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Professor Longhair (born Henry Roeland Byrd, also known as Roy "Bald Head" Byrd and as Fess) (19 December 1918 - 30 January 1980) was a New Orleans blues singer and pianist. Byrd is noteworthy for having been active in two distinct periods, both in the heyday of early rhythm and blues, and in the resurgence of interest in traditional jazz after the founding of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. At that time Byrd became a New Orleans icon. He was noted for his unique piano style, which he described as "a combination of rumba, mambo, and Calypso." He had an unusual and expressive voice, described once as "freak unique". He was called the Bach of Rock and Roll for the clarity, varied and extremely accurate and "funky" syncopation, and the beautiful tone of his piano playing.
Early life and education
In the 1960s Byrd's career faltered. He became a janitor to support himself, and fell into a gambling habit.
In 1969 Professor Longhair was rediscovered as the growing white audience for blues learned to appreciate him. He was referred to as the "Father of New Orleans R&B". During this period, his albums, such as Crawfish Fiesta on Alligator Records and New Orleans Piano for Atlantic, became readily available across the country.
In 1980, Professor Longhair died.