June 6, 2019 – Dr. John was born Malcolm John Rebennack in New Orleans on November 20, 1941, and early on got the nickname “Mac.”
When he was about 13 years old, Rebennack met blues pianist Professor Longhair (Roy Byrd) and soon began performing with him. At age 16, Rebennack quit high school to focus on playing music. He performed with several local New Orleans bands including Mac Rebennack and the Skyliners, Frankie Ford and the Thunderbirds, and Jerry Byrne and the Loafers. He had a regional hit with a Bo Diddley-influenced instrumental called “Storm Warning” on Rex Records in 1959.
Rebennack became involved in illegal activities in New Orleans in the early sixties, using and selling narcotics and running a brothel. He was arrested on drug charges and sentenced to two years in a federal prison at Fort Worth, Texas. When his sentence ended in 1965, he moved to Los Angeles, adopted the stage name of Dr. John, and collaborated with other New Orleans transplants. He became a “Wrecking Crew” session piano player appearing on works for a variety of artists including Sonny & Cher, Canned Heat on their albums Living the Blues (1968) and Future Blues (1970), and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention on Freak Out! (1966).
Dr. John solo recordings include his debut LP, Gris-Gris (1968), Babylon (1969), Remedies (1970) and The Sun, Moon, and Herbs (1971) and Gumbo (1972). His 1973 release, In the Right Place, produced by Allen Toussaint, included his Top Ten hit “Right Place, Wrong Time.”
For the next three decades, Mac, as friends called him, collaborated with about everyone in rock and blues. Jagger and Richards, Springsteen, John Fogerty, Doc Pomus, Jason Isbell, Irma Thomas and so many more.
In the Movies, Dr. John appears in the Band’s opus, The Last Waltz and the sequel Blues Brothers 2000. Dr. John appears as himself in the second season of NCIS: New Orleans, playing his hit “Right Place, Wrong Time”.
He was the inspiration for Jim Henson’s Muppet character, Dr. Teeth and won 6 Grammy Awards and became a member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2011.
Dr. John, legendary New Orleans musician, died from a heart attack on June 6, 2019 at age 77.
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