Dr. John's weird New Orleans psych music


35 Responses to “Dr. John's weird New Orleans psych music”

  1. buboes_in_diplopia says:

    Yeah! I <3 Dr. John! I’d never seen video before, so thank you!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Dr. John is an institution! I remember as a kid seeing him play at Jazz fest and being blown away. Some other legendary New Orleans piano players are Jelly Roll Morton, Professor Long Hair, and James Booker. There’s a really cool documentary showing how Dr. John plays some traditional songs. Here’s a link to one:


  3. Anonymous says:

    It’s nice that you’re talking about him, but is this news to anyone? I thought he got pretty popular having performed at The Band’s “The Last Waltz”. No? Hasn’t everyone heard him?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Put on your headphones and trip out to this amazing album. Outstanding.

  5. Anonymous says:

    That certainly takes me back!

  6. maitrix says:

    If you’re in New Orleans on January 30th, you can see him as King of Krewe du Vieux, the only large, crazy krewe to walk through the Marigny and French Quarter with hand- and mule-drawn floats. He has chosen as his queen Mother Miriam Chamani of the Voodoo Spiritual Temple. All hail our King Dr. John and Queen Mother Miriam!

  7. carolinebeavon says:

    It’s so great to see Dr John get a mention on these pages.

    I saw him play live in Warwick in the UK a few years back – it’s like watching Father Christmas on acid!

    Next step if for me to see him play in New Orleans


  8. Anonymous says:

    I first heard the unique sound of New Orleans in the movie ‘The Big Easy’ starring the beeutiful Dennis Quaid,then married to Meg Ryan and a Southern boy himself. The soundtrack is priceless stuff, with the Neville Bros and others of Southern origin. I first heard the term Gris Gris in a song from that track called “My grandma and Your Grandma a sittin by the fire” and the chorus goes ‘Gris Gris’.. I thought “Grey Grey’???? but now know and it can be dark but also sooo rythmic. I’m hooked.

  9. juepucta says:

    Another entry point into the Doctor’s oeuvre is Paul Weller. About a decade and a half ago he covered I Walk On Guilded Splinters. I know that is what made me go deep into DrJ’s discography as opposed to just treating him like a boring old mofo that makes boomer music (obviously, i am aware i was wrong).

    The Weller version of the track was used on the Wire i believe.


  10. Anonymous says:

    If you live in New Orleans, like I do, Dr John can get a little old because his music is ubiquitous here, but “Gris-Gris” is one I never get tired of. BTW, just to clarify, the term “gris-gris” is used for a Voodoo amulet, talisman, or physical spell focus, not for the Voodoo religion itself (cuz I’m anal like that).

  11. Anonymous says:

    First heard any New Orleans music in the soundtrack of ‘The Big Easy’, starring Denis Quaid, then married to MegRyan. I remember particularly “Iko Iko’ and the back chorus of the words ‘Gris Gris” and
    I thought ‘Grey Grey’ WHAT??? It rocks along and I don’t really like this new one by Dr.John.. too dark. Don’t think that the Neville Bros and their ilk in The Big Easy draw so much from this too dark side of ‘Voodoo’ music.

  12. David Pescovitz says:

    @Anonymous #1, Fortunately, I don’t have to worry whether everyone’s heard of him or not. I dig his music, and this video was interesting to me, and “interesting to me” is the only impetus I need to post something!

    @Anonymous #2, Agreed. Headphones for sure.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Is he one of those artists who ends up more famous in the UK than his native US?

    He certainly pops up on telly over here fairly often, whether in live performance or in archive footage on documentaries (perhaps due to his Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton associations?).

    Anyway, I remember finding Gris Gris in my parents’ record collection twenty-odd years ago and I’m still recovering!

  14. Sundog says:

    Hah, I was at that gig as well @carolinebeavon – if you mean at the University of Warwick in England, not Rhode Island! Absolutely stunning, one of my favourite ever gigs!

  15. skeletoncityrepeater says:

    This is a great post about a great and very atypical American musician. But it’s only his early years that are really psych-and-voodoo-tinged. The majority of his work leans toward New Orleans jazz, R&B, rock, and old-time style. Not to say there aren’t elements still there from his early work..

    Also check out Professor Longhair if you like the piano styles.

    • David Pescovitz says:

      @keletoncityrepeater, Yes, love me some Professor Longhair. But my *favorite* NOLA piano wizard is James Booker who played, well, like a spider on the keys. Back in 2001, I posted about him here!

  16. hassan-i-sabbah says:

    Great stuff ! Fuck the haters Pesco, good call!

  17. patrick_bateman says:

    If you like this then definitely also check out Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band: Safe as Milk. Delta Blues fused with all manner of psychadelic and folk influences and plenty of NOLA spice. For example this.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I would like to make a correction to this. Gris gris is not the New Orleans term for voodoo. Voodoo is the New Orleans term for voodoo. Gris gris is a charm that you make, it can be good or bad. I live in Louisiana, and this is common knowledge.

  19. serfer0 says:

    Also the inspiration for Dr. Teeth, leader of one of my fave groups…THE ELECTRIC MAYHEM

  20. Anonymous says:

    Where Y’at!

    Question about New Orleans Music? Ask a loosely disorganized, professional audience made up of music fanatics who gather in New Orleans for Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest and wherever the sound waves travel.

  21. Roach says:

    Great video! I’ve listened to some of his music but I’d never seen him before. Very interesting.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Man that was great. If you like that check out this mixtape made by Ethan Miller from Comets On Fire and Howlin Rain…


    Great Dr John jam on it called Black Widow Spider and lots of other cool stuff

  23. JArmstrong says:

    I was fortunate enough to have grown up in a home in which Dr. John was given regular airplay. I was very pleased when, in the early-mid 90′s, I saw Dr. John guest star on SCTV. The episode was called “Polynesiatown” and was amazing. Side pop-culture aside, Dr. John’s music, including Walkin’ on Guilded Splinters, Mama Roux, Such a Night… is sweetly mind-altering and very pleasing.

  24. Anonymous says:

    I got turned onto the Gris Gris album when I was about 15, from my parents. I put “Walk on Gilded Splinters” on all my favorite playlists(now)/ mixtapes(then).
    I’d love to find more stuff like this album, but have never really been able to.
    I’ll check out some of the suggestions here.

  25. pjcamp says:

    Dr. John has more lives than a cat and most of them are pretty interesting. His first few albums, of which this is one, sound like they dropped in from an alternate reality. His second, The Sun, Moon and Herbs, is also pretty interesting in the same groove.

    But he always had this underground reputation for being the best NO jazz piano player in creation, and in the mid 80′s we got a chance to hear that. He put away the headdresses and produced two albums, Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack, and The Brightest Smile in Town that are just him and a piano. They are two of the greatest boogie woogie and stride piano albums ever recorded.

    Then there was the Dr. John who resurrected NO jazz tunes from the turn of the century on Live and Montreaux and Goin Back to New Orleans.

    He’s definitely never boring.

  26. Fred H says:

    His autobiography, “Under a Hoodoo Moon: The Life of Dr. John the Night Tripper” is pretty amazing, assuming it’s all true. My favorite part is when he goes to visit a voodoo priestess he knew from his childhood. She says she had just seen a friend of theirs who Dr. John had heard had overdosed. He writes that it was frustrating, because it would be insulting to ask her if the friend was alive or dead; because the priestess’ see both equally.

  27. arthurgoldwag says:

    I have this memory that Gris Gris was recorded during down time in the studio where he was music-directing a Sonny & Cher record.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I was actually looking into the history of Babylon when I came across Dr. John and this list ( http://www.song-list.net/drjohn/songs )of his songs. That track, Babylon, was really cool and it made more sense when I checked out the wikipedia article on it. New fan, right here!

  29. generalgen says:

    just discovered a few days ago, Dr. John is on twitter: @akadrjohn

  30. Anonymous says:

    “I saw Dr. John guest star on SCTV.”

    Classic episode.

    “Forgeddit, Johnny, it’s Polynesiatown!”

  31. flipdeswits says:

    I remember there was a Dr.John the Nighttripper concert on Dutch television (VPRO), I don’t know if there is footage of that show saved. Th VPRO Picknick series include also shows by Ike & Tina Turner and Frank Zappa, and if i remember correctly also a concert by the English pub rock band Brinsley Schwartz , featuring Nick Lowe

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