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Tipitina - Professor Longhair.jpg
Single by Professor Longhair
B-side "In The Night"
Released1953 (1953)
Genre New Orleans blues
Label Atlantic
Songwriter(s) Roy Byrd

"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. A previously unreleased alternate take (also recorded in 1953) was 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. [1]


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. According to an interview and a recording by Dr. John (Mac Rebennack) played at the WWOZ Piano Night concert in 2020, Tipitina was a type of or name of a bird. Rebennack said he had never heard of that before or since. The New Orleans music venue, Tipitina's, was named for the song, [2] 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", [3] which is now regarded as his "signature song". [4]


The melody is derived from Champion Jack Dupree's "Junker's Blues". [5] Rolling Stone described the song as a "rhumba-style track" that has become a quintessential New Orleans standard. [6] 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." [3]

Allen Toussaint described learning the song as a "rite of passage". [7] The subject of the song is unknown. Among the speculated subjects are a place and a person. [7] 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." [7] [8]

The song became a hit in New Orleans after its initial release, but was not as successful in the rest of the United States. [7] [4] The 1953 Professor Longhair version and the 1972 Dr. John version are both considered "Classic non Hot 100 songs". [9] [10]

Critical response

In 2011, the song was included in the National Recording Registry. [11] Byrd received a Grammy Hall of Fame Award for this song. [12] The song was listed among the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock in 1994 by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. [3] 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. [4] [13]

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". [11] According to Creswell, "Tipitina" "marshalled New Orleans rhythm into a sparkling package". [4]

Selected recorded versions

The song has been widely covered as well as multiply recorded by Professor Longhair himself. [6]

Professor Longhair: from New Orleans Piano (1972, previously unreleased alternate take recorded in 1953) [14]
Dr. John: from Dr. John's Gumbo (1972)
Professor Longhair: from Rock 'n' Roll Gumbo (1974). [15] This 1974 recording has been substantially remixed in 1985 for the CD release of this album. [16] It is this 1985 remix of the 1974 recording that is included on the 1987 soundtrack album of The Big Easy. [17]
Professor Longhair: from House Party New Orleans Style: The Lost Sessions 1971–1972 (1987, previously unreleased recording from 1972) [18]
James Booker: from Live from Belle Vue (2015) [19]
Hugh Laurie: from his debut album, Let Them Talk (2011) [7]

Professor Longhair single version

The original Professor Longhair version was recorded in New Orleans in November 1953 under the name Professor Longhair & His Blues Scholars. [20] [21] 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). [21] However, the Atlantic Records Discography credits Edgar Blanchard as the bassist. [22] It was released as a single in 1953. [6] This version is included on several albums including the CD reissue of the 1972 album New Orleans Piano, which contains the single take released in 1953 as well as the alternate take first released on the 1972 vinyl LP. [20] Other albums that include this version are Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: Piano Blues (2003) [23] and Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens (2004). [24]


  1. "BMI Repertoire: Tipitina (BMI Work #1519693)". BMI Repertoire . Retrieved November 7, 2019.
  2. Berry, Jason (April 28, 2022). "New Orleans Legend Tipitina's Is Back—With Vintage Records". The Daily Beast. Retrieved December 23, 2022.
  3. 1 2 3 "Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll: Tipitina". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. May 16, 2013. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
  4. 1 2 3 4 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.
  5. Planer, Lindsay (2014). "Professor Longhair: Tipitina". Allmusic . Retrieved January 11, 2014.
  6. 1 2 3 "Tipitina". Rolling Stone . 2014. Archived from the original on May 18, 2012. Retrieved January 11, 2014.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 "Professor Longhair: Tipitina: Inside the National Recording Registry". Studio 360. Public Radio International. January 20, 2012. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  8. See also Hugh Laurie - Tipitina (The Story Behind the Song)
  9. Whitburn, p. 764.
  10. Whitburn, p. 286.
  11. 1 2 "The National Recording Registry 2010". Library of Congress. January 22, 2014. Retrieved February 12, 2014.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Discogs Professor Longhair - New Orleans Piano
  15. Discogs Professor Longhair - Rock N Roll Gumbo
  16. Discogs Professor Longhair - Rock N Roll Gumbo - Reissue
  17. Discogs The Big Easy Soundtrack
  18. Discogs Professor Longhair - House Party New Orleans Style
  19. "Live from Belle Vue". Amazon. Retrieved June 1, 2018.
  20. 1 2 Dahl, Bill (2014). "Professor Longhair: New Orleans Piano". Allmusic . Retrieved January 11, 2014.
  21. 1 2 Crosby, John (1983). Professor Longhair : a bio-discography : New Orleans r & b. John Crosby.
  22. Ruppli, Michel (1979). Rust, Brian (ed.). Atlantic Records: A Discography. Vol. 1. Greenwood Press. p. 42. ISBN   0-313-21171-X.
  23. "Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues: Piano Blues". Amazon. Retrieved May 1, 2014.
  24. "Doctors, Professors, Kings & Queens: The Big Ol' Box of New Orleans [Box set]". Amazon. Retrieved May 1, 2014.
  25. "The Man in the Morgue". TV.com . Retrieved May 1, 2014.
  26. Walker, Dave (November 25, 2012). "'Treme' explained: 'Tipitina'". The Times-Picayune . NOLA.com . Retrieved January 12, 2014.
  27. "IAJE What's Going On". Jazz Education Journal. Manhattan, Kansas: International Association of Jazz Educators. 37 (5): 87. April 2005. ISSN   1540-2886. ProQuest   1370090.
  28. Make It Funky! (DVD). Culver City, California: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. 2005. ISBN   9781404991583. OCLC   61207781. 11952.

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