For more than half a century, Dr. John, born Malcolm John "Mac" Rebennack, has embodied New Orleans, carrying the city's rich musical heritage to listeners worldwide. His career began in the `50s, writing and playing guitar on recordings by Professor Longhair, Art Neville, Joe Tex and Frankie Ford. Having made the switch to piano and organ, he also switched up his location, moving to Los Angeles in the early `60s and working with producer and fellow Nola expat Harold Battiste. After some prodding, he agreed to assume the character of Dr. John the Night Tripper, a voodoo sorcerer and healer. His breakthrough album, Gris-Gris, released in 1968, launched his unique, psychedelic Creole gumbo of voodoo, funk and rhythm & blues. Forty-six years of performances, relocations and rebirths later, Dr. John's in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has six Grammy awards, released more than two dozen albums and even performed the national anthem at Super Bowl XL. His latest release, 2012's Locked Down, produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, was a critic's darling, making Dr. John even more of a passionate musician and New Orleans advocate who needs no introduction. nitetripper.com.
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Swamp blues master Kenny Neal and 89-year-old blues legend Henry Gray have history. It goes back to Neal's childhood in Baton Rouge, when Gray knew him as a boy in a musical family who learned the basics from his singing and harmonica-playing father, Raful Neal. By then, Gray had already served in World War II, played and recorded with blues innovators in Chicago for 22 years and joined Howlin' Wolf's band. When Neal was recruited at 17 to be Buddy Guy's bass player, Gray was based in Baton Rouge, working as a roofer, raising his family and performing as locally as Tabby's Blues Box and globally in Europe and Japan. Neal and Gray both received Grammy nominations for their work on A Tribute to Howlin' Wolf. On Sept. 15, 2011, Gray and both father and son Neal were inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. This will be Gray's 15th appearance at the Baton Rouge Blues Festival and Neal's 5th appearance.
Growing up around Austin, Joe Lewis took in the sounds of Delta and Chicago blues, Memphis soul and Detroit garage rock. Eventually, he took a guitar off the wall of the pawnshop where he worked and started playing. His first EP came out in 2005, followed by a full-length album in 2007 that earned opening spots for Spoon and Okkervil River. By 2009, Esquire magazine named his band one of "Ten Bands to Break Out" at South by Southwest. Their 2013 release, Electric Slave, appears on many top album lists of 2013.
Though Shelton started singing at the age of six, alongside her two sisters in their Alabama church, she didn't release her first official album, What Have You Done, My Brother? until 60 years later. She spent much of her life in soul clubs around New York with her 45s, "41st St. Breakdown" and "Wind Your Clock," revered and prized by funk DJs around the globe. In 1999, she brought together the group of The Gospel Queens, drawing influences from Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin to blend gospel and soul.
A Louisiana Music Hall of Famer, Little Freddie King, aka Fread E. Martin, honed his guitar skills jamming with Babe Stovall, Polka Dot Slim, Boogie Bill Webb and Slim Harpo, Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker and Freddie King (comparisons to whom led to his moniker). Having rolled into New Orleans from McComb, Miss., at 14, he continues to bring his signature, raw Delta blues to the city via BJ's Lounge and d.b.a.. King's latest release, Chasing tha Blues, was selected as one of Times-Picayune writer Keith Spera's top 10 releases of 2012 as well as earning Best Blues Album by the Independent Music Awards. littlefreddieking.com
New Jersey-born Johnny Sansone's love of music began with the saxophone at age 8, expanding to harmonica and guitar shortly thereafter. He was first introduced to blues music through his father, also a saxophone player, and Jimmy Reed albums. Today, Sansone is predominantly known for his electric harmonica blues. He spent his early professional career backing up Chicago blues legends Jimmy Rodgers, Robert Jr Lockwood and John Lee Hooker. In addition to his solo career, he has worked on film scores for Rodger Coreman, HBO's Treme and is a member of the New Orleans super group The Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars.
"Master of the Stratocaster," Lil' Buck Sinegal's diverse guitar career hasspanned more than 50 years and upward of 300 recordings, including time with Clifton Chenier, Henry Gray, Rockin' Dopsie and Buckwheat Zydeco, among others, as well as a Grammy-winning spot on Paul Simon's "Graceland." In the Excello Records days, he was a session guitarist on swamp blues by Slim Harpo and Lazy Lester. His own instrumentals include "Cat Scream" and "Monkey in a Sack." A staple at Ponderosa Stomp and Jazz Fest, Lil' Buck is a Louisiana musical legend, with spots in both the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame.
Black Pistol Fire is two Canadian-by-birth, Austinites-by-choice, friends-since-kindergarten rock and rollers Kevin McKeown and Eric Owen. A mix of Southern rock and garage punk, McKeown and Owen unleash their energetic tunes on guitar, drums and vocals alone. Having previously recorded and performed as two-thirds of a trio in The Shenanigans, Black Pistol Fire was born in 2009. Since then, they've released a self-titled LP in 2011, followed by 2012's Big Beat '59 and Shut Up!, a tribute EP to Little Richard. A new LP is slated for release this year.
With unstoppable energy, Chris LeBlanc has been a staple in the Louisiana music scene for more than 20 years, combining Southern rock with blues and juke joint vibes. Performing locally, nationally and internationally, Chris has been billed with artists such as ZZ Top, Hank Williams Jr., BB King and Brett Michaels, among others. Having released four albums on his Sweetroll Records, Chris has recently spent time writing and recording new material in his private studio. chrisleblancband.com
An influential accordionist and vocalist in modern Zydeco music, Jeffery Broussard is one of the genre's most dynamic performers. He grew up in Frilot Cove, northwest of Opelousas, on a farm where his father was a sharecropper. At 8, he started playing drums in his father's Creole Zydeco band, Delton Broussard & The Lawtell Playboys. In his early teens, he left school to help his parents full-time, teaching himself accordion on the sly. Having developed nouveau Zydeco (that incorporated sounds of R&B into contemporary Zydeco) with his band, Zydeco Force, he now plays more traditional Zydeco with his band, The Creole Cowboys.
Brother Dege, aka Dege Legg, is a musician, writer and odd-job worker from Lafayette. Since the mid '90s, he's brought slide guitar, resonators and roots music into his own blend of 21st century trance-folk/Delta blues/punk/rock/metal/hippie ragas/avant outlaw country. His 2010 release, Folk Songs of the American Longhair, reinvented Delta blues for future generations and catapulted his sound to more ears when the track "Too Old to Die Young" was used in Django Unchained. He's recently back from a European tour on the heels of his 2013 release, How To Kill a Horse.
Since 2006, Baton Rouge Music Studios' faculty of music educators and professional performers has instructed Baton Rouge area youth in music education. In groups or one-on-one, students learn fundamentals from ear training, theory and instrument technique to professional skills like networking and communication. Students at BRMS apply their lessons on stage, in public at venues like the Hard Rock Café in New Orleans and the Atrium at the Belle of Baton Rouge. brmusicstudios.com
Alt-soul funk band SpeakEasy has ascended quickly since their first public gig in October 2012. Starting out in smaller venues with stylized covers of artists like Erykah Badu and Beyonce, the band now steadily weaves in originals, playing at spots like Mud+Water and Spanish Moon. Consisting of vocalist Andrea Mitchell, guitarist Grant Hudson, percussionist Eli Williams, trombonist Nick Garrison, bassist/occasional rapper Chris Polk and John Mann on the vibraphone, SpeakEasy earned a spot at Blues Fest by beating out 24 other entrants in DIG magazine's Battle of the Bands.
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