Professor Longhair Live on the Queen Mary
Henry Byrd, better known as New Orleans piano god Professor Longhair, and colloquially as Fess, was already 57 years old—ancient at the time for a working musician— when he performed in March 1975 on the Queen Mary ocean liner. He was there at the invitation of the husband-and-wife co-leaders of a band called Wings, Paul and Linda McCartney, who were throwing a bash for their newest release, Venus and Mars . Fess’ set was recorded and released three years later and has, ever since, been considered key evidence as to why players from Fats Domino to Dr. John worshipped the ground Fess walked on. As with the original release, there aren’t any musician credits cited on the new reissue, so you’ll just have to trust that the folks accompanying the pianist knew who they were dealing with and egged him on. Although the program is regrettably short— only nine tunes clocking in at slightly more than a half-hour— each number is packed with Crescent City genius. No one better defined New Orleans R&B than Professor Longhair, and the versions here of his anthem “Tipitina,” “Mess Around,” “Stagger Lee,” “Every Day I Have the Blues” and even the Hank Snow country standard “I’m Movin’ On” are all definitive.