Dr. John

Many remember him as Dr. John the Night Tripper, the mysterious, freaky, Haitian voodoo root doctor persona he donned in the late 1960ís for his first solo album "Gris-Gris." A prodigious songwriter, masterful piano player, two-time Grammy Award winner and celebrated ambassador of New Orleans music, Malcolm John "Mac" Rebennack Jr. (a.k.a. Dr. John) has secured a place for himself in music history. Born in 1941, he grew up surrounded by music in New Orleansí Third Ward. His entire family all played instruments and nurtured young Malcolmís interest in music. His father owned an appliance store and as Mac recalls of his formative years, "My father used to fix P.A. systems in a lot of the black clubs, and Iíd tag along when he did. So I saw early on what was happening." As a teenager, Mac hung around some of the local recording studios where he met and befriended New Orleans piano legends like Professor Longhair, Huey "Piano" Smith, James Booker and Allen Toussaint.

Mac formed his fist band, The Dominos, in the late 1950ís and by 1956 he was playing in record sessions backing and learning from many of the New Orleans legends such as Professor Longhair, Dave Bartholomew, Paul Gayten, Frankie Ford, James Booker and Earl King. During the mid 1960ís Rebennack moved to Los Angeles, where he worked on sessions with Sonny & Cher, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, The O-Jays and numerous others. He began his solo recording career in 1968 as Dr. John and received his largest commercial success in 1973 with the release of "In The Right Place" produced by Allen Toussaint and featuring two hit singles, "Right Place, Wrong Time" and "Such A Night."

Dr. Johnís rasping, haunted voice is easily recognized as he plays a music that draws upon the rich musical heritage of New Orleans --a music he calls "the fonk." Music that combines R&B, jazz, gut-bucket blues, gospel, spirituals, Latin, Dixieland and pop. After more than four decades of playing New Orleans music and living in the fast lane, Mac Rebennack remains a survivor. His stage show serves up a diverse musical gumbo of New Orleans music including street marches, blues, R&B, Dixieland, southern funk and rock Ďní roll, with some of the best boogie-woogie piano playing found anywhere. Dr. Johnís newest release "Television," features more of the same exuberant piano playing, infectious good-time grooves and gravely wit that has made Dr. John a true New Orleans icon.

Mailbox E-mail Ray Stiles at: mnblues@aol.com

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Copyright 1997 by Ray M. Stiles

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