Before recording the album, Rebennack was an experienced New Orleans R&B and rock musician playing as a session musician, songwriter, and producer in New Orleans. Due to drug problems and the law, Rebennack moved to Los Angeles in 1965, joining a group of New Orleans session musicians. Rebennack survived by playing with various pop and rock recording sessions, receiving much of this work with the help of New Orleanian arrangerHarold Battiste.
Rebennack desired to make an album that combined the various strains of New Orleans music behind a front man called Dr. John, after a black man named Dr. John Montaine, who claimed to be an African potentate. Rebennack chose this name after hearing about Montaine from his sister, and feeling a "spiritual kinship" with him. Rebennack originally wanted New Orleans singer Ronnie Barron to front the band as the Dr. John character, but Don Costa, who managed Barron at the time, advised him against it, claiming it to be a bad career move. Rebennack took on the Dr. John stage name himself.
from liner notes of original LP: "My group consists of Dr. Poo Pah Doo of Destine Tambourine and Dr. Ditmus of Conga, Dr. Boudreaux of Funky Knuckle Skins and Dr. Battiste of Scorpio in Bass Clef, Dr. McLean of Mandolin Comp. School, Dr. Mann of Bottleneck Learning, Dr. Bolden of The Immortal Flute Fleet, The Baron of Ronyards, Dido, China, Goncy O'Leary, Shirley Marie Laveaux, Dr. Durden, Governor Plas Johnson, Senator Bob West Bowing, Croaker Jean Freunx, Sister Stephanie and St. Theresa, John Gumbo, Cecilia La Favorite, Karla Le Jean who were all dreged up from The Rigolets by the Zombie of the Second Line. Under the eight visions of Professor Longhair reincannted the charts of now."