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The Bickershaw Programme: Dr John .

   Dr John is a refreshingly original writer performer from Louisiana. His real name is Mac Rebennack and he won modest fame first as a studio musician in the early 60s when he recorded with many of his jazz and R& B idols . Then when the white gospel team of Delaney and Bonnie recorded one of his tunes on their Accept No Substitute album . 
  • Front cover
  • Back cover
  • America
  • Brinsley Schwarz
  • Brotherhood of Breath
  • Captain Beefheart
  • Captain Beyond
  • Cheech and Chong
  • Country Joe.
  • Donovan 
  • Family
  • Flaming Groovies
  • Grateful Dead.
  • Hawkwind
  • Jonathon Kelly
  • Linda Lewis.
  • Incredible String Band
  • Neophonic Orchestra
  • New Riders.
  • Pacific Gas and Electric 
  • Sam Apple Pie
  • Stackridge
  • Al Stewart
  • The Kinks.
  • Joes Lights 
  • Mike Westbrook

       The song was called "When The Battle Is Over "  but for the Dr the battle hadn't even started. Mac's debut album "Gris Gris " panicked his record company because they didn't know what category to put it in. File under popular ? File under updated voodoo church music ? File under jazz flavoured cajun R & B ?  File into the swamp and never be seen again ? 
      His music is feverishly danceable, , with a unique sense of structure and texture. Side one of "Remedies" is 22 minutes of the catchiest , boogiest, rhythm and voodoo that You'll ever hear. If you're going back to the roots , you can't get much nearer than New Orleans , the cradle of jazz. Real Mardi Gras festivities. 

        On the"  Sun Moon and Herbs "there is more atmosphere and more solo space. The songs are stretched out to five or six minutes. It ranks with Traffics "Low Spark" as Britain's most ignored album of 1971. Its another world another language. Fascinated by the sensual tribal rhythms , you tiptoe through the jungle , nearer and nearer the secret rendezvous , a timeless exotic scene of countless carnivals.A witch doctor in Eskimo boots , fur robes and giant head dress shuffles round n the centre of a surreal medicine show. His face is streaked with paint . Voo voo, voo, voo, voom, lithe voodoo princesses sway with the beat , their silver plumes sparkling in the moonlight. Its that ole dope magic has you in its spell. It won't do you no harm , you just gotta handle it right.

    Dr John onstage at Bickershaw

         The Doctor's arrangements are really something  else .Girls back up choruses and soft reeded saxophones  and rambling percussion effects are threaded around the guitars vocals and keyboards which carry the top lines. If you've never heard it before it might sound strange, a dervish dance on the periphery of meaning . But the more you listen the more sense it makes.

    Ann Ivelrecalls doing Mac's PR when he came over for the Bath Festival . She found the recent Beefheart visit somewhat similar.

    " The stranger people are supposed to be , the easier they are to work with "
    Before Bath, Annie was in America and someone said the Stones wanted to record with DR John
    " but there was some kind  of work permit hold up , so Taj Mahal did it . Then when he eventually came over here I remembered Mick Jagger wanted to work with him. So I phoned Mick . Four days late there were 40 people at Trident studios . We could only get it from 2-10 pm. I had to get the press out of bed at 4 am. It was literally that spontaneous. "
       These legendary sessions featured Eric Clapton on slide guitar, with Dominoes, Carl Radle, Jim Gordon, and Bobby Whitlock, : Bobby Keys, Chris Mercer and Graham Bond on saxes. Ray Draper played tuba and Mick Jagger and four girls sang the harmonies.
    "He's not able to bully his people ",says Annie ,  "he relies on their integrity and good faith " she recalls in particular one extravaganza by the seaside
    " it was a hotel manor house with two medieval courtyards, standing in a 100 acres of its own ground. A joint press reception with two other groups . A camera team from late night line up was hovering around. There was Canned Heatbeing noisy and gregarious and Frank Zappa completely in control of the situation . Dr John is such a lovely gentle person. He came down the stairs, I think he was a little phased by so many people . So we sat him down at the piano and people came over and talked to him as he played . Everything was fine . Then he lurched down to the beach in all his garb, it was like King Canute. "

    (This is according to the programme, the actual line-up may have been different )
    Mac Rebennack - Vocals, piano, guitar.
    Ronald Barrose- Keyboards and vocals.
    James Calhoun - Bass.
    Richard Washington - percussion .
    Ken Klimak- guitar.
    Robbie Montgomery - vocals.
    Jesse Smith - vocals.
    Fred Stahle - drums .

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    Updated May 2023

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