Bon Ton Roulette
Professor Longhair is known for helping shape the New Orleans jazz and blues scene in the 1940s, teaching an extensive list of artists and influencing the sound that continues to this day. To quote one of his proteges, Allen Toussaint, Longhair was “the Bach of Rock and Roll.”
We lost Professor Longhair in 1980, but he lived a full life. Born in 1918 as Henry Roeland Byrd, he had music in his body and soul from the start. He earned tips at a young age, dancing in the street and up & down the walls. In his own words:
“The very first instrument I played was the bottom of my feet.”
He stepped his way into the music world, first encouraged by his mother, a professional musician herself. He would play for his fellow Corps members in the Civilian Conservation Corps and, after stints as professional card player, a cook, a boxer, and in the Army, he earned a place performing at the Caldonia Club, unseating one of the hottest bands in the city in the process. The hottest ticket in town, he was offered numerous opportunities to tour his music, but he chose to stay at home in New Orleans.
His light would fade a bit, but he found his way back to prominence in the 1970s, even being flown by Sir Paul McCartney himself to perform at a party aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA.
Profile photo from discogs.com
Label: Alligator Records
New Orleans Piano
Label: Atlantic Recording