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During the late ’50s and early ’60s the New Orleans musician most people were exposed to was Fats Domino. During this time, however, lucky Crescent City residents were able to hear a number of the other R&B artists who had singles released by the local Ric and Ron labels. Often less straightforward and accessible than Domino’s, these 45s nevertheless deserve more attention than they received at the time. Many of them were by pianist Henry Roy Byrd, aka Professor Longhair. This compilation gathers 19 such tracks, the first 10 being by the Professor. Though considered a legend since his death in 1980, during the period covered by this disc ‘Fess was largely overlooked. Having spent the ’40s playing New Orleans juke joints and having scored one major-label R&B hit in 1950, Longhair then saw his renown dissipate due to industry neglect, as well as his own drinking and indifference to touring. But the little material he did put on tape then is both challenging and joyous. His cuts gallop along, blending complex Latin and Caribbean polyrhythms with propulsive, distinctive shuffle, boogie, and jump elements. Undoubtedly knowing that his raw-voiced wail wasn’t his most expressive trait, Longhair astutely whistles his hooky melodies on “Go to the Mardi Gras” and “Big Chief.” Choice concludes with selections from cult favorites like Irma Thomas, Tommy Ridgely, and Eddie Bo, who each streamline Longhair’s compositions while retaining his trademark party-time verve, as they demonstrate the development of R&B into soul.Steve Kiviat