If it's true that you can judge the depth of a musical legend by the number of nicknames he's acquired over the years, Dr. John (a.k.a. the Old Night Tripper, Funk Physician, Bayou Sorcerer, Mac Rebennack) is on par -- legend-wise -- with the city that sired him, New Orleans (a.k.a. Nawlins, Crescent City, Big Easy, etc.). In a career that so far spans four decades, he has made his mark as guitarist, songwriter, producer, sideman, bandleader, psychedelic showboat, pianist and, maybe most important, archival flame of New Orleans' musical torch. He's played everything from teen rock to bayou funk to barrelhouse to voodoo to jazz, and even when his stated point is to record a faithful reading of, say, Professor Longhair's version of the Roy Byrd-penned "Tipitina," the good Doctor does it with a flair that makes it clear that his own name belongs on the list of legends from whom he learned.
Rebennack's legend, of course, sealed itself in '92 with the star-studded, Grammy-winning Going Back to New Orleans album, and it's set in stone now that Rhino has issued Mos' Scocious: The Dr. John Anthology, a two-disk set moving from the tinny "Bad Neighborhood" single he cut with a band called Ronnie and the Delinquents in 1959 all the way through tunes from the 1989 In a Sentimental Mood. Along the way, the collection touches on Rebennack's move to California, where he developed his famed voodoo-rock stage show, and his deeply funky work with backing band the Meters in the early '70s. Any listener with ears will be able to pick out his or her own favorite period (I'm partial to Meters-era stuff), but with a four-piece band backing Rebennack on the present tour -- and even if his presentation is tame compared to those of his hippie heyday -- he should be able to conjure most all of it.
Dr. John plays Sunday, February 13 at Bayou City Theater, 6400 Richmond, 977-5495. $19.