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Keri Leigh Merritt @KeriLeighMerrit
, 15 tweets, 12 min read Read on Twitter
Headed out to my fave city in America for a 100th birthday tribute to a legend - Henry Roeland Byrd, aka #ProfessorLonghair.🤩

#Fess #NOLA #jazz #jass
So a lot of y'all don't know who Professor Longhair is, despite knowing his protégées #DrJohn, #FatsDomino, & #AllenToussaint - even those of you who consider yourselves #Jazz aficionados.

There's one reason for that: extreme poverty.
Although the blues and boogie-woogie Black musicians from Mississippi & Louisiana who made it up the river to Chicago found a wealthy white audience, Black musicians who remained in Southern states didn't have that - & thus remain underappreciated or unknown.
Dr. Professor Longhair was born in Bogalusa, LA in 1918, with no father figure and a disabled/sick mother and paralyzed brother. He was never formally educated because he had to work to support his family. Interview from 1969:

He learned the intricacies & workings of the #piano by saving old, broken pianos from the trash of rich #NOLA residents:
#Fess showshow international a city New Orleans has always been, bc he took trad NOLA jazz, Delta Blues, changed keys, & added #Cuban & #Caribbean sounds - #mambo & #rhumba #rumba. Here he is talking about playing with "Spanish & Jamaican" musicians:
Given this type of "rhythm" piano, it was hard to find drummers who cld keep up with his changes in keys. This gave birth to a distinctive #NOLA piano sound that comes thru esp w the work of #FatsDomino, & that truly shaped early #rocknroll:

Dr. John (the Night Tripper) was able - to some extent - to bring this type of music to white America, particularly in his 1974 NEW ORLEANS SWAMP/ SOUNDSTAGE - in which he proclaims Fess the "originator" of both #funk *AND* #rock:

More of Dr. John talking about how integral Professor Longhair is/was to modern music:

And #AllenToussaint, a national treasure himself, reminiscing about #Fess:

Until the Professor's genius is *truly* recognized by the world, however, his legacy IS carried on every single year - at @TipsFoundation @Tipitinas in NOLA, and through the @jazzfest, some of the happiest days of my life every year.
Both Professor Longhair & his manager, the amazing Allison Miner, helped create the @jazzfest to honor & preserve Black Southern music. (Miner's become a heroine of mine recently:)

Even late into the Civil Rights Movement, people in the South couldn't see Black and white musicians performing together. @PresHall @preshallband was one of the first places integrated bands played openly (while the owners, the Jaffes, would consistently be thrown in jail).
.@jazzfest helped change all of that. Today, on the celebration of his 100th birthday, do yourself a favor & learn about an American genius, Professor Longhair (here with Tuts Washington & Allen Toussaint, on Piano Players Rarely Ever Play Together):

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