for many years was nicknamed "Big Easy" because taxes were low, the tab for utilities was picked up largely by Louisiana's petroleum industry and life was relatively soft here in the warm, lazy heartland of the bayou country.

As one local newspaper, Figaro, commented whimsically in a spoof on storyteller Uncle Remus not long ago, "Dey called hit de Big Easy cuz all de critters had a ginril 'greement dat nobody worked any harder den wuz necissery."

15 December 1980, The Times-Picayune/The States-Item (New Orleans, LA), "Lagniappe: Crescent City Show Is Still Wowing Them In The Capitol City" by Betty Guillaud, sec. 4, pg. 4, col. 5:
She will be dashing into New Orleans next week for an ever so brief respite from the revue, but she won't be slumming in the Big Easy.

9 January 1981, The Times-Picayune/The States-Item (New Orleans, LA), "Lagniappe: The Big Easy gets the royal treatment in paper's travel section" by Betty Guillaud, sec. 4, pg. 4, col. 1:
"The Big Easy," as New Orleans calls itself, regards progress with a skeptical eye.

Hollywood.com (TV)
The Big Easy | 1981
The story, set in the French Quarter of New Orleans, follows the exploits of Jake Rubidoux, a tough private detective, who, on occasion, plays clarinet at The Big Easy, a nightclub run by a friend of his. In the pilot episode, Jake accepts a missing persons case -- to find the daughter of a wealthy Texan -- and becomes involved in a deadly scheme to find the girl for a contract killer.
Director: Jud Taylor
Writers: Lee Hutson
Stars: William Devane, Ja'Net DuBois, Nicholas Pryor

IMDb
The Big Easy
TV Movie 1982 Not Rated 1h
Tough Unconventional police detective Jake Rubidoux in on the trail of a murderer in the city of New Orleans and it takes him to all outreaching areas looking for clues. As the pieces fall together he realizes he may know the killer, personally.
Director Jud Taylor
Writer Lee Hutson
Stars William Devane, Lane Smith, Matt Clark

Wikipedia: The Big Easy (film)
The Big Easy is a 1987 American crime drama directed by Jim McBride and written by Daniel Petrie Jr. The film stars Dennis Quaid, Ellen Barkin, John Goodman, and Ned Beatty. The film was both set and shot on location in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The film was later adapted for a television series for two seasons on the USA Network (1996–1997).

IMDb
The Big Easy
1986 R 1h 42m
A corrupt lieutenant in the homicide division is threatened by the righteous DA while trying to solve a string of mysterious murders.
Director Jim McBride
Writers Daniel Petrie Jr. (screenplay by), Jack Baran (screenplay), Jim McBride (screenplay)
Stars Dennis Quaid, Ellen Barkin, Ned Beatty

28 August 1987, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), "'Big Easy' was born during dawn of jazz" by Daniel Carey, pg. B-3, col.s 5-6:
A dance hall by that name existed in the early 1900s, according to jazz historians, but the location is uncertain.
(...)
Pops Foster, a bassist who began playing with King Oliver in 1908, remembered an anecdote about a club known as the Big Easy in his autobiography.

"One night we were playing the Big Easy Hall and Joe Oliver got mad at some gal and threw his trumpet case at her and knocked a big hole in the wall," wrote Foster, who died in 1969. "She said she was going to get her gang and clean us all out, but she never came back."

Eventually, the nickname was transferred to the city as a whole, referring to the gentle pace of life and somewhat lax morals for which New Orleans is known.

James Conaway used that connotation when he called his crime novel about New Orleans "The Big Easy" in 1970. The movie is not based on that novel.

But Times-Picayune columnist Betty Guillaud brought the phrase into general used in the early 1970s. She used it in her States-Item column to contrast life in New Orleans with the rat race in the Big Apple.
(...)
The movie title was the idea of Dennis Quaid, who stars in the movie about corruption in the New Orleans Police Department.

After the director changed the film's location from Chicago to New Orleans, Quaid suggested "The Big Easy," bringing a local nickname some national attention.

Unz.com
February 1990, The American Spectator, "Spectator's Journal: We Never Called It 'The Big Easy'" by Victor Gold, pg. 35, col. 4:
But don't call it, for God and John Kennedy Toole's sake, The Big Easy. Where that started, I'll never know; but in all my years in the city, I never heard it uttered by a New Orleanian. You ask me, it was probably some communiss thought it up.

13 July 1991, Boston (MA) Herald, "Uptight New Orleans drops 'The Big Easy' nickname," pg. 11, col. 1:
"The Big Easy" was a little too laid-back for the New Orleans tourism board, which has decided to drop the nickname of the city where it's hard not to have fun.

But not everyone on the board agreed.
(...)
The agency (New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. -- ed.) decided to stop using the slogan as its advertising campaign theme after this summer. Community leaders complained "The Big Easy" failed to tell the whole story of New Orleans.

Wikipedia: The Big Easy (TV series)
The Big Easy television series was inspired by the film of the same name from 1987.

The show premiered on the USA Network on August 11, 1996. Tony Crane played New Orleans police detective lieutenant Remy McSwain, Susan Walters played state district attorney Anne Osbourne and Barry Corbin played police chief C.D. LeBlanc. It was developed by Jacqueline Zambrano, based on the characters created by Daniel Petrie Jr., who wrote the screenplay to the film and also was the executive producer of the series. 35 episodes were broadcast over two seasons.

IMDb
The Big Easy
TV Series 1996–1997 TV-MA 1h
A handsome New Orleans detective and a sexy district attorney heat things up in New Orleans--The Big Easy--as the two investigate crimes in a beleaguered police department.
Creator Jacqueline Zambrano
Stars Tony Crane, Barry Corbin, Eric George

Gambit ("Ask Blake" by Blake Pontchartrain, April 9, 2002)
Hey Blake,
My mom wants to know how, when, why, where, and by whom did the phrase "Big Easy" become a synonym for New Orleans.
Son Alan

Dear Alan,
All of Mom's questions will be answered right here!
References to the Big Easy have been around for about 100 years. Around the turn of the century, when the great Buddy Bolden was the king of New Orleans jazz, the legendary musician played his cornet all over town: Rampart and Perdido streets, Uptown, the lakefront and across the river. Some people reported seeing him perform in a club called the Big Easy Hall. A dance hall called the Big Easy definitely existed in the early 1900s; some claim it was in Storyville, but others say Gretna.

In Pop Foster's autobiography, he also makes reference to a club known as the Big Easy. However, because jazz musicians often gave nicknames to people and places, the Big Easy could just as easily have referred to a dance hall, a dance or even someone who did the dance. Over the years, the nickname became associated with New Orleans as more and more people used it to refer to a city with a slow, easy pace and a relaxed attitude about almost everything.

In 1970, James Conaway, a police reporter, wrote a crime novel set in New Orleans called The Big Easy. Later, Dennis Quaid starred in a movie of the same title.

But credit seems to go to Betty Guillaud, formerly of The Times-Picayune, for making the nickname a household word. Betty had a column in the old States-Item, and in it she compared the laid-back style of New Orleans to the hurry-up pace of New York, the Big Apple. She's often given credit for popularizing the phrase "Big Easy" in the early 1970s.

Gambit ("Ask Blake" by Blake Pontchartrain, June 24, 2003)
Hey Blake,
I understand you wrote a column some years ago explaining the origin of the Big Easy tag. Could you please repeat some of it? When did it start, did it follow the Big Apple, did it come from a movie, etc.?
Herman Kohlmeyer

Dear Herman,
You know I'm always happy to write about any of the charming nicknames our great city has been given, whether it's the Crescent City, the City that Care Forgot, or the Big Easy.

Betty Guillaud used to be a columnist for The Times-Picayune and before that she wrote for the old States-Item. In the early 1970s, in one of her columns, she compared the laid-back style of the New Orleans to the hurry-up pace of New York, which already had the nickname the Big Apple. Betty is often given credit for popularizing the phrase "Big Easy" and making it a household word.

Also, in 1970, James Conaway, a police reporter, wrote The Big Easy, a crime novel set in New Orleans. A movie of the same title was released in 1987 starring Denis Quaid.

But if you were around 100 years ago, you would have heard references to the Big Easy even then. A dance hall called the Big Easy definitely existed in the early 1900s. Around the turn of the century, when the great Buddy Bolden was the New Orleans jazz king, he played his cornet all over town: Rampart and Perdido streets, Uptown, the lakefront and across the river. Folks claimed he played in a club called Big Easy Hall; some say it was in Storyville, others Gretna.

Pops Foster, another legendary musician, makes a reference in his autobiography to a club he calls the Big Easy. But you know how jazz musicians regularly gave nicknames to people and places, so the Big Easy could have been a dance hall or a popular dance of the day.

It seems that over the past century, the nickname has become associated with New Orleans as more and more people used it to refer to a city with a slow, easy pace and a relaxed attitude about almost everything. We're just not in a hurry to get anywhere -- even to the Super Bowl.

WWL-TV (New Orleans, LA)
Longtime N.O. society columnist Betty Guillaud dies at 79
Posted on November 17, 2013 at 10:28 AM
Updated Tuesday, Nov 19 at 6:33 PM
Dominic Massa / Eyewitness News
Betty Guillaud, who for 20 years chronicled New Orleans’ society, celebrity, gossip and city life in her columns for The Times-Picayune and States-Item and is also remembered for popularizing “The Big Easy” nickname for the city, has died. She was 79.
(...)
But she is also known for “The Big Easy.” In the 1970s, Guillaud helped bring into vogue the term as a nickname for New Orleans and its carefree attitude.

“It was about the same time they started calling New York ‘The Big Apple,’” Guillaud told New Orleans Magazine writer Carolyn Kolb for a story exploring the use of the term. It had been the title of a jazz hall at the turn of the century and a 1970s crime novel but was not in widespread use. “The Big Easy” later became the title of a 1987 movie shot in the city and is now commonly heard as a description for New Orleans.

18 November 2013, The New Orleans Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), "Society columnist Betty Guillaud, 'Big Easy' creator, dies at 79" by Bruce Eggler, pg. 1B, col. 6:
Although who called New Orleans "The Big Easy" is uncertain, Ms. Guillaud adopted it as a counterpart to New York's "Big Apple" designation, and the name quickly gained wide acceptance.

19 November 2013, The New Orleans Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), pg. 2A, col. 1:
CORRECTION
In Monday's edition of The New Orleans Advocate, a headline said former society columnist Betty Guillaud created the phrase "The Big Easy." Guillaud did not create the phrase but popularized it in her writing. The Advocate regrets the error.

Nose
Friday, December 27, 2013
The Big Easy Deconstructed
Posted by Jim Conaway at 8:23 AM
(...)
So where did Jim Conaway get the phrase ‘the Big Easy’?

“Well, like any good reporter, Conaway just made note of something he heard on the street... a Wallace Stegner fellow in creative writing at Stanford University, he... arrived in town two days before hurricane Betsy in September, 1965... his first day at work began the morning after... Conaway soon became a police reporter.
(...)
“He often rode the bus and walked from Claiborne Avenue to the courthouse, an adventurous route... It was while walking that he overheard two black men use the phrase ‘the big easy,’ perhaps describing the city as a place where any musician should be able to succeed with ease. ‘I was really struck by the phrase... It was only later that it came back to me.’”

Parade magazine
Names of America: Where Did "The Big Easy" Come From?
JANUARY 15, 2014 – 5:00 PM
By CLAUDIA GRYVATZ COPQUIN
(...)
Author James Conaway, who penned the crime novel The Big Easy, has a different story. According to Conaway, the phrase was never in print until his book was published in 1970. And here’s how he came up with the book title from which the nickname was popularized: Before he became a novelist, in the mid-1960s, Conaway was working as a police reporter for the Times-Picayune. One night, he says, while walking on Claiborne Avenue to the criminal courthouse, he overheard two African-American men chatting, and the words “the big easy” stuck out. Conaway isn’t exactly sure what it pertained to; he can only speculate. But, “it was a wonderful phrase. I’d never heard it before,” he says. “It’s an indigenous phrase I overheard as a police reporter and, struck by it, named the novel title two years later.”

YouTube
Down In The Big Easy
Sandy Cash
Published on Feb 25, 2018
New Orleans Style By Sandy Cash
(The song "(Down in) The Big Easy" was released in 1986. -- ed.)

Walter Magazine (Raleigh, NC)
October 2021
Time Capsule in Jazz: Dr. Maurice Martinez
Despite being a longtime North Carolinian, for this beat poet, The Big Easy is alive in his heart, his words, and his photos

by Wiley Cash | photography by Mallory Cash
(...)
But no matter where he has lived, New Orleans has always been alive in his heart. After all, he is known as Marty Most, Jazz Poet, and credited as the first person to put the words “The Big Easy” in print:

Have you ever been to an old time jazz man’s funeral in my hometown?
Put on your imagination, baby, and come on down
To an old time jazz man’s funeral in my hometown.
It’s called the Big Easy, way, way down.


StarNews Online
Professor, filmmaker, poet: UNCW's Maurice Martinez dies at 88
John Staton
Wilmington StarNews
Published 10:45 a.m. ET Sept. 17, 2022
Dr. Maurice M. Martinez, a longtime professor in the University of North Carolina Wilmington's Watson College of Education who was also a force on the Port City's cultural scene, died Monday, Sept. 12. He was 88.

Martinez was an educator by trade and an artist by temperament: a published poet who organized slam sessions and recited his work at community meetings; an award-winning photographer and filmmaker who had multiple documentaries featured in Wilmington's Cucalorus Film Festival and in the N.C. Black Film Festival; and a musician with a deep knowledge of and love for jazz.
(...)
In Cash's story for Walter Magazine, Martinez claimed to be the first person to play electric bass in New Orleans, called himself New Orleans' first beat poet and said he was the first published writer to call New Orleans "The Big Easy" in print.

Twitter
Ben Zimmer
@bgzimmer
For my latest @WSJ column, I look at how "The Big Easy" became a laid-back nickname for New Orleans. The latest research takes it back in print to a Louisiana prison newspaper in the late 1950s. 🧵 1/11
‘The Big Easy’: A Moniker Born in Nightclubs, Prisons and Poems
wsj.com
10:03 PM · Oct 13, 2022·Twitter Web App

Twitter
Ben Zimmer
@bgzimmer
James Conaway's 1970 crime novel "The Big Easy" was long assumed to be the earliest print appearance of the city nickname. (The 1986 movie with Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin borrowed the title of Conaway's novel but isn't related to it.) 2/11
10:05 PM · Oct 13, 2022·Twitter Web App

Twitter
Ben Zimmer
@bgzimmer
Word sleuth @barrypopik found "(the) Big Easy" used by Dr. Maurice M. Martinez, Jr. in 1964, writing under the pen name Marty Most, in his beat poetry collection "New Orleans Blues": "It’s called 'Big Easy' way, way down." 3/11
10:06 PM · Oct 13, 2022·Twitter Web App

Twitter
Ben Zimmer
@bgzimmer
Dr. Martinez passed away last month. He led a remarkable life as a teacher, filmmaker, photographer, jazz musician, and poet. 4/11
starnewsonline.com
Professor, filmmaker, poet: UNCW's Maurice Martinez dies at 88
Dr. Maurice M. Martinez, a professor in UNCW's Watson College of Education who was also a force on the Port City's cultural scene, died Sept. 12 at 88
10:07 PM · Oct 13, 2022·Twitter Web App

Twitter
Ben Zimmer
@bgzimmer
After Dr. Martinez's death, Fred Shapiro (editor of the New Yale Book of Quotations and librarian at @yalelawlibrary) took up the search for "The Big Easy" and made a remarkable discovery in a new JSTOR database, American Prison Newspapers. 5/11 https://jstor.org/site/reveal-digital/american-prison-newspapers/
10:07 PM · Oct 13, 2022·Twitter Web App

Twitter
Ben Zimmer
@bgzimmer
The open-access digital collection American Prison Newspapers includes the full archive of The Angolite, continuously published at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (aka Angola) since the 1950s. 6/11
daily.jstor.org
The Angolite Comes to the Reveal Digital American Prison Newspapers Collection - JSTOR Daily
The award-winning prison newspaper has long covered topics like prison policy, the death penalty, the societal cost of mass incarceration, that are still relevant today.
10:08 PM · Oct 13, 2022·Twitter Web App

Twitter
Ben Zimmer
@bgzimmer
In the archive of The Angolite, Fred Shapiro found inmates using "(the) Big Easy" to refer to New Orleans as early as Mar. 16, 1957: "Frenchman Brasseaux, who puts on all those Cadillac drivers from 'Big Easy'..." 7/11 https://jstor.org/stable/community.33275085?seq=2#metadata_info_tab_contents
10:09 PM · Oct 13, 2022·Twitter Web App

Twitter
Ben Zimmer
@bgzimmer
While the 3/16/57 example is a bit cryptic, an item in The Angolite from 9/21/57 spells it out: "As you know, the only city they call Big Easy is New Orleans." 8/11 https://jstor.org/stable/community.33272341?seq=9#metadata_info_tab_contents
10:11 PM · Oct 13, 2022·Twitter Web App

Twitter
Ben Zimmer
@bgzimmer
And by 5/10/58 we get the familiar form of "the Big Easy" (with "the") in The Angolite: "George (Barney Google) McDaniels will return to the Big Easy (New Orleans)." 9/11
https://jstor.org/stable/community.33274767?seq=5#metadata_info_tab_contents
10:11 PM · Oct 13, 2022·Twitter Web App

Twitter
Ben Zimmer
@bgzimmer
Before "(the) Big Easy" was a city nickname, it was the name of a dance hall in Gretna, across the Mississippi from New Orleans.
@barrypopik traced evidence of the dance hall before it burnt down in 1911. 10/11
newspapers.com
"Big Easy," what would later be a nickname for New Orleans (1911). - Newspapers.com
Clipping found in The Times-Democrat in New Orleans, Louisiana on Aug 14, 1911. "Big Easy," what would later be a nickname for New Orleans (1911).
10:12 PM · Oct 13, 2022·Twitter Web App

Twitter
Ben Zimmer
@bgzimmer
As Dr. Martinez explained, "the term 'Big Easy' came from Black musicians in New Orleans and found widespread use among the 'hip' crowd." And we can thank him for helping to make "The Big Easy" come alive. 11/11
waltermagazine.com
Time Capsule in Jazz: Dr. Maurice Martinez - WALTER Magazine
For this beat poet, now living in Wilmington, The Big Easy is alive in his heart, his words, and his photos
10:12 PM · Oct 13, 2022·Twitter Web App
Posted by Barry Popik
Nicknames of Other PlacesBig Easy, City That Care Forgot (New Orleans nicknames) • Tuesday, March 01, 2005 • Permalink