Dr. John

Dr. John

If you caught yesterday’s post, you already know that I spent a sizable part of last weekend’s visit to PA listening to kickass music with my father-in-law via his new Apple TV. Saturday was devoted to exploring the thousands of radio stations available for streaming through iTunes, but Sunday afternoon had a different focus. While Mrs. YHT and her mom were out shopping — effectively lifting the living room’s usual noise ordinance — Joe and I took full advantage, and things quickly escalated from “Hey, there’s a Dr. John song I wanted to play for you” to a virtual New Orleans music festival.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

I can’t remember a time when I had so much fun digging into a single city’s history, pulling out records and CDs and excitedly making connections between artists who, to me, were previously unrelated. For example, did you know that Dr. John used to play guitar for legendary blues pianist Professor Longhair? Or that Dr. John only stopped playing guitar because his finger was shot while he was defending a bandmate who was being pistol-whipped? How about that The Meters, commonly credited with helping to invent funk music, played as the backing band on two of Dr. John’s albums, both of which were produced by the great Allen Toussaint? Crazy, right?

The best part is that tidbits like these form a matrix that makes listening to New Orleans music vastly more rewarding going forward. And sure, you could just poke around Wikipedia and find this stuff out on your own. But there’s something really special about hearing stories from someone who experienced them in real time, and who has seen Dr. John perform at different stages in his career. I wouldn’t have realized it on my own, but no one else was doing what Dr. John was doing in his heyday, and I walked away from that study session with a powerful sense of reverence for his body of work.

I’ll definitely be revisiting his most recent album, Locked Down, in the coming days and weeks, but for now, I’m having fun with classics like the one below, his breakthrough hit “Iko Iko.”

Dr. John — “Iko Iko” [Spotify/iTunes]

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