Professor Longhair: Her Mind is Gone (1980)

 |   |  1 min read

Professor Longhair: Her Mind is Gone (1980)

There are dozens of places you can start on a discovery of the genius of New Orleans' legendary pianist/arranger and songwriter Professor Longhair, the man Allen Toussaint called "the Bach of Rock".

Dr John said Longhair "put the funk into music, he's the father of the stuff" and producer Jerry Wexler acclaimed him as "a seminal force, a guru, the original creator of the New Orleans piano style . . . the teacher of all the great players like Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, Mac Rebennack [aka Dr John], James Booker and Huey Smith".

Born Henry Roeland Byrd, he was soaked in the spirit of his city and he made his first record in '49 for Mercury (called Bald Head ironically) and then label-hopped for most of his career. By the early Sixties however this massively influential figure wasn't selling as well -- he started making a living as a card player, or just became a gambler depending on who you believe -- but Dr John and others ensured he got mainstream attention again by acknowledging him in interviews.

Some of his early material was reissued in the early Seventies, Paul McCartney had him play a party on the Queen Mary in '75 which was recorded and released to much fanfare, he started playing international jazz festivals and today it isn't hard to source his music.

Longhair died in early 1980 so the significance of the album Crawfish Fiesta (for Alligator) was that it was the last he recorded. But it was also a good one.

He had Dr John on guitar and a decent band, there's was a smart choice of material (his own but also by Big Jay McNeely and Walter Horton) . . .  and it won the inaugural WC Handy Best Blues Album that year.

The great Professor never knew that of course, he died of a heart attack in January.

For more on-offs or songs with an interesting back-story see From the Vaults

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   From the Vaults articles index

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas: Third Finger Left Hand (1967)

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas: Third Finger Left Hand (1967)

Beyonce's thrilling Bollywood-influenced dancefloor hit Single Ladies; Put a Ring On It reminded of the long tradition of songs about wedding rings, or the lack of them, or how tarnished a memory... > Read more

Bernard Butler: Woman I Know (1998)

Bernard Butler: Woman I Know (1998)

Was it Bob Dylan who said something to the effect, "amateurs borrow, professionals steal"? Not to encourage plagiarism, but Bernard Butler certainly took a leaf or two -- if not a... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: Freedom Tower (Southbound)

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion: Freedom Tower (Southbound)

About halfway through these breathless 35 minutes you'd be forgiven for needing a cup of tea and a lie-down. And you've also forgotten how this implosion of Beastie Boys, RL Burnside-style... > Read more

John Mayall: Nobody Told Me (Forty Below/Southbound)

John Mayall: Nobody Told Me (Forty Below/Southbound)

Now 85, John Mayall is like the great-grandfather of British blues. More than half a century ago however he was akin to a wise uncle for a generation of players at least a decade younger than... > Read more