For a musician so well-known, it may surprise many to know that Mac Rebennack, aka Dr John, has only ever once had a song in the top 40 of the US singles chart, and that was Right Place, Wrong Time in 1973.
what’s in a name?
Malcolm Rebennack, Mac for short, began his music career back in the early 50s when he was just 13 or 14 years old. Back then he was a guitarist, and probably would still be today were it not for a stray bullet that injured a finger on his left hand while he was protecting a school friend.
By the age of 16 he’d been hired as a music producer by Ace records. By the time he was 23 he was an accomplished pianist and had moved to Los Angeles to avoid the lure of the many chemical addictions he’d succumb to in his hometown of New Orleans.
In Los Angeles he quickly became a sought after session musician playing for acts like: Sonny and Cher, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.
dr john is born
If you know anything about Dr John you’ll know of his fascination with New Orleans voodoo. When Mac Rebennack moved to Los Angeles he developed a show and persona that reflected that heritage; changing his stage name to Dr John, The Night (Nite) Tripper.
There was a guy the name of Dr. John, a hoodoo guy in New Orleans. He was competition to Marie Laveau. He was like her opposite. I actually got a clipping from the Times Picayune newspaper about how my great-great-great-grandpa Wayne was busted with this guy for running a voodoo operation in a whorehouse in 1860. I decided I would produce the record with this as a concept.
Mac went on to assume the role of Dr. John, calling his first album Gris Gris, after a voodoo healing medicine.
then came the 70s
By the 70s Dr John was an integral part of the West Coast music scene. He forged his own career while continuing his role as a session musician, playing with people like: The Rolling Stones, Carly Simon and James Taylor (Mockingbird), Neil Diamond (Beautiful Noise), Maria Muldaur, Van Morrison (also as producer on the album A Period of Transition), Levon Helm, Rickie Lee Jones, Willy DeVille, Aaron Neville and the Neville brothers, Harry Connick, Jr., and Gregg Allman.
He played with The Band on their wonderful farewell concert/album, The Last Waltz.
Between July and September 1989 Dr. John toured in the first Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, with fellow musicians, Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Nils Lofgren, Jim Keltner, Joe Walsh, Billy Preston and (the wonderful ) Clarence Clemons.
Dr John’s best known songs are Iko Iko, Right Place Wrong Time and Such a Night–the latter he performed on The Last Waltz. Right Place Wrong Time and Such a Night are both from the album In the Right Place.
right place, wrong time fax
- Right Place, Wrong Time was released by Dr John from his In the Right Place album in March 1973.
- Right Place, Wrong Time peaked at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 (#54 in the UK).
- The In the Right Place album was produced by Alain Toussaint and backed by legendary band, The Meters—who featured Art Neville, one of the Neville Brothers, on organ.
- Right Place, Wrong Time has a place in American popular culture; director Richard Linklater used it to evoke the 1970s throughout the soundtrack to his movie, Dazed and Confused.
- The song includes the line, “brain salad surgery,” which Emerson, Lake & Palmer used as the name of an album they released later in 1973.
- Right Place, Wrong Time lyrics.
right place, wrong time – dr john – 1973 – video
such a night – dr john – 1973 – video
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