Per Oldaeus heard Professor Longhair for the first time in 1973. Longhair’s 1959 Ron Records release, “Cuttin’ Out,” was in a stack of vinyl 45s a friend had brought home to Sweden from New Orleans. “Cuttin’ Out” hit Oldaeus like a punch in the stomach. “The parade drumming in it is fantastic,” Oldaeus said from Beddingestrand in southern Sweden. “John Boudreaux is a marvelous drummer.” Boudreaux’s drumming, of course, also drives the definitive recording of Longhair’s “Go to the Mardi Gras,” another Ron release from 1959.
Oldaeus, from his teenage years in the late 1950s on, loved New Orleans jazz and American blues and rock ’n’ roll. He first visited New Orleans in 1966. Even so, his comparatively late introduction to Longhair was a revelation.
In 1975, Oldaeus attended a Longhair performance in Stockholm. “I just loved the music,” he said. “You just feel good when you hear it. The music uplifts you.”
Inspired by the Stockholm show, Oldaeus began collecting articles about Longhair. Excerpts from the articles appeared nearly 30 years later in Oldaeus’ self-published book, Professor Longhair: A Scrapbook. An expanded second edition of the book, published by Pelican in Gretna, is tentatively scheduled for publication this month.
In 1979, Oldaeus attended the second of the two Longhair performances he’d seen, this one in the Swedish city of Malmö. He didn’t like Longhair’s six-piece band, the venue or the show. In New Orleans a few months later, Oldaeus opted not to see Longhair perform at the 1979 Jazz & Heritage Festival. He regrets that now, but couldn’t have known it would be Longhair’s final performance at Jazz Fest. “I should have gone,” the author and former professional drummer said. “Because Johnny Vidacovich was playing drums with Professor Longhair then, and he is a fantastic drummer.”
In 1999, knowing that a book-length biography about Longhair had yet to be written, Oldaeus began work on Professor Longhair: A Scrapbook. He published the first edition of the book in 2014. Quotes and oral histories, many from Longhair’s peers, fill much of the book. “I’m not a writer,” Oldaeus said. “I can’t write a biography about him, so that [quotes] was my solution.”
Oldaeus paused work on the first edition of Professor Longhair: A Scrapbook when fatigue set in, but returned to his labor of love in 2004. “There was still no book about Professor Longhair at that time, so it would have been silly if I didn’t complete my work,” he said. Left to his own devices, Oldaeus might still be expanding the book’s second edition. “But you have to stop somewhere,” he said. “And my wife, Karina, got tired of me working on the book every night.”