|Single by Professor Longhair|
|B-side||"In The Night"|
|Format||45 rpm record|
|Genre||New Orleans blues|
"Tipitina" is a song written and made famous by Professor Longhair. The song has been widely covered, and the Professor Longhair version was recorded in 1953 for Atlantic Records. "Tipitina" was first released in 1953 and re-released on the album New Orleans Piano in 1972. Although the nature of his contributions are unknown, recording engineer Cosimo Matassa is listed as the song's co-writer along with Roy Byrd, Professor Longhair's legal name.
The song, which is considered a New Orleans music standard, was added to the US National Recording Registry in 2011 because of its cultural significance. The subject of "Tipitina" is unknown. The New Orleans music venue, Tipitina's, was named for the song, and Tipitina's Foundation bears the Tipitina name.
Pianist Henry Roeland "Roy" Byrd, known as Professor Longhair, was a prominent New Orleans musician. He played syncopated music that combined blues, ragtime, zydeco, rhumba, mambo and calypso. His singing was characterized as hoarse. His peripatetic recording career began in 1949 with "Mardi Gras In New Orleans" and "She's Got No Hair" with a group credited as "Longhair and his Shuffling Hungarians." A year later at Mercury Records and Roy Byrd & his Blues Jumpers rerecorded "She's Got No Hair" as "Bald Head", which broke through as his only national R&B hit. In 1953, at Atlantic Records, he recorded "Tipitina", which is now regarded as his "signature song".
The melody is derived from Champion Jack Dupree's "Junker's Blues". Rolling Stone described the song as a "rhumba-style track" that has become a quintessential New Orleans standard. According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which inducted Longhair in 1992, "The hum-along nonsense syllables and stutter stepping left-hand rhythm of 'Tiptina' is both a symbol and staple of New Orleans music."
Allen Toussaint described learning the song as a "rite of passage". The subject of the song is unknown. Among the speculated subjects are a place and a person. Hugh Laurie recorded a cover of the song around the time of its selection to the National Recording Registry. He commented about the mystery as follows: "I thought it was better not knowing. It adds to its mystique and its power to make me laugh and cry all in one go."
The song became a hit in New Orleans after its initial release, but was not as successful in the rest of the United States. . The 1953 Professor Longhair version and the 1972 Dr. John version are both considered "Classic non Hot 100 songs".
In 2011, the song was included in the National Recording Registry. Byrd received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award for this song. The song was listed among the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock in 1994 by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The song was also listed in the 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time and the Artists, Stories and Secrets Behind Them (2006) by Toby Creswell as well as the Rock Song Index: The 7500 Most Important Songs for the Rock and Roll Era (2005) by Bruce Pollock.
The National Recording Registry announcement for this song said the song is "a signature distillation of the musical ideas and personality that inspired and influenced such New Orleans pianists as Fats Domino, Huey "Piano" Smith, James Booker, Dr. John and Allen Toussaint". According to Creswell, "Tipitina" "marshalled New Orleans rhythm into a sparkling package".
Selected recorded versions
The song has been widely covered.
- Professor Longhair: from New Orleans Piano (1972, recorded 1953)
- Dr. John: from Dr. John's Gumbo (1972)
- James Booker: from Live from Belle Vue (2015)
- Hugh Laurie: from his debut album, Let Them Talk (2011)
Professor Longhair version
The Professor Longhair version was recorded in New Orleans in November 1953 under the name Professor Longhair & His Blues Scholars. According to John Crosby's Professor Longhair : a bio-discography, performers included Roy Byrd (vocals, piano), Lee Allen (tenor saxophone), Frank Fields (bass), Earl Palmer (drums), and Alvin "Red" Tyler (baritone saxophone). However, the Atlantic Records Discography credits Edgar Blanchard as the bassist. It was released as a single in 1953 and then re-released in 1972. It is included on several albums including the New Orleans Piano (1972), which has two different takes. Other albums that include this version are Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: Piano Blues (2003) and Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens (2004).
In popular culture
- A version by Bo Dollis & The Wild Magnolias is in the Bones season 1 episode "The Man in the Morgue" (an episode set in New Orleans).
- "Tipitina", the November 25, 2012 season 3 finale of Treme (a TV series about New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina), used the song twice.
- "BMI Repertoire: Tipitina (BMI Work #1519693)". BMI Repertoire. Retrieved November 7, 2019.
- "Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: Tipitina". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. May 16, 2013. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
- Creswell, Toby (2006). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time and the Artists, Stories and Secrets Behind Them. Da Capo Press. pp. 548–49. ISBN 1-56025-915-9.
- Planer, Lindsay (2014). "Professor Longhair: Tipitina". Allmusic. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
- "Tipitina". Rolling Stone. 2014. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
- "Professor Longhair: Tipitina: Inside the National Recording Registry". Studio 360. Public Radio International. January 20, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
- See also Hugh Laurie - Tipitina (The Story Behind the Song)
- Whitburn, p. 764.
- Whitburn, p. 286.
- "The National Recording Registry 2010". Library of Congress. January 22, 2014. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
- Massa, Dominic (December 3, 2013). "Louis Armstrong song inducted into Grammy Hall of Fame". WWL-TV. Archived from the original on January 13, 2014. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
- Pollock, Bruce (2005). Rock Song Index: The 7500 Most Important Songs for the Rock and Roll Era (second ed.). Routledge. ISBN 0-415-97073-3.
- "Live from Belle Vue". Amazon.com. Retrieved June 1, 2018.
- Dahl, Bill (2014). "Professor Longhair: New Orleans Piano". Allmusic. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
- Crosby, John (1983). Professor Longhair : a bio-discography : New Orleans r & b. John Crosby.
- Ruppli, Michel (1979). Rust, Brian (ed.). Atlantic Records: A Discography. 1. Greenwood Press. p. 42. ISBN 0-313-21171-X.
- "Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: Piano Blues". Amazon.com. Retrieved May 1, 2014.
- "Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans [Box set]". Amazon.com. Retrieved May 1, 2014.
- "The Man in the Morgue". TV.com. Retrieved May 1, 2014.
- Walker, Dave (November 25, 2012). "'Treme' explained: 'Tipitina'". The Times-Picayune. NOLA.com. Retrieved January 12, 2014.