Professor Longhair, next to Fats Domino, must rank as New Orleans' most influential musician. Born Henry Roeland Byrd in Bogalusa, Louisiana, on Dec. 18, 1918, his family moved to New Orleans when he was still a child.
He soon picked up the wonderfully diverse styles of the old pianists who used to play the clubs and clip joints, and moulded them into his unique way of playing, with Spanish and rhumba accents predominating. He made his first record in 1949 for Star Talent as Professor Longhair and the Shuffling Hungarians and in 1950 'Bald Head' on Mercury was his one and only record to dent the R&B charts. Records for Atlantic, Federal, Wasco, Ebb, Rip and Watch flopped badly although his 1959 Ron recording of 'Go To The Mardi Gras' still sells well every year at New Orleans' annual blow-out.
He was out of work for much of the Sixties, but there has been a welcome revival of interest in his music of late, which has led to many live appearances and a visit to Europe.