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Dr. John

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  • Dr. John

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Albums

Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

Although he didn't become widely known until the 1970s, Dr. John had been active in the music industry since the late '50s, when the teenager was still known as Mac Rebennack. A formidable boogie and blues pianist with a lovable growl of a voice, his most enduring achievements fused with New Orleans R&B, rock, and Mardi Gras craziness to come up with his own brand of "voodoo" music. He's also quite accomplished and enjoyable when sticking to purely traditional forms of blues and R&B. On record, he veers between the two approaches, making for an inconsistent and frequently frustrating legacy that often makes the listener feel as if "the Night Tripper" (as he's nicknamed himself) has been underachieving.

In the late '50s, Rebennack gained prominence in the New Orleans R&B scene as a session keyboardist and guitarist, contributing to records by Professor Longhair, Frankie Ford, and Joe Tex. He also recorded some overlooked singles of his own, and by the '60s had expanded into production and arranging. After a gun accident damaged his hand in the early '60s, he gave up the guitar to concentrate exclusively on keyboards. Skirting trouble with the law and drugs, he left the increasingly unwelcome environs of New Orleans in the mid-'60s for Los Angeles, where he found session work with the help of fellow New Orleans expatriate Harold Battiste. Rebennack renamed himself Dr. John, The Night Tripper when he recorded his first album, Gris-Gris. According to legend, this was hurriedly cut with leftover studio time from a Sonny & Cher session, but it never sounded hastily conceived. In fact, its mix of New Orleans R&B with voodoo sounds and a tinge of psychedelia was downright enthralling, and may have resulted in his greatest album.

He began building an underground following with both his music and his eccentric stage presence, which found him conducting ceremonial-type events in full Mardi Gras costume. Dr. John was nothing if not eclectic, and his next few albums were granted mixed critical receptions because of their unevenness and occasional excess. They certainly had their share of admirable moments, though, and Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger helped out on The Sun, Moon & Herbs in 1971. The following year's Gumbo, produced by Jerry Wexler, proved Dr. John was a master of traditional New Orleans R&B styles, in the mold of one of his heroes, Professor Longhair. In 1973, he got his sole big hit, "In the Right Place," which was produced by Allen Toussaint, with backing by the Meters. In the same year, he also recorded with Mike Bloomfield and John Hammond, Jr. for the Triumvirate album.

The rest of the decade, unfortunately, was pretty much a waste musically. Dr. John could always count on returning to traditional styles for a good critical reception, and he did so constantly in the '80s. There were solo piano albums, sessions with Chris Barber and Jimmy Witherspoon, and In a Sentimental Mood (1989), a record of pop standards. These didn't sell all that well, though. A more important problem was that he was capable of much more than recastings of old styles and material. In fact, by this time he was usually bringing in the bacon not through his own music, but via vocals for numerous commercial jingles. It continued pretty much in the same vein throughout the '90s: New Orleans super sessions for the Bluesiana albums, another outing with Chris Barber, an album of New Orleans standards, and another album of pop standards.

In 1994, Television did at least offer some original material. At this point he began to rely more upon cover versions for the bulk of his recorded work, though his interpretive skills will always ensure that these are more interesting than most such efforts. His autobiography, Under a Hoodoo Moon, was published by St. Martin's Press in 1994, and in 1998 he resurfaced with Anutha Zone, which featured collaborations with latter-day performers including Spiritualized, Paul Weller, Supergrass, and Ocean Colour Scene. Duke Elegant followed in early 2000. Additional albums for Blue Note followed in 2001 (Creole Moon) and 2004 (N'Awlinz: Dis Dat or d'Udda). Sippiana Hericane, a four-song EP celebrating his beloved hometown of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, arrived in November of 2005. Mercernary, an album of covers of songs made famous by Johnny Mercer, appeared on Blue Note in 2006. City That Care Forgot followed in 2008. The Night Tripper persona was revived for 2010's Tribal, which featured guest spots from Derek Trucks, Allen Toussaint, Donald Harrison, and the late Bobby Charles. Dr. John also contributed to French electronic artist Féloche's international hit single "Gris Gris John" the same year. He teamed up with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach to produce and record Locked Down. It was issued in the spring of 2012. Two years later, he released the third album in his tribute series, a collection of songs by and associated with Louis Armstrong entitled Ske-Dat-De-Dat: Spirit of Satch. It featured guest appearances from Bonnie Raitt, Ledisi, and the McCrary Sisters, and Blind Boys of Alabama, and appeared in August of 2014.

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Tour Dates All Dates Dates In My Area

Date Venue Location Tickets
10.14.16 L'Auberge Casino & Hotel Baton Rouge Baton Rouge, LA US
11.01.16 Danforth Music Hall Toronto, ON Canada
11.18.16 Symphony Center Chicago, IL US
11.18.16 Symphony Center Chicago, IL US
11.19.16 The Palladium Carmel Carmel, IN US

eMusic Features

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New This Week: Bear in Heaven, Dr. John, Phronesis & More

By J. Edward Keyes, Editor-in-Chief

Well, here we are. Another Tuesday, another batch of records. Let's not waste any more time, shall we? Lotus Plaza, Spooky Action at a Distance: More eerie, filmy, jangly pop music from Deerhunter's Lockett Pundt. I never fully connected with his main gig, but this sounds great - spooky and lo-fi, the kind of thing that might have come out on Captured Tracks if it wasn't for the high-wattage indie personality behind it. RECOMMENDED Dr. John, Locked… more »

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Bobby Charles: The In-A-While Crocodile

By Lenny Kaye, Contributor

Robert Charles Guidry was leaving a diner in his native Louisiana when he heard the words that would forever make him Bobby Charles. "See you later, alligator," the 17-year-old jive-talked to a friend, only to hear, like a gospel call-and-response, "In a while, crocodile" from a neighboring patron. He had been playing teen soirees with a combo called the Cardinals (no relation to the r&b vocal group of the same name) in the small town of… more »

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New Orleans Rolls On

By Kevin Whitehead, Contributor

New Orleans 'most recent round of hurricane scares - and interview clips of evacuees declaring this time they're really not coming back - make you fear anew for its future. Many of the musicians who carry the city's heartbeat never really returned after Katrina. The diaspora of émigrés (including a few musicians reviewed here) stretches from Texas into Georgia. Still, returnees and exiles alike continue to preserve and extend the city's musical traditions. And they… more »

Activity

  • 09.29.16 Thank you Edmonds, Washington - #DrJohn & The Nite Trippers Oct. 8th show is sold out: https://t.co/UohIPJkCY9 https://t.co/bqPDnMmL8B
  • 09.28.16 Catch #DrJohn & The Nite Trippers @ Pantages Theater in #Tacoma #Washington October 7 Tickets:… https://t.co/PI8KEYYWzR
  • 09.28.16 RT @DarthBassoonist: @akadrjohn Homecoming door contest and my jazz band leads out with their favorite musician... https://t.co/JGFS734g1n
  • 09.26.16 #DrJohn watching #ArtNeville & #TheFunkyMeters in #Jackson tonite https://t.co/vHCjpX04zi
  • 09.25.16 #Jackson #DrJohn #TheNiteTripper https://t.co/fIYt16nOCF
  • 09.24.16 Tomorrow - Dr. John & The Nite Trippers at Abita Jackson Square Music and Food Fest in #Jackson, Mississippi:… https://t.co/GEb5ABo8xf
  • 09.22.16 The Nite Tripper #DrJohn #TBT #ThrowbackThursday https://t.co/YEH6m6YwhI
  • 09.22.16 RT @LAubergeBR: Help us welcome six-time Grammy Award winner @akadrjohn & The Nite Trippers to the Event Center on Friday, Oct. 14. https:/…
  • 09.21.16 RT @SherryLucas1: @akadrjohn, @funkyMETERS bring NOLA to Jxn for music and food fest Sun. plus @AcmeOyster, more. Details https://t.co/iQ4L…
  • 09.21.16 Dr. John's fall tour continues this Sunday @ Abita Jackson Square Music & Food Fest in Jackson, Mississippi Tickets… https://t.co/gFqHS8rdLi
  • 09.21.16 RT @JxnSquareFest: We'll have performances by Dr. John, Funky Meters, The Mike Dillon Band, and Southern Komfort Brass Band! https://t.co/k…
  • 09.19.16 Dr. John: Spirit of Satch Feat. Special Guest Nicholas Payton, Music Director Sarah Morrow in Carmel, Indiana 11/19: https://t.co/HVaFLYKpMc