Professor Longhair, Live in Chicago. Talk about New Orleans, Roy “Professor Longhair” Byrd might be the ultimate musical ambassador to that fine burg that ever lived. Right up there with Fats Domino for sure. He created a crazed piano style that was equal parts rhythm & blues, stride, rhumba, and 100% personalized tomfoolery, and then threw it all in a blender and took on the world. Who could ever argue with a song as perfect as “Tipitina,” and that’s just for starters. Naturally, New Orleans being the home of utter nonsense, Longhair’s career came to screeching halts more than once, and it was only in the last few years of his life that the big old world had any real awareness of his existence, much less his divine awesomeness. This 1976 concert was recorded at the University of Chicago Folk Festival, and is prime-time Professor Longhair. His backing quartet was right on the money that evening, and included the illustrious guitarist Billy Gregory on all kinds of scintillating leads. But it was primarily Longhair’s piano that dispensed the thrills and chills over all those years, and coupled with those heartwarming vocals and tickling whistle, showed his listeners a way to find that levee and burn it down every time the man took the stage. In the end, Professor Longhair was someone who no one could have made up. It was like he landed on earth fully formed and ready to boogie, spreading the joy of the easeful living straight outta the Big Easy.
By Bill Bentley – The Morton Report
June 7, 2016