NEW ORLEANS (AP) — It's been more than 25 years since Grammy Award winner Dr. John has played New Orleans' French Quarter Festival, but organizers say the singer-pianist is returning to the event this spring.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee is among the 1,400 Louisiana musicians who are scheduled to perform on 21 stages during the free festival scheduled to run from April 10 to 13. It's held in an area that stretches from the Mississippi River to Bourbon Street and from Canal Street to Esplanade Avenue.
It's also the last big local music event before the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival opens for its two-weekend run from April 25 to May 4.
Dr. John will play April 11 at 4:30 p.m. on the riverfront Abita Stage, organizers said Wednesday during a news conference at which most of the lineup was released. A full schedule and lineup will be released in March.
Marci Schramm, executive director of French Quarter Festival, Inc., said they are thrilled that Dr. John is playing the festival for the first time since 1987.
"We asked him every year," Schramm said. "It was really hard to get him in recent years because he's been so busy and because of exclusivity clauses in his contracts. This year, though, seems to be our year, and he came back with open arms."
The performance will be Dr. John's only festival appearance in New Orleans this spring. He and his band, The Nite Trippers, are scheduled to headline the Baton Rouge Blues Festival on April 12.
Others scheduled to perform at the French Quarter festival include Irma Thomas, Amanda Shaw and the Cute Guys, BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, George Porter Jr. & Runnin' Pardners, Glen David Andrews, Davell Crawford, The Iguanas, Colin Lake, Irvin Mayfield and the Jazz Playhouse Revue, Rebirth Brass Band, The Roots of Music and 102-year-old jazz trumpeter Lionel Ferbos and the Louisiana Shakers.
"We only feature Louisiana music," Schramm said. "This festival is exclusively about Louisiana music."
First-time performers include Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas, PJ Morton, Symphony Chorus of New Orleans, Corey Ledet, Dash Rip Rock, Rusty Metoyer and the Zydeco Krush and Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen.
The festival also will recognize the 50th anniversary of The Dixie Cups and the 40th anniversary of The Dukes of Dixieland.
The French Quarter Festival, which launched in 1984, drew an estimated 560,000 visitors last year and had an economic impact of more than $246 million.
"We've always been a locals' festival," Schramm said. "Locals have a lot of ownership in the festival. In the last 10 years though, it's become a huge tourist draw. We're finding that the numbers are about 50-50 locals to visitors. With growth comes discovery. We're no longer the best kept secret in the city."