Thursday, February 19, 2015

Professor Longhair - Mardi Gras in New Orleans (sound files, lyrics, & information)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases three versions of the song "Mardi Gras in New Orleans". Each of these versions were recorded by that song's composer, African American pianist, singer, and composer Professor Longhair.

Song lyrics and information about Professor Longhair are also included in this post.

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic reasons.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to Professor Longhair for his musical legacy. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post, and thanks to the publisher of this song on YouTube.

Professor Longhair Biography

"Henry Roeland “Roy” Byrd - better known to the world as Professor Longhair or “Fess,” for short - stands as the foremost exponent of New Orleans piano style. Byrd’s idiosyncratic style is a rhythmic jambalaya reflecting the freewheeling, good-time spirit of the Crescent City. Professor Longhair soaked up influences from close-at-hand sources - barrelhouse boogie-woogie, Caribbean rhythms like the rumba (many of his relatives were West Indian), and the Crescent City’s “second line” parade rhythms - but the way he pieced these elements together is what made his style such a marvel of fluidity and drive. He has been hailed as “the Picasso of keyboard funk” and “the Bach of rock.” Professor Longhair also served to influence profoundly a generation of New Orleans pianists that came up behind him, many of whom made their mark in the interlocking worlds of rhythm & blues and rock and roll. Some of his more prominent musical heirs include Mac Rebennack (a.k.a. Dr. John), Fats Domino, Huey “Piano” Smith, James Booker and Allen Toussaint.

He was born Henry Roeland Byrd in Bogalusa, Louisiana, and lived in New Orleans from the age of two onward. As a child, he learned how to play on an old piano that had been left in an alley. He seriously began to master the instrument while working at a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in 1937. After a stint in the service during World War II, he returned to New Orleans and began playing at clubs like the Caledonia, a neighborhood bar just outside the French Quarter. He was called Professor Longhair, the “professor” part being an honorary nickname bestowed on New Orleans piano wizards. He first recorded in 1949 and scored his one and only R&B chart hit with “Bald Head,” released on Mercury Records, a year later. Soon after, he was signed to Atlantic Records and began recording under the aegis of the label’s producer/executives, Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler.

As a vocalist, Professor Longhair was a classic blues shouter. As a pianist, he was a unique force of nature - or, more accurately, New Orleans."...

..."Professor Longhair was born on December 19, 1918 in Bogalusa, Louisiana.[1] His distinctive style was the result of learning to play piano on an instrument that was missing some keys.[1]...

In 1981, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. He was awarded a posthumous Grammy for his early recordings released as House Party New Orleans Style, and in 1992 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[5]...

Afro-Cuban elements
In the 1940s, Professor Longhair was playing with Caribbean musicians, listening a lot to Perez Prado's mambo records, and absorbing and experimenting with it all.[6] He was especially enamored with Cuban music. Longhair's style was known locally as rumba-boogie.[7] Alexander Stewart states that Longhair was a key figure bridging the worlds of boogie-woogie and the new style of rhythm and blues."[8] In his composition "Misery," Professor Longhair plays a habanera-like figure in his left hand. The deft use of triplets in the right hand is a characteristic of Longhair's style."...

These examples are presented in chronological order based on their posting date on YouTube, with the oldest dated example given first. I'm not sure which of these examples was recorded first. Professor Longhair may have recorded other versions of this song.

Example #1: Mardi Gras In New Orleans / Professor Longhair

Klaus Leuters, Uploaded on Feb 2, 2010

Example #2: Mardi Gras In New Orleans - Professor Longhair

Eric Cajundelyon, Uploaded on Jun 26, 2011

The Professor Longhair classic...

Example #3: Professor Longhair - Mardi Gras in New Orleans

kelkolilla, Uploaded on Aug 26, 2011

From the Album "Rock 'N' Roll Gumbo"

(Henry Roeland Byrd, aka "Professor Longhair")

Well I'm goin' to New Orleans
I wanna see the Mardi Gras
Yes I'm goin' to New Orleans
I wanna see the Mardi Gras

When I see the Mardi Gras
I wanna know what's carnival for

Goin' down to New Orleans
I've got my ticket in my hands
Goin' down to New Orleans
I've got my ticket in my hands

When I get to New Orleans
I wanna see the Zulu King
Way down in New Orleans
Down on Rampart and Dumaine
Yes down in New Orleans
On Rampart a-nd Dumaine

Gonna make it my standin' place
Until I see the Zulu Queen
"Zulu King" and "Zulu Queen" refer to people holding those positions in the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club's Mardi Gras kwewe, an almost entirely African American organization.

Click for a pancocojams post on the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club's blackface tradition.

"Rampart" and "Dumaine" are streets in New Orleans.

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