UNDER A HOODOO MOON by Mac Rebennack


The Life of Dr. John the Night Tripper
Email this review


 This unflinching autobiography by Mac Rebennack, aka Dr. John, with Rummel (Malcolm X, 1989) gives a firsthand account of New Orleans street life and musical history in the last few decades. Rebennack began frequenting New Orleans music clubs at an early age. In the '50s he dropped out of high school and devoted himself to playing the piano and guitar. While developing his music he also developed a taste for heroin and other drugs. Musicians in the New Orleans scene provided entertainment for ``turistas'' and, in the early morning hours, for pimps, prostitutes and thieves. To supplement their income, musicians also engaged in some of these vocations. Rebennack admits to participating in many shady dealings: He disposed of fetuses for an abortionist, held stick- ups, and conspired to, but evidently did not, murder. After a stint in prison on narcotics charges, he cast himself as Dr. John, based on the 19th-century conjurer by that name, and played distinctly New Orleans music in a wild stage show that featured snake handling and black magic. Dr. John's music became popular with the '60s counterculture. Rebennack also played as a sideman throughout his career with a catalog of music greats--some obscure and some well- known, such as Little Richard and Professor Longhair; considering the ``narcotic haze'' in which he often found himself, he remembers many details from sessions. Rebennack, however, has no respect for fame without musical skill--he refers to the group Iron Butterfly as ``Iron Butterfingers.'' Taken advantage of by unscrupulous music business executives and strung out on heroin for 34 years, he tells a tough tale. A life this varied and chaotic is hard to translate into a linear story. Though Rebennack's prose sometimes rambles, he gives the reader a perspective that most tourists to Bourbon street never see.

Pub Date: April 21st, 1994
ISBN: 0-312-10567-3
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1994