According to legend, he's been a pimp, a dealer, a junkie and a convict who started out as an R&B session guitarist, but switched to the piano after a gunshot mangled the ring finger of his fret hand. Much of that is probably even true.
But what is indisputable is that Dr. John's 1968 album Gris Gris is an eerie, psychedelic masterpiece of Afro-Cuban percussion, voodoo chants, spooky keys and echoing guitar. Whether the "Blackest White Man in the World" ever created anything quite as great as that astonishing debut, well, that too is open for argument. His more accessible blend of boogie-woogie, rock and New Orleans-style jazz has won him four Grammy statues and about a dozen Grammy nominations, but his recent bon temps romps and studio funk are no match for his mind-blowing early output.
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Even so, the Dr. John of today remains the closest thing around to his drug- and hoodoo-crazed Night Tripper persona—and its certainly worth catching, especially considering that the opening act is New Orleans' First Family of Funk, The Neville Brothers.