The good doctor in Vail | VailDaily.com

The good doctor in Vail

Cassie Pence

Special to the Daily/Henry DiltzDr. John brings his legendary voice and piano work to Samana Sunday for an intimate show that will benefit the musicians who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

VAIL – Hurricane Katrina may have muffled the sounds flowing out from the bars and streets of New Orleans, but Crescent City musicians are keeping the Big Easy spirit alive on the road, performing concerts at unlikely clubs around the country.Samana in Vail Village will host New Orleans musical ambassador Dr. John Sunday night for an intimate show at 10 p.m. Tickets are $50, and proceeds will go toward helping musicians displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Dr. John’s music is like a big bowl of New Orleans gumbo. He mixes the jazz of Jelly Roll Morton, the brass sounds of Mardi Gras Indians and the piano of his mentor Professor Longhair with dashes of R&B and funk to make his own soulful soup of quintessential New Orleans sounds. His delivery is all his own with a distinctive cackle that is unmistakably Dr. John.

Dr. John has been creating music since the 1950s, but really got his start in 1968 as a member of Sonny and Cher’s backing band. At that time he was playing under his given name – Mac Rebennack. According to his biography on his Web site, http://www.drjohn.org, at this time Mac would play with just about anyone who would hire him, but became tight with a clique of local musicians that included sax men Lee Allen, Alvin “red” Tyler and Herb Hardesty, bass player Frank Field and drummer Earl Palmer. Music eventually took Mac to Los Angeles where he became a first-call session player for record maker Phil Spector. It was at this time that hometown friend Harold Battiste encouraged Mac to create a persona. Since Mac’s inspiration was rooted in a 19th century Bambarra prince named Dr. John Montaine, who lived in New Orleans, Mac took on his name. Montaine was known for his knowledge in occult and voodoo practices. This dark side of Montain’s lifestyle appealed to Mac, who once admitted, “I felt a spiritual kinship.”What character emerged in 1968 was Dr. John Creaux – The Night Tripper, a swampy psychedelic medicine man who jammed on the piano and uttered “Gris Gris” incantations, the most famous of which was “Walk on Gilded Splinters.” The music community took notice, and everyone was talking about Dr. John. Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, The Band and Bob Dylan headed a list of players that wanted to guest on his records.

In 1972, Dr. John crashed the charts with “Gumbo.” In his own words, he describes the album: “It’s like a picture of the music that New Orleans people listen to, a combination of Dixieland, rock ‘n’ roll and funk.” The good doctor has been jammin’ ever since.For more information about the concert at Samana Sunday, call the club at 476-3433.

Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or cpence@vaildaily.com.Vail, Colorado