Dr John – Opher’s World pays tribute to genius.

Voodoo Rock

I am presently working on a book of tributes to Rock geniuses. This is an extract:

Dr John


Straight out of the voodoo bayous of New Orleans, steeped in ju-ju, gris-gris and the mystical shamanism of Madame Leroux, ears ringing with the rhythms of Treme with its Professor Longhair and Huey ‘Piano’ Smith magic, transformed by ritual ceremony, Mac Rebennack, a session musician in New Orleans, was transformed into the supernatural being that was Dr John.

In the late 1960s he emerged on to the Acid Rock Scene as a weird shaman festooned with mojo bags, hats, beads, gowns, gnarled sticks, emblems, mystical signs and things gathered from the mists of the swamps of Louisiana. With his strange, elaborate, bizarre and uncommunicative persona, he became Dr John the Night-tripper and fitted in perfectly. The mumbo-jumbo of New Orleans Creole sounded just fine. It did not seem the least odd. The music marinated in the swamp-blues and boogie-woogie rhythms of Ammons, Willie Hall and Longhair, hanging with the Spanish moss and mist of Cajun and dosed with the lysergic acid of psychedelia was esoteric and primaeval. Superb stuff. I’d walk on gilded splinters to hear it any day.

Even when he’d left the big band behind and it was just Dr John doing his interpretations of New Orleans classics like ‘Iko Iko’ and ‘Baldhead’ he still had the mystique and was something to see and hear. Lee Scratch Perry is the nearest spectacle to Dr John. They could be twins.

Voodoo in New Orleans!

Voodoo came straight out of the African superstitions via the Creole population. It has gone in the music that comes out of the region  – the Blues and Cajun. It has its Mojo bags, Gris-Gris and John the Conguero – spells, amulets, potions and dolls designed to solve all your problems, raise your sex drive, do in your enemies and make people fall for you – the real Love Potion No. 9 (a Leiber & Stoller number made famous by the Clovers and covered by the likes of the Searchers). Mojos and John the Conquero were made famous by Muddy Waters and when I was young I always wondered what he was talking about. It then went from Blues into Rock.

Dr John is the epitome of Cajun/Voodoo Rock with his gris-gris and voodoo paraphernalia.

The most famous Voodoo Queen has to be Marie Laveau. So we had to go and visit her grave and pay our respects.

Then we headed off to a real live Voodoo Queen and had a session!!

Surrounded by all the tools of the trade – amulets, dolls, incense and lots of colourful drapes she sorted my life out. Well – sort of.