Among the classics albums that do not become hits upon its release, some don’t even chart. One of those albums was Dr. John’s debut Gris-Gris. Released in 1968, the album was not destined to be a hit, as it didn’t make the charts either in America or the United Kingdom.
Not surprisingly one of the reasons for the album’s failure to catch on with the public, is the fact it came out around the time the charts was dominated by Motown, psychedelic rock, and artists such as Aretha Franklin and the Beatles. Dr. John was known for bringing the New Orleans sound into the rock format, and in 1968 was still considered something new, despite the past success of another New Orleans-bred artist Aaron Neville, and the 1966 classic “Tell It Like It Is”. Furthermore, Atlantic Records’ sub-label Atco was reluctant to release Gris-Gris, due the concerns of inability to market the album.
While Gris-Gris went largely unnoticed at the time of its release, the album would be acclaimed as time passed on. Sources including Allmusic and Rolling Stone have each given the album their highest rankings. And most importantly, Gris-Gris would help put the New Orleans sound on the map, paving the way for other artists including the Meters, as well as set the stage for Dr. John’s own career.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Dr. John, inducted in 2011.