HENRY ROELAND BYRD.
( Professor Longhair )
1918 to 1980.


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Henry Roeland Byrd is born in Bogaluga, Louisiana, on 19 December 1918.

He enjoys his first taste of show business in 1926, when he joins the C.J.K. Medicine Show.

Henry begins playing the piano seriously in 1938, and he plays alongside Champion Jack Dupree in 1939, Henry is a regular performer on stage at the Cotton Club in Rampart Street, New Orleans.

In 1945 he is discharged after serving in the US Army during World War II. On his return to civilian life he makes his living as a card player.Henry starts a residency at the Caldonia Inn in New Orleans in 1948. The owner, noting the untidy nature of the band's hair, calls Henry, Professor Longhair and his band the Four Hairs. The nickname will stick with Henry for the rest of his life.

He switches residency in 1949 from the Caldonia Inn to the Pepper Pot Club. Later in the year he makes his first recordings, for the Star Talent record label, one of which is 'Mardi Gras in New Orleans'.

Professor Longhair ( shortened to Fess ) records for the Mercury record label in 1950 and 'Bald Head' reaches Number 5 on the Billboard chart.

He cuts 'Tipitina', in 1953, one of his most popular numbers, but after a minor stroke the following year, Fess has to take a break from music.

'Go to the Mardi Gras' receives extensive airplay in 1958 but Fess remains relatively unknown outside New Orleans.

In 1964 he records Earl Kings 'Big Chief' but the 1960's is not, on the whole, a good decade for him. Once again he makes his living more from playing cards than from music.

Having been 'rediscovered' by blues enthusiasts in 1971, Fess plays the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

New Orleans Piano a collection of his Atlantic sessions from the late 1940's and early 1950's is released on the Atlantic record label in 1972 and he makes his first European Tour in 1973.

On 30 January 1980, Professor Longhair dies after a heart attack. Crawfish Fiesta, recorded two months previously, is released posthumously.



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