Influences On Dan Auerbach, Part One: Johnny Jenkins’ “Ton-Ton Macoute”
We were talking about the incredible job Dan Auerbach did producing Locked Down by Dr. John, and she said she could tell what an influence Dr. John must have been on Mr. Auerbach’s musical development.
Well, yes and no. Dr. John had his moments, but in a way that strangely parallels the Velvet Underground, he was more influential via those he influenced than through his own work. Yes, it is our contention that second-hand Mac Rebennack probably shaped the Black Keys more than the doctor hisself. For if you want to find the Dr. John-influenced album that we believe blew the circuitry in Auerbach’s cerebellum, you probably have to go to Johnny Jenkins’ Ton-Ton Macoute.
See, it started out with “Walk On Guilded Splinters,” Mac Rebennack’s best song on Gris-Gris, which announced him to the world. Ah, but Jenkins updated it with a drum intro courtesy of the Allman Brothers’ rhythm section — a drum intro so fine that Oasis would later sample it on “Go Let It Out” — and his band consisted of Duane Allman, Berry Oakley and the best Southern blues rockers of that magical moment, short-lived and closed off by death as it was. (Perfect given the sorcery of its mise-en-scene.). You can practically hear the motorcycles revving in the parking lot, waiting to take Allman and Berry across the Great Divide, while Haitian voodoo chants ride atop Dylan and Muddy Waters’ riffs in a classic sendoff.
If you want to grok on the influence Dr. John had on young Mr. Auerbach, sure, turn to the source material, but make sure you check out what is in fact a perfect album, and one of two or three greatest Southern blues albums of all time.