New Orleans native sons Dr. John and Allen Toussaint will bring their internationally recognized music to Grass Valley during a special benefit concert for Bear Yuba Land Trust Sunday at the historic grounds of the North Star House.
It’s an event that six-time Grammy Award winner Dr. John — or Mac Rebennack as he is known to friends and family — is looking forward to.
“I am honored to do this particular benefit for Bear Yuba Land Trust and I feel good that it is for farmers, people of the land and wildlife habitats. I am very involved in preserving the wetlands in Louisiana, and so I can relate to this mission, as it is close to my heart. I think it’s a great and spiritually hip thing that music and the arts can help serve to protect our land,” said Dr. John.
Presented by The Center for the Arts, the 11th Annual Stars at North Star House concert is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the Land Trust. Established more than two decades ago, the nonprofit organization conserves land for recreation and agriculture, builds and maintains miles of local trails, leads guided hikes and provides the popular Earth Encounters summer nature camp for children.
The concert is causing a stir among local music fans, such as KVMR radio broadcaster Jerianne Van Dijk who saw him in a 2007 benefit for the Land Trust.
“The moment he hit the keys, it sent the crowd a rocking … Dr. John is the king of greasy funk and yet the smoothest piano pro, be it jazz or mainstream. He is historic, a New Orleans icon growing up around Louis Prima, Armstrong and Jordan. He can twist a tune with his quirky, smooth, sexy voice and bring it to your soul,” said Van Dijk.
“Dr. John is huge and to have along in this concert the amazing Allen Toussaint, a virtual fixture of jazz and New Orleans styles, is a treat beyond the dream,” she added.
As a special guest, Allen Toussaint will also perform on the outdoor stage at the historic North Star House grounds. The two New Orleans musicians have played together for decades when the opportunity arises.
“We’ve done lots of recording sessions and he produced my two hit albums. Usually I was a guitar player and sometimes we played together and play more than one keyboard. We play live together when the opportunity arises,” said Dr. John.
Allen Toussaint is a musician, songwriter, record producer and one of the most influential figures in New Orleans R&B. In July, President Barack Obama recognized Toussaint’s 40-year career by awarding him the National Medal of Arts. The medal is the United States government’s highest award for artists and patrons of the arts.
“Born and raised in New Orleans, Mr. Toussaint has built a legendary career alongside America’s finest musicians, sustaining his city’s rich tradition of rhythm and blues, and lifting it to the national stage,” said President Obama during the White House ceremony.
Dr. John is universally celebrated as the living embodiment of the rich musical heritage exclusive to New Orleans. His colorful musical career began in the 1950s when he wrote and played guitar on recordings by Professor Longhair, Art Neville, Joe Tex and Frankie Ford.
A notorious gun incident forced the artist to give up the guitar and concentrate on organ and piano. Further trouble at home sent Dr. John west in the 1960s, where he continued to be in demand as a session musician, playing on records by Sonny and Cher, Van Morrison, Aretha Franklin and The Rolling Stones‘ infamous Exile On Main St.
During that time he also launched his solo career, developing the charismatic persona of Dr. John The Nite Tripper. Adorned with voodoo charms and regalia, a legend was born with his breakthrough 1968 album “Gris-gris,” which established his unique blend of voodoo mysticism, funk, rhythm and blues, psychedelic rock and Creole roots.
Several of his many career highlights include the album “Sun, Moon and Herbs” in 1971 with cameos by Eric Clapton and Mick Jagger and 1973’s “In The Right Place,” which contained the chart hits “Right Place Wrong Time” and “Such A Night.”
Dr. John won Grammy Awards in 1989, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2008 and 2012. In 2004, his musical love letter to the city of New Orleans, “N’awlinz Dis Dat or D’udda,” was awarded the prestigious Académie Charles Cros 57ème Palmarès award in France. It was the first time since the 1970s that an artist from North America received the award.
After Hurricane Katrina, Dr. John immediately initiated relief fundraising concerts and recordings included his 2008 release, “City That Care Forgot.”
In 2012, Dr. John released “Locked Down,” the Grammy-winning collaboration with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, who produced and played guitar. The Los Angeles Times described the release as “… something magical, the embodiment of everything he’s done but pushed in a clear new direction.”
“I am very involved in preserving the wetlands in Louisiana, and so I can relate to this mission, as it is close to my heart. I think it’s a great and spiritually hip thing that music and the arts can help serve to protect our land,”