RIP Professor Longhair Percussionist Alfred “Uganda” Roberts (1943-2020)
Photo by Gary Kent Keyes via The Bloomington Blues & Boogie Woogie Piano Festival on FB
New Orleans staple and noted percussionist Alfred “Uganda” Roberts has died at the age of 77.
Roberts was born and raised in the Crescent City and had a passion for rhythm from a young age. By his 20s he found his groove with the congas and eventually fell in with the legendary Allen Toussaint who enlisted Roberts to perform in his rotating cast of musicians at Sea-Saint Studios.
At 29, he met Professor Longhair at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, kickstarting a fruitful working relationship that would last for eight years, until Longhair’s passing in 1980.
Roberts’ noted contributions include percussion work on The Meters’ Afrika and Hey Pocky Way, as well as Toussaint’s Life, Love, and Faith. He also recorded with New Orleans icons like Dr. John and Irma Thomas.
In his later years, Roberts remained open to collaboration with other musicians, jamming with the likes of Widespread Panic’s Jojo Hermann and even appearing on the HBO series Treme.
Watch Roberts perform in 2016 alongside Craig Brenner and in 2010 with Jojo Hermann below: