Music Reviews
Professor Longhair

Professor Longhair

Live In Chicago

Orleans Records

He was born Henry Roeland “Roy” Byrd in 1918, but the world knows him as “Fess”- Professor Longhair. And until his death in 1980, he was one of the premier ambassadors of Louisiana rhythm and blues, helping to invent that certain something that embodies New Orleans piano playing. Live In Chicago, featuring an appearance at the University of Chicago Folk Festival in 1976, shows Fess at his funkiest. Backed up by guitarists Billy Gregory and Will Harvey, bassist Julius Farmer and drummer Earl Gordon, this brief set never disappoints.

Starting with one of his earliest numbers, “Doin’ It”, followed by a signature New Orleans anthem, Earl King’s “Big Chief”, Longhair sounds completely at ease, his mixture of R+B, Cajun and elements of the Afro-Cuban styles found in mambo flowing effortlessly from his fingers, supplemented by his distinctive vocals and artful whistling. Recorded a few years before his death, he sounds as lively as he did on his early single, “Mardi Gras in New Orleans” from 1949 (which gets a nice workout here).

This seven song record gives you but a sampling of Fess and the joyous, rambunctious art he created, from “Mess Around” to “Got My Mojo Working” and ending with “Fess’s Boogie”, but one imagines that once you get a taste, you’ll need to find more. Professor Longhair was one of the most influential musicians from New Orleans, with such greats as Dr. John and Allen Toussaint beholden to his magic. Get a serving of Fess on Live In Chicago – but be warned- you’re gonna dance.

Recently on Ink 19...