So our Mardi Gras excursion ends today, tomorrow begins Lent, and in six weeks we have Easter. Is this year flying by or what?
There are two things for which New Orleans is famous. One is food, the other
is music. The city has been blessed with a vibrant music scene. A staple of that scene with seminal tunes such as Tipitina’s, Big Chief, and Mardi Gras New Orleans, was Professor Longhair, born Henry Roeland Byrd, and known to many as Fess.
The Professor was born in Louisiana in 1918 and lived the hard life of Delta blues men of the time, hustling and playing clubs. He served for a while in World War II and returned to a his music career playing the New Orleans scene, where he was quite popular.
From the late 40’s till the mid 60’s, The Professor was in and out of bands and clubs, sticking close to home and enjoying his popularity in the region. In 1964 he left the music scene and tried his hand at other jobs, including card-dealing and janitorial work.
It was in the late 1960’s that young musicians focused their attention on blues men of generations past and heaped appreciation by way of covers and invitations to various jazz festivals. It was a 1971 invitation to play at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival that inspired the attention that Fess’s music so richly deserved, and for the next decade he enjoyed the rediscovery of his musical style and his recordings by the younger generation. He was revered as a surviving jazz and blues musician who straddled several eras of music. After performing at a number of high-profile venues, including the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, touring Europe, and spending time with famous musicians (such as Paul McCartney), The Professor died of a heart attack in 1980. He was 61 years old.
Please enjoy this video, in which he plays one of his signature tunes, Tipitina. He is backed by The Meters.