Mac Rebennack, known to everyone as Dr. John celebrates his birthday today, well sort of. Thanks to some sleuthing by the folks at the New Orleans Times-Picayune it was just discovered that Mac was actually born on November 20, but we’re celebrating the occasion today along with nearly everyone else. Born in New Orleans, Mac grew up in the city’s Third Ward, where his father owned an appliance store and record shop. Through his dad, he was exposed to the city’s bustling and diverse music scene meeting the likes of Little Richard and Professor Longhair.
While Rebennack is best known as a piano player, he first focused his efforts on the guitar. It was only after a gunshot wound that he switched over to the keys. It wasn’t until after he moved to California, becoming a go-to session musician, that Mac developed his Dr. John, the Night Tripper persona. His 1968 debut Gris-Gris fused New Orleans-influenced swampy blues and funk with psychedelic rock and his trademark gruff vocals. Dr. John and his music have since become synonymous with the Crescent City.
Throughout his career, Dr. John has worked with an impressive array of equally talented musicians. For Mac’s birthday, below is a collection of memorable live collaborations the pianist has participated in over the years. First is a video of Rebennack and Eric Clapton performing his biggest hit, “Right Place, Wrong Time,” which peaked at number nine on the Billboard charts in 1973. That’s followed by an impressive and diverse selection of live performances with the Lou Reed, Professor Longhair and The Meters, The Band, Jerry Garcia and John Kahn, Van Morrison, George Benson, Santana, Etta James and Tom Scott, Johnny Winter, Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band and the Allman Brothers Band. Check out the live collabs below: