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Professor Longhair biography

Professor Longhair Born: December 19, 1918, Bogalusa, Louisiana

Died: January 30, 1980, New Orleans, Louisiana

Also known as: Henry Roeland “Roy” Byrd

Professor Longhair is known as the Father of New Orleans rhythm and blues. He was a vocalist and songwriter, and as a pianist his wildly innovative style combined zydeco, jazz, blues, calypso and ragtime influences with an amazing sense of rhythm. Longhair’s infectious talent influenced New Orleans-based greats such as Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, and Fats Domino, among others. He began performing when he was quite young, and later formed several bands, including Professor Longhair and his Blues Jumpers, with whom he recorded the single, “Baldhead,” which eventually reached number 5 on the R&B charts. During most of his career he remained a local legend because of his lack of interest in touring, but many of his recordings became New Orleans classics, including “Tipitina,” for which the legendary nightclub was named. Longhair’s popularity subsided during the 1960’s and he worked as a janitor until his performance career was revived in the early seventies. Thereafter he was a regular at New Orleans’s Jazz & Heritage Festival, toured the U.S. and Europe and continued to record to critical acclaim.

Professor Longhair on record

Essential recordings: “Tipitina,” “Baldhead,” “Big Chief,” “Go to the Mardi Gras,” “In the Night”

Professor Longhair