Mac Rebennack was born in New Orleans in 1940, and growing up was emersed in the culture and music of his native city, quickly developing into a talented musician, playing both piano and guitar. He quit high school to pursue music full time in the late 50s, by which time he was playing in local clubs whilst still a teenager. He found work as a session musician, and was hired as a producer for Johnny Vincent's Ace Records. He originally focused on guitar, but after having a finger shot off in a bar fight he made the piano his main instrument, developing a distinctive style inspired by his hero Professor Longhair. In the mid 60s he left New Orlenas for L.A., where he quickly became an established session musician in the L.A. studio scene, his piano skills much in demand.
When it came to starting his solo career, Rebennack came up with something completely new, taking on the persona of Dr John, The Night Tripper, a character he originally intended to be played by his New Orleans friend Ronnie Barron. Fusing funky New Orleans R&B with voodoo chants, free-form jazz and psychedelia, he succeeded in creating something truly unique and unusual with his debut album. With exotic mandolin and harpsichord trills, ritualistic percussion, incantational backing vocals and Rebennack's own menacing growl, it sounded closer to a psychedelic voodoo ceremony in a secret den of black magic than it did to rock music. Due to its indisputably uncommercial nature, Gris-Gris failed to chart, but became a bit of an underground hit with a legacy than endures to this day.
|> Babylon (1969)
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