Art & Identity in New Orleans

HNRS 109 Spring '18

Professor Longhair

Henry Roeland Byrd, also known as Professor Longhair, was a blues singer and pianist from New Orleans. He has been given the title of “the founding father of New Orleans R&B” over a decade after his death in 1980.

He started to take his music seriously in 1948 when he earned a gig at the Caldonia Club in New Orleans. By 1949, he had laid tracks for a music label in Dallas, Star Talent. His band at the time was named the Shuffling Hungarians. In 1950, Longhair released his first and only national R&B hit, “Bald Head.”

He went on to make records with many music labels: Atlantic, Federal, and Wasco. Around 1964, Longhair actually abandoned the music scene to work outside of the business. He was soon rediscovered and was listed to play at the second New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 1971. After this performance, he had tours in Europe and made more albums. Each year, until his death in 1980, he closed out the final show of Jazz Fest. In 1992, Professor Longhair was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

For more information on Professor Longhair, click here and here.


  1. How did New Orleans R&B contribute to the genre in other parts of the country?

  2. Did Professor Longhair have any influences from other New Orleans musicians?