Music of the moment - November 2010 - Professor Longhair
If you have never heard of Professor Longhair, it is high time your musical knowledge was updated to include this master of New Orleans Piano, and one of the undisputed for-runners of rock'n'roll. In my book this guy is a total legend, having created a sound distinctly his own and with a groove you wont be able to help but shake your booty too. I first heard 'Fess on the film of 'Dead Poets Society' years ago (1988) singing 'Hey Little Girl', and even though only a couple of lines were heard, it was enough to make the song a total favourite. I was never able to track down a copy (not that I looked particularly hard at the time - I was 14 !!) and it hasn't been until the last couple of years that I have re-kindled that interest and discovered an amazing catalog of terrific music from this talented man, who spent most of his life as a janitor. So simply click on the youtube links and enjoy kicking back to a bit of 'Fess.......just imagine you're in New Orleans with a serve of gumbo and maybe a Hurricane Cocktail........
From Wikipedia: Professor Longhair was born on December 19, 1918 in Bogalusa, Louisiana. He made a living as a street hustler until he started to play piano seriously in his thirties. He taught himself how to play a piano with missing keys so his style became distinct.
He began his career in New Orleans in 1948, earning a gig at the Caldonia Club, where the owner, Mike Tessitore, bestowed Longhair with his stage name (due to Byrd's shaggy coiffure). Longhair first recorded in 1949, creating four songs (including the first version of his signature song, "Mardi Gras in New Orleans," complete with whistled intro) for the Dallas, Texas based Star Talent label. His band was called the Shuffling Hungarians, for reasons lost to time. Union problems curtailed their release, but Longhair's next effort for Mercury Records the same year was a winner. Throughout the 1950s, he recorded for Atlantic Records, Federal Records and other, local, labels. Professor Longhair had only one national commercial hit, "Bald Head" in 1950, credited to Roy Byrd & His Blues Jumpers. He also recorded his pet numbers "Tipitina", "Big Chief" and "Go to the Mardi Gras". However, he lacked the early crossover appeal of Fats Domino for white audiences.
After recuperating from a minor stroke, Professor Longhair came back in 1957 with "No Buts - No Maybes." He revived his "Go to the Mardi Gras" in 1959; this is the version that surfaces every year at Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
In the 1960s Professor Longhair's career faltered. He became a janitor to support himself, and fell into a gambling habit.
He appeared at the 1971 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival to restore his standing, and played at the 1973 Newport Jazz Festival and the Montreux Jazz Festival.His recorded live set, Live on the Queen Mary (1978) came from a party given by Paul and Linda McCartney. His single visit to the UK, in 1978, was commemorated by The London Concert.
By the 1980s his albums, such as Crawfish Fiesta on Alligator and New Orleans Piano for Atlantic, had become readily available across America. He appeared on the PBS series Soundstage (with Dr. John, Earl King, and The Meters) and co-starred in the film documentary Piano Players Rarely Ever Play Together. The latter became a memorial tribute when Longhair died in his sleep from a heart attack in the middle of filming. Footage from his funeral was included.
In 1981 he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. He was awarded a posthumous Grammy for his early recordings released as House Party New Orleans Style, and in 1992 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
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