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Profile: Dr. John

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Profile: Dr. John

Dr. John in full "Night Tripper" dress

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Claims to fame:

  • Instrumental in bringing the indigenous music of New Orleans to a mainstream audience
  • A crucial figure in the development of New Orleans R&B and rock and roll
  • His '70s "Night Tripper" persona fused psychedelic rock and funk with Mardi Gras traditions and traditional Crescent City musics
  • One of the major sessionmen in the fertile Los Angeles scene of the mid-to-late '60s
  • A direct heir of the New Orleans boogie-woogie piano tradition of Professor Longhair and James Booker
  • A legendary figure in modern New Orleans culture

Facts:

Born: Malcolm John "Mac" Rebennack, Jr., November 21, 1940, New Orleans, LA

Styles: R&B, Funk, Rock, Psych-Rock, Blues, Jazz, Boogie-Woogie

Instruments: Vocals, piano, guitar, bass, organ, percussion

Early years:

Born and raised in the Third Ward of New Orleans, Mac Rebennack grew up surrounded by music -- not just recorded music, but the chants and rhythms of the neighborhood's Mardi Gras Indian tribes. By the age of eight, his love of music was such that he persuaded his father, a repair man, to take him along on his trips to fix the PA systems of local clubs. Before long, he was hooked on the sounds of Roy Brown, Dave Bartholomew, and especially the legendary Professor Longhair. Soon he'd learned blues guitar from local musicians; soon after that he began to cut class and hang around the clubs on Canal Street.

Success:

At 15 Rebennack got in on the ground floor of New Orleans' burgeoning rock and roll scene, developing into one of the city's top session, arrangement, and A&R men, working with the local Ric and Ron labels and writing songs for the nationally known Specialty and Ace labels. By 1963, Mac headed for Los Angeles (to escape, among other things, a heroin addiction), where he became one of the first line of session musicians. In 1968, however, haunted by his musical upbringing, he invented the "Night Tripper" persona and enjoyed several hit albums, as well as his signature hit, "Right Place Wrong Time."

Later years:

Now christened "Dr. John," Rebennack enjoyed a low level of celebrity in the Seventies, establishing himself as a musician's musician, but when styles changed, he retreated to New Orleans and re-established himself, in short order, as a boogie-woogie piano traditionalist, an interpreter of postwar pop standards, and a Grammy-winning jazz musician. He revisited and updated his old trademark style several times overt the years, however, and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina led him to recently resurrect the Night Tripper persona for a series of acclaimed albums. He still tours and records today.

Dr. John awards and honors:

  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2011)
  • Louisiana Music Hall of Fame (2008)
  • GRAMMY Awards (1989, 1992, 2000, 2008)

Other Dr. John facts and trivia:

  • Got his stage name from Dr. John Montaine, a voodoo icon of 19th-century New Orleans
  • Switched from guitar to piano after a gunfight took part of his ring finger
  • In the '70s, would often tour in full Mardi Gras Indian regalia, with "voodoo" ceremonies performed on stage
  • Cut his classic 1968 debut album Gris-Gris with leftover time from a Sonny and Cher studio session
  • Collaborated with legendary rock and roll songwriter Doc Pomus in the late '70s
  • Performed on Professor Longhair's last recording before his death in 1980

Performed with:

Canned Heat, B.B. King, Allen Toussaint, The Rolling Stones, The Sir Douglas Quintet, Maria Muldaur, Bill Wyman, Ringo Starr, Joe Cocker, Frankie Ford, Beth Orton, The Edgar Winter Band, Jack Bruce, Rickie Lee Jones, Hoyt Axton, Spiritualized, Bob Seger, Emmylou Harris, Leon Redbone, Hank Crawford, Taj Mahal, Carly Simon, David Bromberg, Harry Nilsson, Van Morrison, The Gregg Allman Band, Garland Jeffreys, Tab Benoit, Edie Brickell, Johnny Winter, Marianne Faithfull, The Neville Brothers

Dr. John on video:

"The Last Waltz" (1978), "Pray TV" (1980), "SCTV" (1981), "Survivors: The Blues Today," (1984), "The 29th Annual Grammy Awards" (1987), "Blazing Away" (1990), "The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration Of The Performing Arts" (1995), "Touched By An Angel" (1996), "Candy Mountain" (1988), "Blues Brothers 2000" (1998), "The Blues" (2003), "Lightning In A Bottle" (2004), "Love Monkey" (2006), "New Orleans Music In Exile" (2006), "Been Down That Muddy Road: The Legend Of Joe Barry" (2007), "Johnny Mercer: The Dream's On Me" (2009), "Treme" (2010)

Dr. John hit singles and albums:

Top 10 Pop singles:
"Right Place Wrong Time" (1973)

#1 Jazz albums:
In A Sentimental Mood (1989)
Goin' Back To New Orleans (1992)

Top 10 Jazz albums:
Afterglow (1995)
Duke Elegant (2000)
N'Awlinz: Dis Dat Or d'Udda (2004)
Mercernary (2006)

Other important songs by Dr. John: "Such A Night," "I Walk On Guilded Splinters," "Iko Iko," "Mama Roux," "Junko Partner," "Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya," "Wash, Mama, Wash," "Angola Anthem," "Loop Garoo," "Tipitina," "Jump Sturdy," "Swanee River Boogie," "Black John the Conqueror," "Big Chief," "Traveling Mood," "Where Ya At Mule," "Zu Zu Mamou," "(Everybody Wanna Get Rich) Rite Away," "Desitively Bonaroo," "Shoo Fly Marches On," "Qualified," "I Wanna Rock," "What Comes Around (Goes Around)," "The Patriotic Flag-Waiver," "Babylon," "Mos' Scocious," "Honeydripper," "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive," "Goin' Back To New Orleans," "Dance The Night Away With You," "Snake Eyes," "City Lights," "Dorothy," "Mac's Boogie Woogie," "Ti-Na-Na," "Makin' Whoopie!," "In A Sentimental Mood," "Litenie Des Saints," "Didn't He Ramble," "Witchy Red," "Spaceship Relationship," "Voices In My Head," "I Like Ki Yoka," "Sweet Home New Orleans," "I'm Gonna Go Fishin'," "It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)," "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me," "You Swore, "Food For Thot," "Creole Moon," "Quatre Parishe," "When The Saints Go Marching In," "Marie Laveau," "Shango Tango," "St. James Infirmary," "Wade: Hurricane Suite," "Blues In The Night," "I'm An Old Cow Hand," "Moon River," "Keep On Goin'," "Dream Warrior," "We Gettin' There," "City That Care Forgot," "Big Gap," "Manoovas," "Tribal," "Only In America"

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