DR JOHN – SWEET HOME NEW ORLEANS
Malcolm John “Mac” Rebennack (born November 21, 1940), better known by the stage name Dr. John (also Dr. John Creaux, or Dr. John the Night Tripper), 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 gained a cult following in the late 1960s following the release of his album Gris-Gris and his appearance at the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music. 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.
The winner of six Grammy Awards, Rebennack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by singer John Legend on March 14, 2011. In May 2013, Rebennack was the recipient of an honorary doctorate of fine arts from Tulane University. He was jokingly referred to by Tulane’s president, Scott Cowen, as “Dr. Dr. John”.
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 contributed three songs as writer or co-writer (“Washer Woman”, “The Ties That Bind”, and “That’s My Home”) and also played guitar and keyboards on Levon Helm’s 1977 release, Levon Helm and the RCO Allstars. 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 “New Look” in National Lampoon’s European Vacation in 1985 and “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’s longtime confidant and personal manager, Paul Howrilla was responsible for moving Dr. John from Los Angeles, California to New York, New York, and securing the “crossover” work, as well as modifying Dr. John’s image from the 1970s to the 1990s. Paul Howrilla was the brains behind the scenes, as Dr. John will attest. They remain close friends to the present day. 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. Dr. John moved back to Louisiana in 2009.
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. In 1996, he performed the song, “Cruella de Vil”, during the end credits of 101 Dalmatians.
He also wrote and performed the score for the film version of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row released in 1982. His hit song “Right Place Wrong Time” was used extensively in the movie Dazed and Confused, Sahara and the series American Horror Story: Coven.
Dr. John has also been featured in several video and audio blues and New Orleans piano lessons published by Homespun Tapes. 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 & 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. Frontman Jason Pierce, a fan of Dr. John’s music, reciprocated by guesting on Dr. John’s 1998 album Anutha Zone along with drummer Damon Reece and guitarist Thighpaulsandra.
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 Bobby Charles’ “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 of 2006. In 2014 he performed at the NBA All Star Game as did Pharell Williams and Janelle Monáe.
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.
Dr. John performed the theme music to the Fox drama K-Ville.
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”.
Dr. John performs the opening theme music to the PBS children’s program Curious George.
In January 2008, 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 the 2009 Disney film The Princess and the Frog, Dr. John sings the opening tune, “Down in New Orleans”.
He reigned as King of the Krewe du Vieux for the 2010 New Orleans Mardi Gras season.
On May 13, 2010, Dr. John played alongside The Roots on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (episode 246) and was warmly greeted by Jimmy’s first guest, Keith Richards.
In June 2010, Dr John played at Glastonbury festival, Shepton Mallet, UK.
Dr. John played keyboards and had a major role in shaping Gregg Allman’s 2011 album Low Country Blues which was produced by T-Bone Burnett.
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 taken from the 1974 Dr. John album Desitively Bonnaroo.
In 2012, he released Locked Down, a collaboration with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, who produces and plays guitar. The album received very positive reviews for its raw, Afrobeat-influenced sound. The Los Angeles Times said it showed Dr. John “exiting a period of relative creative stagnation by creating something magical, the embodiment of everything he’s done but pushed in a clear new direction.”
In 2014, Dr. John released his Louis Armstrong tribute album “Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch” on Concord Records USA, and Proper Records in Europe. Dr. John described the inspiration of the album as Louis Armstrong coming to him in a dream and telling him “do my music your way.” The album was co-produced and arranged by Sarah Morrow, Dr. John’s music director and trombone player. The Los Angeles Times said: “Tribute albums come and go, but it’s a real rarity that can snap a listener to attention like Dr. John’s new salute to jazz founding father Louis Armstrong. “Ske-Dat-De-Dat” turns many of the songs Armstrong recorded inside out and upside down, fast-forwarding them to 2014 with hip-hop beats, funk grooves and wildly inventive horn arrangements that are the work of John and his co-producer and arranger for the project, trombonist Sarah Morrow.”
In Spring, 2014 “The Musical Mojo of Mac,” a New Orleans concert to honor Dr. John was introduced by Brian Williams and kicked off by Bruce Springsteen singing Right Place, Wrong Time with Dr. John and an all-star band including event producer Don Was on bass.
Dr. John recorded Someone’s Knocking at the Door in the Paul McCartney tribute album The Art of Paul McCartney. “It’s a wonder to behold, as the ageless Dr. John reenvisions “Let ‘Em In” as a laconic come on, an invitation to party or maybe something more, once a few more glasses have been raised,” wrote Something Else. “At the same time, he ends up lacing the song with darker feelings, as well.”
The Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl interviewed Dr. John about music in the New Orleans themed episode of their HBO series Sonic Highways. “Revel in the way his interviews bring out the best in Buddy Guy, Dolly Parton, Joan Jett and Dr. John (including the hypnotic reveal of Dr. John’s given name),” wrote a Decider reviewer.
Dr. John’s 2014 world tour included sold-out shows in Amsterdam, Antewerp, San Francisco and at the London Jazz Festival where he received a double standing ovation for his Louis Armstrong tribute show arranged by Musical Director Sarah Morrow.
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. More recently, Jenkins’ cover was sampled by Beck in his first hit single, “Loser”. “I Walk on Gilded Splinters” was also covered by Darkwave band Anders Manga in 2012.
The Apollo 440 track “Tears of the Gods” from their album Electro Glide in Blue also features the melody of the song’s chorus/refrain prominently as its backing riff (with Dr. John receiving credit as “Dr. John Creaux”).
Gris-Gris (1968) (Atco, SD 33-234)
Remedies (1970) (Atco, SD 33-316)
The Sun, Moon & Herbs (1971) (Atco, SD 33-362)
Dr. John’s Gumbo (1972)
In the Right Place (1973) (Atco, SD 7018)
Desitively Bonnaroo (1974) (Atco, SD 7043)
Hollywood Be Thy Name (1975) (UA-LA552G)
Cut Me While I’m Hot: The Sixties Sessions [Session Work Compilation] (1975)
City Lights (1978)
Tango Palace (1979) (Horizon, SP-740)
Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack Vol. 1 (1981)
Loser for You Baby (1982)
Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack Vol. 2 (The Brightest Smile in Town) (1983)
In a Sentimental Mood (1989)
ZuZu Man [Outtakes Compilation] (1989) (Trip Records TLP-9518)
Goin’ Back to New Orleans (1992)
Anutha Zone (1998)
Duke Elegant (1999) (Parlophone, 7243 5 23220 2 2)
Creole Moon (2001)
All By Hisself, Live At The Lonestar (2003) (Skinji Brim) recorded live Dec. 22 & 23, 1986
N’Awlinz: Dis Dat or d’Udda (2004)
Sippiana Hericane (2005)
Mercernary (2006) (Blue Note 54541)
The City That Care Forgot (2008)
Curious George – A Very Monkey Christmas – Music from the Motion Picture (2009) (Universal Studios)
Locked Down (2012)
Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch (2014)
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