Professor Longhair: Go to the Mardi Gras
Go to the Mardi Gras
Professor Longhair (piano, vocals, whistling)
We Got a Party! – The Best of Ron Records, Volume 1 (Rounder)
Professor Longhair (piano, vocals, whistling),
Eddie Hines (trombone), Morris Bechamin (tenor sax), Mac Rebennack (guitar), Richard Payne (bass), John Boudreaux (drums).
Composed by Roy (“Professor Longhair”) Byrd & Tee Terry.
Recorded: New Orleans, 1959
Rating: 98/100 (learn more)
At the end of Lent, in the stretch up to Fat Tuesday, New Orleans busts loose – even now after Katrina's destruction of the Big Easy – and the one song that brings on the resurrection every year is "Go to the Mardi Gras," by the singular and only Professor Longhair, gran' papa of NOLA's rhumba-rhythm piano sound. Fifty years after it was recorded, 'Fess's hot-saucy soupcon of joy is still the perennial hit.
Granted, the good professor learned a few tricks from some earlier cats, but he's the man who perfected all, and influenced every Louisiana piano tickler that came after. His protégé Dr. John was there back in '59 to arrange the goodtiming go-to while 'Fess coached the crack local players into the right rhythm and mood. Then the tapes rolled … 'Fess's piano rippled out a clarion wake-up call trailed by fast, bustling drums … and history answered.
Now every late winter since, his rollicking vocal and magical staccato whistling and rolling-on-the-sea piano take you from the Bahamas to Brazil, from the Caribbean to Congo Square, from hard times to breakout bliss: "If you go to New Orleans, you oughta go see the Mardi Gras / If you see the Mardi Gras, somebody'll tell you what Carnival's for." No slavery memories lurking, just the second-line jump keyed to make your rump roll, your feet lift, and your hands raise up high. It's Mardi Gras time in what's left of New Orleans.
Reviewer: Ed Leimbacher
If you liked this track, also check out
A History of New Orleans Music in 100 Tracks edited by Ted Gioia