“I Walk on Gilded Splinters” – Dr. John
1968 was, indeed, a strange year for music, especially with the release of the album Gris-Gris from Dr. John, The Nite Tripper. This was his debut album, and was all about voodoo ceremonies, funk, jazz, New Orleans blues, and psychedelic rock. At the time, it ranked 143rd on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums list. There had never been anything like this, not even close.
Malcolm John “Mac” Rebennack, Jr. was born November 21, 1940, and is better known as Dr. John (also Dr. John Creaux, or Dr. John the Nite Tripper). He was born and raised in New Orleans and was intrigued by voodoo ceremonies and ” he recalls reading about the original Doctor John in his youth, a purported Senegalese prince who came to New Orleans from Haiti, a medicinal and spiritual healer. The Doctor was a free man of color who lived on Bayou Road and claimed to have fifteen wives and over fifty children. He maintained a fascination with reptiles and kept an assortment of snakes and lizards, along with embalmed scorpions and animal and human skulls. His specialization was healing, and as such, in selling Gris-Gris, voodoo amulets that protected the wearer from harm. Gris Gris, would, of course, become of the name of Dr. John, the musician’s famed debut album, his own form of “voodoo medicine.”
Dr. John’s performances were otherworldly, eerie, mesmerizing affairs that were entrancing. (Personally, I am drawn to people who like to wear feathers on their head.)
His distinct voice is remarkable. It sounds the same today as it did in 1968, as heard on the just-released recording Dr. John – Locked Down, with The Black Keys, which is superb. Rolling Stone says of this album: “Full of muscled, vintage R&B grooves, fevered soloing, psychedelic arrangements and oracular mumbo jumbo, it’s the wildest record Rebennack has made in many years. And it announces [Dan] Auerbach’s arrival alongside Danger Mouse as an A-list retro-modern studio scientist.” So now you have two albums to listen to!
He has made more than 20 albums. He has recorded with many artists over the years, and was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. Here is a versatile, talented musician, singer, songwriter, keyboardist, performer you must get to know.