Tox Tunes #88: Junco Partner (Professor Longhair)

September 7, 2014, 10:54 pm

 

Professor Longhair (Henry “Roy” Byrd, 1918-1980) combined classic New Orleans rhythm and blues piano with Afro-Cuban funk to produce music that was exciting and utterly original. Many years ago, I was working in a research lab in New York City, living in a West Village studio that rented for $78 a month. (Yes, it was that long ago.) I hated killing rabbits for their prostaglandin, and it was sort of a bleak time.

But during that period I came across an oddly compelling record — New Orleans Piano by Professor Longhair. It was magical, and taught me that the world was strangely wilder and much more interesting than I had ever imagined, and that I’d better go in search for it. I owe a lot to the Professor.

I thought Fess was my own private discovery. But the world has caught on. Just recently I was surprised, and pleased, that his music was featured in an excellent Subaru commercial:

 

For a more concentrated dose of Fess, watch this episode of the PBS/WTTW-Chicago music show Soundstage from 1974. It features the Professor along with Dr. John, Earl King, and the Meters:


Related posts:

Junko Partner (Dr. John)

Junker’s Blues (Champion Jack Dupree)

2 Comments:

  1. Louis Diamond Says:

    Leon,

    Thank you for your always informative and fun website. Thank you today for spreading the word on Fess. It’s great to know he saved you.

    Red beans and ricely yours,
    Louis Diamond

  2. Leon Says:

    Louis:

    Always my pleasure to talk about Fess. I was lucky enough to see him live in Chicago — shortly before he died —at a now long-defunct club called Biddy Mulligans. At that time he could barely make it to the piano without assistance, but when he started to play — look out!