United Way is helping rebuild the iconic R&B songster Professor Longhair’s house. The house will eventually be a museum that people can pay tribute to the “Big Chief.”
United Way’s news release:
“Walking past the duplex on Terpsichore Street, with its mixed matched paint colors, doors and window sizes, you would never believe that this was once the proud home of Professor Longhair, New Orleans’ revolutionary R&B icon. Though his famous reputation might indicate otherwise, Henry Roeland Byrd, known as Professor Longhair, was never a wealthy man. His music, however well known, did not yield much financially for his family. Patricia Walton, one of Longhair’s six children, explains how hard her father worked outside of making music to be able to provide for his family, never having been able to buy a home for them until they were already grown and out of the house. In the 1970’s he was finally able to purchase this home for him, his wife, Alice and their children.
At the height of his career, Professor Longhair passed away in his sleep. Pat, the youngest of his children, was the one who took on the responsibility of caring after her mother, who became extremely ill after his sudden death; finally passing away herself from severe disabilities years later. Pat and her son, Ardell, called this house their home up until 2005. If it weren’t for Hurricane Katrina, they would be there now.
Since the storm, Pat and Ardell have been basically homeless. They rent when they can afford to, but mostly they have been from one temporary situation to the next, living out of duffle bags for the past seven and a half years. After receiving Road Home funds to fix the house, she lost nearly all of it due to contractor fraud.
With the help of United Way, The Tipitina’s Foundation, and Project Homecoming, Inc. we’re coming together to rebuild “Fess’s” house on Terpsichore Street. The duplex will be transformed for Pat and her son to live on one side and part of the other side to be turned into a museum to honor her father’s great legacy of music.”