Dr John: “People had never seen things onstage like Chicken Man biting the heads off chickens…”

The Night Tripper on Methadone, N'Awlins voodoo and getting shot in the finger

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What was a Dr John show like in 1968?
A Jones (Mrs), Lewes
People liked it, they never saw shows like that with Colinda dancing nude, with body paint on. They never saw things like Chicken Man biting the heads off chickens and drinking their blood. He’d flip [the chicken] to a snake that they couldn’t see, and the snake would eat it. It was a large black snake, so the crowd couldn’t see it, and – woosh – the chicken disappeared. We also had magicians – I would come out of a puff of smoke. We threw glitter – and all kinds of roots and herbs to people and that meant something to them. Nobody else was doing that kind of stuff.

You knew Jimi Hendrix. What was he like?
K Raistrick, Doncaster  
I liked him. I first knew Jimi when he was playing in Little Richard’s band. Jimi was real special to the guitar like John Coltrane was on the saxophone. Certain people will take an instrument further, and will open the door for people to go through and go different directions. He wasn’t an easy person to know – I got to know him more because girls that sang back-up for me made vests and clothes for him. When he was loose, he got looser. I worried about him because one day we were playing a gig in Quebec, and the promoter had run off with all the money. Jimi came offstage, and his ears and his nose was bleeding. He’d been kneeling in front of his amplifier – it’s not a good sign. I told him something about it – but I don’t even know if he could hear me.


You used to play the guitar, but you now play the piano. How come?
Mike Mills, REM
Well, I got shot in this finger. And it’s bent. I can still play guitar, I just don’t play it as much. I’m a feeling person and I can play anything with feeling – but I forget that this finger don’t work, so I hit a string with it and it just goes “bonk”. How come? A guy was pistol-whipping the singer with my band. Ronnie Barron was his name: his mother told me if anything happened to her son, she would chop my cojones off with a butcher knife. She was chopping meat at the time and that thought was in my head – I can’t let anything happen to my friend.


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