Who Dat Jammin' With The HooDude?
"I Been Hoodood" (Mac Rebennack)
Dr. John with the Meters, live in Lake Charles, Louisiana, circa 1973
Having been suffering for the last five days with a bad case of strep-throat and a cold that two trips to the doctor and several shots o’ medicated mojo have yet to completely dispel, I definitely have been feeling hoodooed and more tricked than treated lately. But what the hell, I’ve got one more goodie for Halloween to offer up from the man with a perpetual bag of musical remedies, Dr. John (Mac Rebennack).
“I Been Hoodood” originally came out on his In The Right Place album in 1973 and was the flip side of the hit single “Right Place, Wrong Time”. As many of you already know, Allen Toussaint produced the sessions for that successful album and it’s follow-up, Desitively Bonnaroo; and the mighty Meters were the main backing unit on both. What is not widely known is that, for a brief period after In The Right Place was released, the Meters backed Dr. John on the road, too. I don’t think their bare bones, go-for-it configuration lasted more than a few dates; so, imagine my amazement and delight when I was fortunate enough to receive a recording of one of those shows by way of a gracious HOTG reader, who knew I needed to hear it. Merci, beaucoup!
From a Lake Charles concert, this recording has all the earmarks of a raw feed soundboard tape. In spite of the obvious lack of a mix and the usual live gig audio problems, it has a fairly decent sound quality that allows us to get a feel for the the results of this merger. The Meters did not often back Dr. John, so some of the playing is not totally tight; but it is intense throughout; and, to the Meters credit, they handle Mac’s diverse musical moves and grooves very ably. Just dig their funky, lowdown vamping on this song about a guy ensnared in the net of a strong love spell. Rebennack is on clavinet, I think, and Art Neville on barely audible organ and way loud backing vocal here. Of course, Leo, George and Zig, complete the line-up. I think Zig gets in a line or two of singing himself.
Concocting (with the inspiration of his friend and former partner, Ronnie Barron) the Dr. John stage persona which he debuted in the late 1960s, Rebennack incorporated elements of the voodoo and hoodoo cultures of New Orleans, mixing them with a trippy swamp psychedelia and his strongly rooted barrelhouse blues, early rock ‘n roll, and gritty street fonk styles to create a type of revelatory performance art that joyously has embodied the spirit and heritage of his hometown ever since. Without doubt, he’s a conjure man in the best of many senses of the term. The musical potions he summoned up with the Meters were so strong, it makes you wonder how powerful their combined sound could have become had it been taken farther down the road. And, wow, what must it have been like to experience one of these shows live? It’s strong medicine, for sure, even at this lower, encapsulated dosage. I can testify to that. I just needed the right doctor and assistants working to get my groove back in action.
Note: Top photo of Mac and the Meters (Leo seen on guitar) playing at a club is from the collection of the late Charles Kimball.