In the 1960s, New Orleans native Mac Rebennack turned his life and his career completely around with a few judicious changes. First, he switched from guitar to piano after a gunshot injury to his left hand, then he moved to Los Angeles to be an in-demand session guy (Sonny & Cher and Canned Heat, among others) and finally he morphed from his given name to a handle more appropriate for the psychedelic gris-gris voodoo witch doctor of Rock: Dr. John. His 1968 debut album (which then included the suffix “the Night Tripper”), Gris-Gris
, was a huge hit
. In the early ’70s, Dr. John returned to his funky New Orleans roots with Gumbo
(which spawned the hit “Iko Iko”), In the Right Place
(featuring his most recognized and biggest single, “Right Place, Wrong Time”) and Desitively Bonnaroo
(whose title was partially lifted for the Tennessee festival).
Since then, Dr. John has explored Blues, Boogie Woogie, Jazz, Pop and everything in between, ultimately recording 26 albums. His latest, 2010’s Tribal, was an excellent return to his gris-gris sound, but his most powerful might well be 2008’s The City That Care Forgot, his emotional response to the aftermath of Katrina on his beloved hometown.
Dr. John performs with Cyndi Lauper Saturday at Taft Theatre. Go here to read Brian Baker's full Sound Advice.