Dr John – an interview and musical tribute to the Gris Gris Man

by Brian Bahouth

Album cover of Dr. John's 1973 release "In the Right Place" - image - by willemalink, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Reno – I was sad to learn about the passing of Dr. John. Back in 2014, John “Mac” Rebennack, a.k.a. Dr. John was coming to northern California for a gig with Allen Toussaint in Grass Valley, so I took the opportunity to speak with Rebennack by phone ahead of his visit while working for KVMR radio in Nevada City, California.

As a radio producer, I relish speaking with musical artists and mixing their responses with their music, and of the nearly 50 such pieces I have produced over time, my conversation with Dr. John stands out as one of my most personally fortunate experiences as a reporter.

We discuss the influence his father’s juke box repair business and record store had on his desire to play music. We learn how a gun shot briefly separated him from one of his fingers. Along with carefully mixed music, Rebennack candidly discusses how he decided to become “Dr. John,” and we also gain a behind-the-scenes look at his song-writing process and close relationship with Allen Toussaint.

I invite you to spend 18 minutes with me and Dr. John for some obscure stories and the music of a genius.

I asked Rebennack if there is such a thing as retirement for him, and he shared a bit of musician wisdom.

“The old-timers always told me the best way for a musician to die is to fall over and die on the last song of the show, so they don’t have to play an encore, and the band gets paid.”

R.I.P. Mac Rebennack.

“Dr. John – in the Right Place”by willemalink is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0