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American Routes Shortcuts: Dr. John

Dr. John

This is American Routes, I'm 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’ Dr. John. It was a busy year for Dr. John.  He won a Grammy for the Best Blues Album for Locked Down, produced by The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, and he received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts here at Tulane University, making the Nite Tripper Doctor Dr. John in our minds.

Nick Spitzer: Take it easy, Mac.

Dr. John: That's something I never learned how to do.

NS: [laughs] I wasn't worried about the Nite Tripper tripping 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 looking oks as best as I can see 'em.

NS: [laughs] I was gonna ask you, growing up in New Orleans, I mean what was your life for spirit as a kid? I mean, you go to church, I mean, 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 of which all religions was welcome. That started changes in me, and then as I started studying things, I became part of a Yoruba religion called Voodoo. And I think all of this just keeps you open, and now I realize I'm very syncoratical. I mean, besides having Black Hawk and all of that, they had, and he was dressed up like a Mardi Gras Indian in that 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 the saints, and the children were angels. That's not like most religions at all, and I thought it was something kind of hip.

NS: Yeah. No, definitely. Well, 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 and I guess an aunt. Maybe you could say a little bit 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–there were pretty hip people in the way I looked at, 'cause I remember like Pete Fountain and George Girard and most of the guys from the Basin Street Six would be over at their place. And it was kind of cool.

NS: You know, we got a piano here. Would you mind maybe giving us a little taste of what boogie-woogie was like from the aunties for a moment?


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