Tag Archives: Mac Rebennack

I Never Did Heroin With Dr. John. We Just Did Other Things.

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Dr. John Autograph to Airlift Mike on old Airlift Iberville Street Notepad

Hired by Quincy Jones’ staff and his daughter Jolie to record Mac’s VoiceOver tracks for their Take It Back Foundation, I first met the Nite Tripper in the Airlift Productions Iberville days during NOLA’s raucous early 1990s.

He walked in without pomp or circumstance, no entourage, no fanfare, no feathers, solo… but just as cool as the other side of the pillow.

Our job wasn’t anything to do with music, it was all about VoiceOver – he’d been cast as the Yak in Quincy’s animated PSA to promote recycling efforts and it was destined for use in movie theaters, television & MTV across America that summer.

We phone-patched to Los Angeles and together with Stevie Wonder, Ozzy Osbourne, B.B. King, Natalie Cole, Pat Benatar, Charlie Daniels, Barry White… and Bugs Bunny…

With a hip-hop beat straight outta “In Living Color” – Fox’s big hit at the time – it all showed-up in movie theaters like this…

Dr. John’s 1st visit to Airlift Productions – as “the Yak”

Some recording session, I’ll tell you that.

When Mac, not even asking if he could smoke, pulled out a Cheroot and lit it up, we rushed an ash tray into the booth without giving it a second thought. Sort of.

And when he asked if he could “use the facilities”, I took him up in the elevator to the Iberville Street living quarters, to the bathroom, where he encountered my then-one-year-old son Benjamin.

Imagine, if you can, Dr. John setting his walking stick aside, so he could pick up your child, hold him… and whisper sweet voodoo nothings in his ear!

Our second session, the following year, was all about VoiceOver for an awards presentation, wherein Mac was hired to record the introduction to accompany this big, splashy video – all about New Orleans legendary Red Light District!

Dr. John “Special Events Magazine” Awards Show Intro – 1993

Our paths – and stars – would continue to cross through the next couple decades, most notably at New Orleans’ Big Easy Entertainment Awards Shows.

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Dr. John & Airlift Mike, Big Easy Awards Show New Orleans 1995

I was honored to act as ‘Live Announcer’ for the show for ten consecutive years and Mac, being the one and only Dr. John, would be along many years to receive an award, or just to perform.

Just. As if.

My favorite memory was the year his mother flew in from NYC for the show, so Mac tracks me down and tells me that he wants me to meet his mama… and together we made the trek across the Fairmont ballroom so I could give my regards to his Dorothy.

Indeed, while Mac’s bouts with smack/heroin through the years are the stuff of legend, he had successfully navigated those choppy waters and was ‘clean’ the entire time I ever was fortunate enough to talk and record with him.

Through the years – the recording sessions & Big Easy Awards – we talked and laughed of many things… his love for New Orleans, his love of music, the ‘Big Picture’… existential things like living a life with “one foot in this world… and the other… in the other”!

Much in the way that Time Magazine caught his candor here…

Dr. John, with some pretty amazing answers… and questions.

The last time we ever spoke to each other?

It was at the funeral for Cosimo Matassa, New Orleans’ legendary, seminal recording engineer and producer.

Along with a Who’s-Who of New Orleans music royalty – Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Quint Davis, Deacon John Moore, Benny Grunch – we’d all gathered to say goodbye to Cos, the big mac-daddy that started it all down on Rampart all those years ago.

Dr. John had flown into NOLA from NYC to say his final farewell to Cosimo down at Lake Lawn.

Now, here in 2019… it’s his turn.

Yeah, we all may very well be ‘whistling past the graveyard’ but, damn – nobody whistled that tune better than Dr. John!

And just like ‘dat, mellifluous, mesmerizing, mystical Mac moves on… from New Orleans & ‘da World.

Sort of.

I mean, there IS the matter of all that fantastic music he left us.

Deepest thanks for all that hoodoo voodoo that you did so well, bud.

Nighty-night, Nite Tripper.

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Airlift Productions – we’ll leave the mics hot… and the light on for you.

Airlift Productions ~ Audio Alchemy & Digital Magic from New Orleans since 1984

Notes On Recording James Carville at Airlift Productions

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James Carville & Mary Matalin on Meet the Press, along with former BFF Tim Russert

In my thirty-plus years of recording voice overs & musicians at Airlift Productions in America’s most fascinating and interesting city, you could say that I’ve encountered quite a few characters.

 

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Dr. John ‘da Nite Tripper records at Airlift Productions NOLA

Doctor John (aka Mac Rebennack) has spent hours with me, recording voice-over tracks for awards shows, and even cartoon voice tracks for Quincy Jones’ Take it Back Foundation.

I still can’t get over that, not even asking if he could smoke, at the Airlift Productions Iberville location, he pulled out a cheroot at the mic and lit it up! (We rushed an ash tray in to his rescue.)
** Dr. John at the Airlift mics telling the story of N’awlins’ bawdy, infamous Red-Light District, known as  “Storyville” **

Archie Manning records with Airlift Productions
Archie Manning recorded  radio spots with Airlift Productions

For several years in the 90s, Peyton & Eli’s dad Archie Manning had the Gold’s Gym franchise here just outside NOLA in Metairie, and I served as a one-man ad agency, writing, voicing & producing all the radio ads for the gym, which brought Archie & his partners regularly into the Airlift Productions Studios.

** Archie Manning’s Golds Gym Christmas Radio :60 Classic  – with Airlift  Mike as Santa, along with Archie, at the Airlift mics **

 
The cast of characters – from the mayors (both Morial & Landrieu), to all the city council members, Morgus the Magnificent, stand-up/fall-down comics, radio rebels, misfits, in-laws and outlaws  – has become the stuff of legend.
 
JamesCarvilleAndMaryMatalinRecordLoveAndWarAtAirliftProductionsBut I would have to say the most memorable and colorful of them all is none other than James Carville!
 
We’ve spent dozens of hours together one-on-one – with only a producer, long distance on a phone-patch Skype connection – recording two separate audio books, ‘It’s the Middle Class, Stupid!’ and, along with wife Mary, ‘Love & War’.
 
Now, by his own admission, James has untreated ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).  He’s tried the drugs but didn’t like how they made him feel, so he and Mary just ‘deal with it’.  Add (ADHD) me to the list.
 
Imagine working through hour-after-hour with someone in this situation and condition.  Add to that, someone very highly opinionated (ya think?), outspoken, given to tantrums … and ‘caged’ for an extended length of time!  Yowza & Yikes!
**  Airlift Mike reflects on 1st sessions, along with classic James Carville musings and rants, captured at Airlift Productions NOLA **

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Micheal Ziants and Political Firebrand James Carville at the Airlift Productions Studios 

But we worked through it all and laughed, bonded, and created two very memorable and collectible audio books, now available from that amazon crowd.

James’ take on his experiences at Airlift?

“I’ve been in studios from the Bayou to the Beltway and I can say after recording my last two audio books with Mike that there is no better place than Airlift Productions.  The quality of the production, the studio, and quite frankly, the comfort, make it the only place I want to record now or in the future” ~ James Carville
And, needless to say, but I will anyway, the out-takes are simply priceless!  Perhaps a tale for a blog for yet another day.
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JamesCarvilleRecordsAtAirliftProductionsA candid shot – through the studio door into the Airlift ‘green room’ – of Carville on the cell, taking a needed break, talking to George Stephanopolous in DC, with his feet ON my ping-pong table! Really, James?