- Dr. John
Dr. John at the 2007 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Background information Birth name Malcolm John Rebennack, Jr. Also known as Dr. John Creaux
Born November 21, 1940 Origin New Orleans, Louisiana, United States Genres Blues, rock, New Orleans rhythm and blues Occupations Vocalist, musician Instruments Vocals, piano, keyboards, guitar Years active 1950s–present Labels Atco, Blue Note Associated acts John Mayall's Bluesbreakers Website http://www.nitetripper.com/
Malcolm John "Mac" Rebennack, Jr. (born November 21, 1940), better known by the stage name Dr. John (also Dr. John Creaux), is an American singer-songwriter, pianist and guitarist, whose music combines blues, pop, jazz as well as Zydeco, boogie woogie and rock and roll.
Active as a session musician since the late 1950s, he came to wider prominence in the early 1970s with a wildly theatrical stage show inspired by medicine shows, Mardi Gras costumes and voodoo ceremonies. Rebennack has recorded over 20 albums and in 1973 scored a top-20 hit with the jaunty funk-flavored "Right Place Wrong Time", still perhaps his best-known song.
- 1 Early life and career
- 2 1968-1971: Dr. John, the Night Tripper
- 3 1972-1974: Gumbo, In the Right Place, and Desitively Bonnaroo
- 4 Later work
- 5 Cover versions
- 6 Discography
- 7 Recognition
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
Early life and career
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, his professional musical career began there in the 1950s. He originally concentrated on guitar and he gigged with local bands including Mac Rebennack and the Skyliners, (Paul Staele/Dennis "Bootsie" Cuquet, drums; Earl Stanley, bass; Charlie Miller, trumpet; Charlie Maduell, sax; Roland "Stone" LeBlanc, vocals), Frankie Ford and the Thunderbirds, and Jerry Byrne and the Loafers. He had a regional hit with a Bo Diddley-influenced instrumental called "Storm Warning" on Rex Records in 1959. During these days he was an A&R man producing, with Charlie Miller, monophonic singles on 45s for Johnny Vincent and Joe Corona for such local labels as ACE, RON, RIC and others. For these sessions he oversaw A&R and the rhythm section while Miller wrote the horn arrangements and headed up the horns. It was a productive team until Miller decided to move to New York and to study music formally.
Rebennack's career as a guitarist came to an end when his left ring finger was injured by a gunshot while he was defending singer/keyboardist Ronnie Barron, his bandmate, Jesuit High School classmate, and longtime friend. After the injury, Rebennack concentrated on bass guitar before making piano his main instrument; pianist Professor Longhair was an important influence on Rebennack's piano stylings.
He moved to Los Angeles in 1963 where he became a "first call" session musician on the booming Los Angeles studio scene in the 1960s and 1970s, providing backing for Sonny & Cher (and some of the incidental music for Cher's first film, Chastity), and for Canned Heat on their albums Living the Blues (1968]]) and Future Blues (1970), and many other acts.
1968-1971: Dr. John, the Night Tripper
Beginning in the late 1960s, Rebennack gained fame as a solo artist after adopting the persona of "Dr. John, The Night Tripper". Dr. John's act combined New Orleans-style rhythm and blues with psychedelic rock and elaborate stage shows that bordered on voodoo religious ceremonies, including elaborate costumes and headdress (reflecting and presumably inspired by Screamin' Jay Hawkins's stage act). The name "Dr. John" came from a legendary Louisiana voodoo practitioner of the early 19th century. On the earliest Dr. John records, the artist billing was "Dr. John, The Night Tripper", while the songwriting credits billed him as "Dr. John Creaux". Within a few years the "Night Tripper" subtitle was dropped, and Rebennack resumed using his real name for writing and producing/arranging credits.
Gris-Gris, his 1968 debut album combining voodoo rhythms and chants with the New Orleans music tradition, was ranked 143rd on Rolling Stone's "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list. Three more albums, 1969's Babylon, 1970's Remedies, and 1971's The Sun, Moon, And Herbs were released in the same vein of Gris-Gris, but none of them have enjoyed the popularity of his first album.
During early-to-mid-1969, Dr. John toured extensively, backed by supporting musicians Richard "Didymus" Washington (congas), Richard Crooks (drums), David Leonard Johnson (bass), Gary Carino (guitar), and singers Eleanor Barooshian, Jeanette Jacobs from The Cake, and Sherry Graddie. A second lineup formed later in the year for an extensive tour of the East Coast with Crooks and Johnson joined by Doug Hastings (guitar) and Don MacAllister (mandolin). Also in 1969, Dr. John contributed to the Music from Free Creek "supersession" project, playing on three tracks with Eric Clapton. Washington and Crooks also contributed to the project.
By the time The Sun, Moon, and Herbs was released, he had gained a notable cult following, including artists such as Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger, who both took part in the sessions for that album. This album would serve as a transition from his Night Tripper voodoo, psychedelic persona to one more closely associated with traditional New Orleans R&B and funk. His next album, Dr. John's Gumbo, proved to be a landmark recording which is one of his most popular to this day; with drummer Fred Staehle serving as the band's backbone.
1972-1974: Gumbo, In the Right Place, and Desitively Bonnaroo
Along with Gris-Gris, Dr. John is perhaps best known for his recordings during 1972-1974. 1972's Dr. John's Gumbo, an album covering several New Orleans R&B standards with only one original, is considered a cornerstone in New Orleans music. In his 1994 autobiography, Under a Hoodoo Moon, Dr. John writes, "In 1972, I recorded Gumbo, an album that was both a tribute to and my interpretation of the music I had grown up with in New Orleans in the 1940s and 1950s. I tried to keep a lot of the little changes that were characteristic of New Orleans, while working my own funknology on piano and guitar." The lead single from the album, "Iko Iko", broke into the Billboard top 40 singles chart. In 2003, Dr. John's Gumbo was ranked number 402 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It also earned a place on Offbeat magazine's 1999 listing of the Top 100 Louisiana CDs.
With Gumbo, Dr. John expanded his career beyond the psychedelic voodoo music and theatrics that had driven his career since he took on the Dr. John persona, although it has always remained an integral part of his music and identity. It wasn't until 1998's Anutha Zone that he would again concentrate on this aspect of his music wholly for a full album. "After we cut the new record", he wrote, "I decided I'd had enough of the mighty-coo-de-fiyo hoodoo show, so I dumped the Gris-Gris routine we had been touring with since 1967 and worked up a new act—a Mardi Gras revue featuring the New Orleans standards we had covered in Gumbo."
In early 1973 Thomas Jefferson Kaye produced an album featuring a collaboration with Dr. John, Mike Bloomfield and John Paul Hammond. This album, Triumvirate, was recorded in Columbia Studios, San Francisco, and Village Recorders, Los Angeles.
In 1973, with Allen Toussaint producing and The Meters backing, Dr. John released the seminal New Orleans funk album, In the Right Place. In the same way that Gris-Gris introduced the world to the voodoo-influenced side of his music, and in the manner that Dr. John's Gumbo began his career-long reputation as an esteemed interpreter of New Orleans standards, In the Right Place established Dr. John as one of the main ambassadors of New Orleans funk. In describing the album, Dr. John states, "The album had more of a straight-ahead dance feel than ones I had done in the past, although it was still anchored solid in R&B." It rose to #24 on the Billboard album charts, while the single "Right Place Wrong Time" landed at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. A second single, "Such a Night", peaked at #42. Still in heavy rotation on most classic rock stations, "Right Place Wrong Time" remains his single most recognized song. Artists such as Bob Dylan, Bette Midler, and Doug Sahm contributed single lines to the lyrics, which lists several instances of ironic bad luck and failure.
Dr. John attempted to capitalize on In the Right Place's successful formula, again collaborating with Allen Toussaint and The Meters for his next album, Desitively Bonnaroo, released in 1974. Although similar in feel to In the Right Place, it failed to catch hold in the mainstream like its predecessor. It would be his last pure funk album until 1994 with Television, although like his voodoo and traditional New Orleans R&B influences, funk has continued to heavily influence most of his work to the present day, especially in his concerts. While Dr. John stated in an interview during 1990s that he'd like to work with Toussaint again for a full album, this has yet to come to fruition.
In the mid-1970s Dr. John began an almost twenty-year-long collaboration with the R&R Hall of Fame/Songwriters Hall of Fame writer Doc Pomus to create songs for Dr. John's releases City Lights and Tango Palace and for B.B. King's Stuart Levine-produced There Must Be a Better World Somewhere, which won a Grammy for Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording in 1982. Dr. John also recorded "I'm On a Roll", the last song written with Pomus prior to Pomus' death in 1991, for the now out-of-print Rhino/Forward Records 1995 tribute to Pomus titled Til the Night Is Gone: A Tribute to Doc Pomus that also included covers of Pomus-penned songs by Bob Dylan, John Hiatt, Shawn Colvin, Brian Wilson, the Band, Los Lobos, Dion, Rosanne Cash, Solomon Burke and Lou Reed. According to Doc Pomus' daughter, Dr. John and her father were very close friends as well as writing partners; Dr. John delivered one of a number of eulogies and performed with singer Jimmy Scott at Pomus' funeral on March 17, 1991, in New York City.
On Thanksgiving Day 1976 he performed at the farewell concert for the Band, which was filmed and released as The Last Waltz. In 1979, he collaborated with the legendary Professor Longhair on Fess's (another nickname for Henry Byrd) last recording Crawfish Fiesta as a guitarist and co-producer. The album was awarded the first W.C. Handy Blues Album of the Year in 1980, and was released shortly after Longhair's death in January, 1980.
By the mid-1970s, Rebennack began focusing on a blend of music that touched on blues, New Orleans R&B, Tin Pan Alley standards and more.
In 1975 Dr. John's manager, Richard Flanzer, hired legendary producer Bob Ezrin. Hollywood Be Thy Name was recorded live at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles, California. The studio was transformed into a New Orleans nightclub for the sessions.
In 1981 and 1983 Dr. John recorded two solo piano albums for the Baltimore-based Clean Cuts label. In these two recordings Dr. John plays many of his own compositions in boogie-woogie.
He has also been a prominent session musician throughout his career, playing piano on the Rolling Stones' 1972 song "Let It Loose", as well as backing Carly Simon and James Taylor in their duet of "Mockingbird" in 1974 and Neil Diamond on 1976's Beautiful Noise. He also contributed the song "More and More" to Simon's Playing Possum album. He played on three songs on Maria Muldaur's 1973 solo debut album, including his composition "Three Dollar Bill". He sang on four songs and played piano on two songs on Muldaur's 1992 Louisiana Love Call. He was co-producer on Van Morrison's 1977 album A Period of Transition and also played keyboards and guitar. He performed on the March 19, 1977 episode of NBC's Saturday Night Live. He played keyboards on the highly successful 1979 solo debut album by Rickie Lee Jones and has toured with Willy DeVille and contributed to his Return to Magenta (1978), Victory Mixture (1990), Backstreets of Desire (1992), and Big Easy Fantasy (1995) albums. His music has been featured in many films including "Such a Night" in Colors in 1988. In 1992 Dr. John released the album Goin' Back to New Orleans which included many classic songs from New Orleans and many great New Orleans based musicians like Aaron Neville, the Neville brothers, Al Hirt and Pete Fountain backed up Dr. John on this album. He performed as the first American artist at the Franco Follies festival in 1992.
Dr. John has also done vocals for Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits' "Luv dat chicken..." jingle, as well as the theme song ("My Opinionation") for the early-1990s television sitcom Blossom. A version of "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans" with Harry Connick, Jr. was released on Connick's album 20 and VHS Singin' & Swingin' in 1990.
His movie credits include Martin Scorsese's documentary The Last Waltz (in which he joins the Band for a performance of his song "Such a Night"), the 1978 Beatles-inspired musical "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", and Blues Brothers 2000 (in which he joins the fictional band the Louisiana Gator Boys to perform the songs "How Blue Can You Get" and "New Orleans"). His version of the Donovan song "Season of the Witch" was also featured in this movie and on the soundtrack.
He also wrote and performed the score for the film version of John Steinbeck's "Cannery Row" released in 1982. In 1993, his hit song "Right Place Wrong Time" was used extensively in the movie Dazed and Confused.
Dr. John has also been featured in several video and audio blues and New Orleans piano lessons published by Homespun Tapes. In addition to the instructional value, there is historical context about many other blues artists. Other documentary film scores include the New Orleans dialect film Yeah You Rite! (1985) and American Tongues in 1987.
Between July and September 1989 Dr. John toured in the first Ringo Starr and His All-Starr band alongside Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Nils Lofgren, Jim Keltner, Joe Walsh, Billy Preston and Clarence Clemons. The tour produced the 1990 live album Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band.
In 1997, he appeared on the charity single version of Lou Reed's "Perfect Day". In the same year, he played piano on the Spiritualized song "Cop Shoot Cop...", from their critically acclaimed album Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space.
He recorded the live album Trippin' Live with drummer Herman Ernest, David Barard, bass, Tommy Moran, guitar, trumpeter Charlie Miller, tenor Red Tyler, and baritone sax Ronnie Cuber.
In September 2005 he performed Fats Domino's "Walkin' to New Orleans", to close the Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast telethon. This was for the relief of Hurricane Katrina victims; following the devastation of his hometown of New Orleans.
In November 2005, he released a four-song EP, Sippiana Hericane, to benefit New Orleans Musicians Clinic, Salvation Army, and the Jazz Foundation of America. On February 5, 2006, he joined fellow New Orleans native Aaron Neville, Detroit resident Aretha Franklin and a 150-member choir for the national anthem at Super Bowl XL as part of a pre-game tribute to New Orleans. On February 8, 2006, he joined Allen Toussaint, Bonnie Raitt, The Edge, and Irma Thomas to perform "We Can Can" as the closing performance at the Grammy Awards.
On May 12, 2006, Dr. John recorded a live session at Abbey Road Studios for Live from Abbey Road. His performance was aired alongside those of LeAnn Rimes and Massive Attack on the Sundance Channel in the USA and Channel 4 in the UK.
On July 30, 2006, Dr. John performed a solo piano benefit for New Orleans composer and arranger Wardell Quezergue (King Floyd's "Groove Me") at a New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund benefit at the Black Orchid Theatre in Chicago. Special guest Mike Mills of R.E.M. was in attendance, along with an all-star funk band.
In 2007, Dr. John accepted an invitation to contribute to Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino. He contributed his version of Domino's "Don't Leave Me This Way".
In January 2008, Mac Rebennack, Dr. John, was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. Later, in February, he performed at All-Star Saturday Night, part of the NBA All-Star Weekend hosted by New Orleans.
In 2011 he collaborated with Hugh Laurie on the song "After You've Gone" on his album Let Them Talk.
In 2011 Dr. John, Allen Toussaint and The Meters performed Desitively Bonnaroo at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee as part of the festival's tenth year celebration. The name of the festival was inspired by the album.
Dr. John's song "I Walk On Gilded Splinters" was covered in 1969 by Marsha Hunt and produced by Tony Visconti; also in June 1969 by Cher on her 3614 Jackson Highway album, and was released as a single; and in July 1970 by Johnny Jenkins, whose supporting musicians included slide guitarist Duane Allman and drummers Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny Johanson; Allman also performed on Ton Ton Macoute, the album that contained it. Allman Brothers bass guitarist Berry Oakley also appeared on other tracks on the album). "I Walk on Gilded Splinters" was also covered in the 1970s by Humble Pie on their album Performance Rockin' the Fillmore, and is track 3 on Paul Weller's 1995 album Stanley Road. Widespread Panic and The Allman Brothers Band also perform this song regularly.
- Gris-Gris (1968) (Atco, SD 33-234)
- Babylon (1969)
- Remedies (1970) (Atco, SD 33-316)
- The Sun, Moon & Herbs (1971) (Atco, SD 33-362)
- Gumbo (1972)
- In the Right Place (1973) (Atco, SD 7018)
- Desitively Bonnaroo (1974) (Atco, SD 7043)
- Hollywood Be Thy Name (1975) (UA-LA552G)
- City Lights (1978)
- Tango Palace (1979) (Horizon, SP-740)
- Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack Vol. 1 (1981)
- Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack Vol. 2 (The Brightest Smile in Town) (1983)
- In a Sentimental Mood (1989)
- ZuZu Man (1989) (Trip Records TLP-9518)
- Goin' Back to New Orleans (1992)
- Television (1994)
- Afterglow (1995)
- Trippin Live
- Anutha Zone (1998)
- Duke Elegant (1999) (Parlophone, 7243 5 23220 2 2)
- Creole Moon (2001)
- N'Awlinz: Dis Dat or d'Udda (2004)
- Sippiana Hericane (2005)
- Mercernary (2006) (Blue Note 54541)
- The City That Care Forgot (2008)
- Tribal (2010)
With Bluesiana Triangle
- Bluesiana Triangle (Windham Hill, 1990)
- Bluesiana Triangle II (Windham Hill, 1991)
- Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band, Ringo Starr (EMI, 1990), Rykodisc RALP-10190 (CD: Rykodisc RCD-10190)
- Boogie to Heaven Gayle Wynters, featuring Dr. John and Roger Kellaway (VWC Records, 1995)
- Perfect Day BBC corporate film and charity release in 1997 - featuring, amongst others, Dr John Perfect Day (Lou Reed song)
- Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino (Vanguard, 2007)
- Let Them Talk (Warner Bros. Records, 2011)
Dr. John in popular culture
- The Dr. John song "Zu Zu Mamou" was featured in the 1987 horror/mystery film Angel Heart.
- 1989 Best Jazz Vocal Performance, Duo Or Group - Makin' Whoopee
- 1992 Best Traditional Blues Album - Goin' Back To New Orleans
- 1996 Best Rock Instrumental Performance - SRV Shuffle
- 2000 Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals - Is You Is, Or Is You Ain't (My Baby)
- 2008 Best Contemporary Blues Album - City that Care Forgot
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
- 2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee 
- ^ Allmusic
- ^ http://www.nomrf.org/ New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund
- ^ NY Times article on Gregg Allmann that appeared 16 January 2011
- ^ Dr. John plays on seven tracks and contributes five original songs, in addition to singing two duets with Wynters.
- ^ Performing "Don't Leave Me This Way".
- ^ Performing "After You've Gone".
- ^ http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hVcjXV1DWginmpGBXIOV7Ic6IMuw?docId=9cc00899c46346ef9af87c0b8ba64bf3
- Under a Hoodoo Moon: the Life of Dr. John the Night Tripper by Dr. John (Mac Rebennack) and Jack Rummel, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994. ISBN 0-312-10567-3
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