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Pages Turn… And Eras Pass

Mac and I, Seva Benefit at the Beacon May 27, 2011

Mac and I, Seva Benefit at the Beacon May 27, 2011

Foto by Phil Jacobs

I was having dinner with Vanessa in town tonight. Our Izze had a sleepover so we had a date… sort of. I was just tasting my Thai Iced Coffee when I got a text from my old pal Michael Falzarano. The simple gist was that Dr. John The Night Tripper, aka Mac Rebennack had just passed away. I met Mac through Steve Mann in 1964 before my foray into rock ‘n’ roll. Mac and Steve were session players back then and Steve was trying to teach me to read so I could cut the gig too. It wasn’t for me, but we stayed friends. In 1965 when I got into the Airplane and moved to San Francisco on Divisadero between Turk and Eddy I got a call from Steve from the Swiss American Hotel in North Beach where he was bunking with Mac. There was some sort of confrontation between the guys and the police. I think women and drugs sere involved, but I wasn’t there so I can’t swear to it. Anyway, they came to my place and stayed for a couple of days until things cooled off. San Francisco was a very conservative place back then and any bust could turn out to be a major drag.

In any case, years passed. Mac became Dr. John, Steve would live a damaged life and we would all get older. In the late 90’s, I was part of a Seva benefit. Bonnie Raitt and John Lee Hooker were on that show. I was sharing a dressing room with Maria Muldaur, Dr. John and Bob Weir. Mac took me aside and is his raspy voice said, ‘Jorma, I owe you a solid… but I’m not going to tell you what it is.’ I guess I’ll have to wait to find out… I’m not in a rush. Steve Mann passed away but I would see Mac from time to time. He was indeed, the King Of New Orleans Funk! Indeed! I will miss our occasional intersections.

After dinner Nessa and I were over at her sister’s place sitting in my Jeep when I got a call from my friend Mark in Florida. His mom, Madelaine, passed away this afternoon at one hundred and one. Madelaine had lived in Florida for years, but she was a Meigs County girl… one of our own. Any time I would see her when Nessa wasn’t with me she would say, ‘Where is that pretty girl?’ She was a Steel Magnolia… and here’s to her and those like her… damn few left.

So I lost two more friends today and yes I know, sorrow is so selfish, but when the fury of the moment has passed, what is left but love?

We are all losing people… that’s life and I’m not alone. It is an honor for having known the good ones!

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  1. DennisK
    June 6th, 2019 at 21:21 | #1

    Jorma,
    As I read this post, I’m listening to “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” live. You introduced this dark song by saying how “it makes so many people happy” when you play it. Strange, but true. A dear friend is terminally ill and it puts all my so called “problems” in perspective and helps me be grateful for those in my life today. Especially the good ones!

    I was fortunate to see Dr. John open for you in the early 80’s at Capital in Passaic NJ. One of kind. Sad to hear he is gone…DennisK

  2. Art
    June 6th, 2019 at 21:45 | #2

    My sister took me to this concert – Dr. John’s Louis Armstrong Tribute – as a birthday present. Incredible show. Blind Boys of Alabama opened with “What a Wonderful World.” Off the charts. Also saw him with Jerry Garcia. RIP Mac Rebennack. You was the deal.

    https://www.bam.org/music/2012/dr-john-louis-armstrong-tribute

  3. George Anthony
    June 6th, 2019 at 22:22 | #3

    Hi Jorma,

    As always, thank you for sharing your stories.

    I recall a ‘Desert Island Disc’ syndicated hour radio show, you DJ’d, told stories, maybe 1990 around time of ‘Pair a Dice Found’. I heard it on NY radio.

    You played and chatted about:

    CSN – Wooden Ships
    The Band/Levon – Rag Mama Rag
    Dylan – Just Like A Woman
    Cream – Crossroads
    Janis/Big Brother – Piece Of My Heart
    Jimi – Watchtower
    And Dr. John (Right Place/Wrong Time) and story about how you crossed paths in SF, pre-JA.

    Very sorry about both your losses.

    Enjoy the upcoming Phil shows in NY.
    Best…George

  4. Rob
    June 7th, 2019 at 00:02 | #4

    All losses are big losses but this is a BIG loss. That man could accidentally drop an ashtray on the piano and it would sound funky.

  5. Richard
    June 7th, 2019 at 04:18 | #5

    Saw Dr. John open for Jerry Garcia in Asbury Park back around 1980..Great show for sure..He lived down the hall from a union brother up in Harlem some time ago..Wonder if he was still there? Hmm

  6. Dan Nigro
    June 7th, 2019 at 09:07 | #6

    Sorry for your loses Captain, Dr John was awesome and Madelaine sounds like a wonder to have known as well. Just keep in mind while you are losing old friends, you gain new ones everyday.

  7. Jim Bacon
    June 7th, 2019 at 09:33 | #7

    My condolences Jorma -

  8. Brian Doyle
    June 7th, 2019 at 10:42 | #8

    I remember Dr John at the Beacon on that upright piano in the 70’s and before Stevie Ray in the 80’s…An outright institution:

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1129500357233577&set=p.1129500357233577&type=3&theater

  9. Brendan Carroll
    June 7th, 2019 at 11:37 | #9

    During Katrina telethon, broadcast cuts out of the Doctor performing to bring us rhymers or some other shite. They didn’t even know who he was.
    He brought pleasure to some of my time.

  10. John B
    June 7th, 2019 at 16:23 | #10

    1981 at the Bottom Line I saw Dr John perform with Tom Scott and other greats such as Eric Gale ; Richard Tee ; Steve Gadd and others. Carly Simon stood to my left the entire night enjoying the show. It was the night that Tom Scott recorded his LP Apple Juice . One of the stand out songs that I remember is “So white and so funky” and of course it was performed by Dr John. He will be missed………

  11. Pete
    June 7th, 2019 at 20:00 | #11

    Hmmm … maybe my memory is fuzzy but was (or wasn’t) Dr. John the opening act for the acoustic solo Jorma run at the Capitol, Palladium etc. in May of ‘78?

  12. gregg
    June 7th, 2019 at 20:59 | #12

    Sure he opened a num. of jorma shows that I recall fuzziness or not g

  13. June 8th, 2019 at 12:04 | #13

    @Pete Pete I remember going to a Palladium show May 12, 1978. It had originally been scheduled as a Tuna show in April but it became a Jorma show in May. At the time I can recall being disappointed that it wouldn’t be a Tuna show. But I went and the opening act was a quasi-rockabilly guy named Charlie Ainley (crowd didn’t like him). He was followed by the James Cotton Blues who were just tremendous (crowd really like them). Jorma played a solo show that I found revelatory. No Dr. John though. I was lucky enough to see him open for the Neville Brothers in 1987 – and he sat in with them. One of the greatest bluest pianists I ever saw.

  14. joe durr
    June 8th, 2019 at 12:06 | #14

    Wow…Jorma having two blessed loves going to the Big Pumpkin in the sky……hang in there
    all we have is each other and the muzak……see you at the Kezwick hopefully….

  15. Joyce Sobel
    June 8th, 2019 at 20:58 | #15

    My deepest sympathy to you on the loss of Mac & Madelaine. Thank you for sharing your stories and thoughts. I have great memories of seeing Dr. John playing with Jerry in NY & NJ.

  16. John R.
    June 9th, 2019 at 09:17 | #16

    As always, Jorma, thank you for your thoughtful words.

  17. Brian Doyle
  18. Sandy
    June 10th, 2019 at 01:10 | #18

    Similar to Leon Russell, Mac Rebenak (Dr. John) played with and had friendships with many. Here he is at Duane Allman’s funeral-

    http://credo.library.umass.edu/view/full/muph057-b006-sl280-i013