CLICK ON TITLE BELOW TO GO TO PURCHASE!!!! CD submissions accepted! Guest writers always welcome!!

I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!

Please email me at
Showing posts with label Kavanagh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kavanagh. Show all posts

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, Professor Longhair By Lee Pons - John Francis Kavanagh contributor

John Bonham of Led Zeppelin with Professor Longhair, Photo by Sidney Smith
Today is the birthday of the funky, enigmatic, and wildly talented Professor Longhair, who’s outstanding life and music have touched millions for generations.
Lovingly known far and wide as the “Fess”, the godfather of New Orleans piano, Professor Longhair was born Henry Byrd on Dec 19th, 1918 in Bogalusa, Louisiana. The family moved to New Orleans shorty after his birth and, though he did get music lessons from his mother, he would say that his first musical instruments where the bottoms of his feet! As a child, he used to tap dance on street corners of the French Quarter for spare change.
Byrd didn’t get any real serious interest in music until he was in his late teens. He was a member of a dance troupe when he had to fill in for the drummer one night (no one knew he could play the drums — not even him!). Tuts Washington, the piano player in that group, told Byrd he should continue with the drums, which he did. Pretty soon he got tried of having to lug a drum set around, and switched to the piano. Tuts acted as one of Byrd’s early mentors on the piano. Fess also got encouragement from Sullivan Rock who taught him how to play the standard “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie”.

The Birth of Fess

One of Byrd’s strongest influences came from working with a government road crew. The job’s tenure was for 6 months, and involved a good amount of traveling. During these travels, he was exposed to a variety of Latin and Caribbean band music. Drawn by the rhythmic interplay of the music, Fess soon incorporated the unique syncopations into his own playing style, by blending them with blues and barrellhouse piano. This “Rumba Boogie” as he would later call it, would turn out to have an immeasurable impact on New Orleans music, and in Piano Blues music as a whole.
In 1942, Byrd was inducted into the army, and left 2 years later on a medical discharge. Afterward, he spent spend the next few years working as a cook or as a professional card player. Gambling would always be his “second profession”, as he would say, and he became well known in New Orleans as an amazing card shark. In the mean time, he would play occasional gigs as a piano player, but he wasn’t noticed as a musician until 1948, when, during another band’s break, he played a few songs on the piano at a club. He caused such a hoopla with the patrons that the owner of the club fired the band and hired Byrd, right then and there! It was at this club that he would be given his nickname, Professor Longhair, because of the ponytail he sported at