YOUR NIGHTLY VIDEO: ‘Fess’ Up — Rare Clip of New Orleans’ Musical Giant, Professor Longhair

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By: Greg Mitchell

He’s not exactly a household word, but Roy Byrd — much better known as Professor Longhair or just “Fess” — belongs in the pantheon of most important musical figures of the past 50 years or so. Certainly he is the #1 figure in New Orleans music in this period, and when you think of music in the Big Easy, well, that’s saying something.

Time prevents a full tribute (you can look it up, as Casey Stengel put it), but he could be thought of as the key piano influence for all of piano-based rock, boogie and rhythm and blues since their beginnings. He helped give us Fats Domino, Dr. John and Allen Toussaint among so many others, and wrote the song that for decades (and probably) forever reigns as the official tune for Mardi Gras. Like I said: Says a lot!

I’ve always felt his most famous and influential song, “Tipitina,” first recorded around 1950 and then updated continually, could be our new national anthem, even if you had to add lyrics about bombs bursting in air to accompany Fess’s whistles and nonsense words. If you go the club in NOLA named after the song you can (indeed, must) rub a facsimile of Fess’s bald head.

Here is a very rare clip of the man himself playing a shortened version, solo, in the 1970s. I’d advise everyone to find a recorded version with full rocking band.

Click here to watch.

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