In 2007, I saw New Orleans legend and Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame inductee, the late Mac Rebennack, affectionately known worldwide as “Dr. John the Nite Tripper” perform at B.B. Kings in Times Square. This was not long after Hurricane Katrina devastated our hometown, and he sure had a lot to say about it on stage that night.
My friend Nicole who brought me to the show revealed that she was his personal assistant at some point. After his encore, she invited me backstage to meet him. I was thrilled — yet anxiously nervous as all get out.
After a warm embrace, “Nikki” (as Mac called her) turned to introduce me. She mentioned that I was from New Orleans and that I “went to his school”. Off the bat, Mac started sizing me up. I could instantly tell he wasn’t one for small talk — he only had time for making real connections. He asked, “Aw, yeah? Where you go to school?” I responded, “I went to Jesuit,” to which he replied, “Shee-it. I was in dat school for about 5 minutes.”
I awkwardly attempt to be light-hearted whenever I feel nervous, so I quipped, “Well, I guess they like to take credit for those 5 minutes.” Dr. John widened his piercing gaze directly into my eyes. He leaned in, then muttered, “Dey ain’t gimmie no fuckin’ credit.” And just like that, shit was gettin’ real raw with the Nite Tripper.
Desperately trying to change the subject, I recalled an article I had read in the Times Picayune about how he loved hot sauces. I abruptly blurted out, “Mac, you know Crystal Hot Sauce?”. He cocked his eyebrow and said, “What are you? A Baumer?” Before I could reply, his eyes lit up again, but softened as he inquisitively spoke, “Dey used to make a green sawce… whatever happened ta dat green sawce?”
I later learned from my cousin, Alvin Jr., that Baumer Foods never made a green sauce under the Crystal® label. Still, the hot sauce connection I had with Dr. John was spontaneous and inspiring. I’ll never forget it, so I set out to make a “green sawce” for Mac to enjoy as a tribute to his legacy as Dr. John the Nite Tripper.
Sadly, a few weeks after I reached out to his management company to share my green sauce with him, he passed away. Whenever I craft my bayou-themed recipes, I funk out to his albums Desitively Bonarroo, Dr. John’s Gumbo, and Gris-Gris to get into “the right place” of mind.