New Orleans’ soulful hoodoo rock and roller and carnivalesque hero Mac Rebennack, better known as Dr. John, passed away on June 6, 2019. Within a day, the city’s streets filled with mourners honoring his legacy of high funknology in the verbal, musical and spiritual arts. This week on American Routes Shortcuts, we celebrate the beloved music and life of our friend, the late legendary Dr. John, by revisiting an interview with him from the 2013 Americana Music Festival in Nashville.
Nick Spitzer: I was invited to the 2013 Americana Music Festival in Nashville, where on stage at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum I had a chance to interview the recipient of that year’s lifetime achievement award, New Orleans’ own, Dr. John. It was a busy year for Dr. John; he won a Grammy for the best Blues album, Locked Down, produced by the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, and he received an honorary doctorate of fine arts here at Tulane University, making the Night Tripper Dr. Dr. John in our minds.
NS: Take it easy, Mac.
Dr. John: Ay, that’s something I never learned how to do.
NS: I wasn’t worried about the Night Tripper trippin’ one bit, I knew you’d make it right to the seat. Well, y’all look good out there, don’t they look good, Mac?
DJ: I think everybody’s lookin’ oks, as best as I could see ‘em.
NS: I was gonna ask you, growing up in New Orleans, what was your life for spirit as a kid? I mean, did you go to church, did you find other ways to get to spirit?
DJ: Well, I started off, I was a Catholic, and then I got around the Guiding Light Spiritual Church in New Orleans which all religions was welcome. That started changes in me, and as I started studying things, I became part of a Yoruba religion called Voodoo. And I think all of this just keeps ya open, and now I realize I’m very syncaradical. I mean, beside having Black Hawk and all that, they had–and he was dressed up like a Mardi Gras Indian in the church, and it was a beautiful, for a storefront church, in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, it was really a different kind of thing. It’s like, the men were workers, the women were saints, and the children were angels. That’s not like most religions, at all. I thought it was something kind of hip.
NS: Oh yeah, no definitely. Let’s talk a little about your family. Could you, I know you have some people that were very important to you, and your parents, I guess an aunt, maybe you could say a little bit about who was around you growing up.
DJ: My Aunt Andre, when I was a little kid, she taught me how to play boogie-woogies. But I remember, my aunt Dottie Mae used to have jam sessions at her pad, and she was pretty hip people in the way I looked at it cuz I remember like Pete Fountain and George Girard and most of the guys of the Basin Street Six would be over at their place, and it was kinda cool.
NS: Yeah, you know, we got a piano here, would you mind giving us a little taste of what boogie-woogie was like from the aunties for a moment?
DJ: (plays “Texas Boogie”)
To hear the full program, tune in Saturdays at 7 and Sundays at 6 on WWNO, or listen at americanroutes.org.