Born Henry Roeland Byrd on December 19, 1980 in Bogalusa Louisiana, Professor Longhair began his show business career at age 11 as a medicine show shill on the streets of New Orleans.
He soon graduated to tap dancing for change.
Legend has it that he found a couple junked pianos sheltered from the rain in a back alley somewhere and started teaching himself how to play while working around the broken keys.
It is alleged that he picked up a lesson or two from Champion Jack Dupree in exchange for singing lessons.
Which is a hoot and a half in and of itself ..... you'll see.
Tuts Washington eventually took him on as a student and taught him the fundamentals of New Orleans Piano.
He began his professional career as a piano man at Caledonia's with the Midriffs, who quickly became Professor Longhair and His Four Hairs Combo.
That band recorded Longhair's only charted hit Baldhead, which reached #5 on Billboard's R&B chart in 1950.
Professor Longhair spent the 50's recording what they like to call in the music business, "Groundbreaking Records", while flat out inventing an easy dozen left hand patterns, turnarounds, rhythms, riffs, and walkups.
He wrote and recorded what has now become the Mardi Gras anthem, Mardi Gras in New Orleans.
While struggling to get paid for his music in New Orleans, he was influencing Rock and Roll musicians throughout the world, from the entirety of the Sun Records Company, to The Beatles, The Stones, and many who followed.
And then there's the piano players; he was and is a/the major influence on every New Orleans piano player, bar none.
It is my strongly held opinion that there is not one piano guy on this earth with an ounce of boogie in him that hasn't spent some hours with Tipitina.
Allen Toussaint dubbed him "The Bach of Rock"
Albert Goldman called him "The Satchel Paige of the Piano"
He spent the 60's working at odd jobs between local gigs; during one period, his health failing and too broke to get his piano fixed, he gave up on his music entirely taking a job sweeping floors and running errands at the One Stop record store on Rampart Street in New Orleans.
Having been "rediscovered" in the early 70s, both he and his piano were repaired and he obtained the first record contract of his life that paid, enabling him finally to earn a living from his music.
He passed in his sleep January 30, 1980.
In 1981 he was inducted into the "Blues Hall of Fame"
He received a posthumous Grammy in 1987 for a collection of his early recordings titled House Party New Orleans Style.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.
From the PBS series Soundstage, who you would have thought could have got a better sound out of the vocal mic, backed by The Meters, here is one of the greatest and most influential musicians of the 20th Century regardless of genre,