Dr. John chats voodoo with Andrews. Courtesy image.

THE DR. JOHN INTERVIEW(S)

I didn’t get what I wanted, but did I get what I needed? (Don’t sue me, Mick.)

A while back my wife started digitizing some old cassette tapes of interviews I’ve done over the years, mostly back in Albuquerque, prior to my moving out here in 1980 to make my fame and fortune in the music biz. That may not have turned out the way I pictured it but I wound up having a lot of good times and great music (number one priority, check), met my wife of nearly 35 years (at The Palomino), and raised a great son and daughter, both very musically inclined, who had the advantage of the hotbed of music that is Los Angeles, and dad’s pretty good access. I started out in Mandeville Canyon, stops for premier public schools in Studio City and Beverly Hills, and landed near the beach in Santa Monica. No complaints.

The digitized interview discs I have are with Dr. John, John Mayall, Randy Newman, Alice Cooper, Bill Payne of Little Feat and John Dawson of the New Riders of the Purple Sage. I picked out the Dr. John because I remember it was a time when he was deep into his studies of Voodoo as a religion; he was an elder or bishop or something in his local temple in New Orleans. He was learning Aramaic (!) so he could read certain relevant scriptures in their original language, which I thought was pretty ambitious and resolute, and he hauled out his on-the-road homework to show me. (It is generally agreed that Jesus would have spoken and written Aramaic.)

NOT THE INTERVIEW EVERYONE GOT

Nor certainly your usual touring rock star interview, and I was delighted. He probably loved that this dude in Podunk Albuquerque was actually eager to hear about it instead of eyes glazing over, and he went deep. I wrote it up for the Albuquerque Journal, the largest newspaper in the state, more about the voodoo studies than the music, and got an unexpected reaction from another newspaper.

Mark Acuff published The Independent newspaper for years, also El Independiente and a couple of others — you know, one of those guys, in the ‘60s and ‘70s. But he was an alternative journalist interested in politics, culture and society, not growing better weed.

In one of his columns he reacted to my Dr. John interview (I wish I could find that column), saying something along the lines of, “Charles Andrews may be Albuquerque’s walking version of Rolling Stone but he sure got bamboozled by that feathered guy from New Orleans, Dr. John. He trotted out his voodoo nonsense as being a legitimate religion, and Andrews lapped it up and wrote it up. Andrews has egg on his face and Dr. John is laughing all the way to the bank.” Something like that.

BUT HOW ABOUT A JOB?

First of all, I was delighted to get extra ink on my work, even if it was derisive. Secondly, I loved him calling me a walking version of Rolling Stone (no Internet then, folks). Although Acuff had pretty good credibility and name recognition, I think there were more people who read his lambasting of my interview as being from someone who had little clue about the world of popular music. (And, associating yourself with voodoo is a clear path to millions?

The killer was that after a couple of exchanges he offered me a job, to write for his paper, about music or anything I wished. I never even asked him for a pay figure. I was not going to dump the state’s largest and most prestigious newspaper, nearly a century old, for his small circulation one. I didn’t much care for most of his other ego-driven opinions and didn’t want the association.

WHEN WAS THIS DR. JOHN INTERVIEW?

Although it is getting easier and easier to find these arcane factoids about concert dates long gone, it is still hit and miss over several web sites. I haven’t found this one yet, but my guess is early to mid-’70s. I’m pretty sure there was one show, and one interview. But this ain’t the right one, the one I was thinking of. Even though it is over an hour long.

The Dr. John interview I’m remembering was also pretty long, and I think there was just the two of us. For this part of the interview there is another band member there, being really annoying, talking loud, playing the TV loud, and loud music. Which makes it very difficult to make out the words. But you are there as an invited guest and as much as I, like Joe Biden Tuesday night, wanted to tell him, shut up! — that wasn’t an option.

WHAT DID WE TALK ABOUT?

Food, to begin with. Band guy was ordering a “tack-o plate” from room service, and as I was biting my hand hard I tried to tell the Dr. that I could guide him to some real New Mexican cuisine. That’s something N’awlins folk understand.

There was some talk of the temple, that they had just received their charter, and a little breaking down of where in the world voodoo comes from. “It’s an Afro-Judaic tradition with influences from Ethiopia, Spain and Egypt, among other places,” he explained. “We respect all religions.”

He told me he was working on a project based on Greek — “Pythagorian spheres, with the ancient tradition of using music for healing rather than just entertainment. Affect, not effect.”

We lost the good musical doctor last year, to a heart attack at age 77. Absolutely one of a kind, sorely missed. I’m sure he never knew his interview with me inadvertently raised my stature in my hometown. Musta been the right place at the right time.

NICOLE RECOMMENDS:

WATCH “EVERYBODY IN THE PLACE: AN INCOMPLETE HISTORY OF BRITAIN 1984-1992” — Written and directed by conceptual and video installation artist Jeremy Deller, “Everybody In The Place” explores the political and sociocultural history of late ‘80s and early ‘90s UK through the lens of the rave and acid house music scene. Regardless of your interest in or personal connection to this music (or lack thereof), the documentary stands on its own as a highly engaging, well-crafted film. Deller is the focal point, presenting a slideshow lecture to a class of A Level students (the US equivalent of high school juniors and seniors). We watch alongside the students as Deller weaves his story using archival footage and photographs, socioeconomic theory and personal theories, and we see the students’ reactions to it all. Later on in the film there is some discussion between them and Deller, and we even get to see them play around with period-specific synthesizers and drum machines. It is, as the title suggests, an incomplete history, but it is a very compelling one.

Link to watch: https://youtu.be/N0xtv-bWYbQ

Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 2,500 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com