David Rubin, a.k.a. Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr., and his band the Zydeco Twisters have been cooking up music for a local, national and international audience for decades. The master of the washboard, Dopsie loves his fans just as much as they love him, and playing for local audiences is always a highlight for this veteran performer. He and his band will bring rocking tunes and performances highlighted with his energetic dance moves to this year’s French Quarter Fest’s Jackson Square stage and around the Quarter. New Orleans Magazine asked him to take a look back at his colorful career working with greats such as Paul Simon, John Fogerty, Tina Turner, the Neville Brothers, and Queen Bee herself, Beyonce.
Q: What was it like growing up surrounded by music and musicians? Coming up, my father, Rockin’ Dopsie, Sr. would have people come by. He was a bricklayer before his music took off, and at night people like B.B. King and Johnny Kale would come by after they played, because they were friends. So, I heard stories about gigs and so forth. My father said it was his dream to get all his sons to play with him. He gave me my stage name Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr.
Q: Did you always want to be a performer? If not, was there another dream you wanted to pursue? Growing up, I really always wanted to be an entertainer. When I was young, though, I also wanted to play basketball. After basketball, I took martial arts for four years. I thought maybe I’d teach martial arts. Then, when I started playing music with my father, it was all I’ve ever wanted to do.
Q: What was it like picking up the rub board for the first time? When my father’s washboard player, cousin Charlie, he went by ‘Shorty,’ got ill, my father told me, ‘I need you to step up.’ I was always a precussion player, so when I picked up the washboard I wanted to make it my own. I have always been interested in being a performer, so I did it my way. I was playing with my father at the Maple Leaf and Bono from U2 was there. He asked me, “Do you play that thing, or does it play you?” He included some photos of us in his bio. He called me ‘the Jimi Hendrix of washboard.’
Q: What were some big break out moments for you? What really opened the door for my father, and for me, was when we played on Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ album. It was on a different level, with a national audience. It made everything take off, and it just kept getting better.
Q: What was it like talking over after your dad died? My first gig was in San Diego. I was honoring some of my father’s commitments. Zachary Richard played before us. ‘Gatemouth’ Brown played after us. Gatemouth came to me, told me lots of words of encouragement. He said ‘No matter what, you are Rockin’ Dopsie now.’ He said, ‘your dad would be proud.’ That meant a lot to me.
Q: What has been your favorite performance memory to date? There are so many. I got a call to play the CMAs. Beyonce called me to play with her and the Dixie Chicks at the 50th anniversary. When she was in New Orleans, she called me up. She likes my looks. There are 10 photos of us on her ‘B’Day’ CD. Simon & Garfunkel invited me up on stage when they played at Jazz Fest. John Fogerty always called me up on stage. I have gotten to play with so many great musicians. I have been blessed.
Q: What are your favorite festivals to play? There’s a festival in Perugia, Italy that I love, love, love to play. I have a huge clientele of Italian fans. French Quarter Fest is the best free local festival there is. And Jazz Fest. There is no better. Every performer playing at Jazz Fest is playing at their top performance of the year.
Q: What is your favorite thing about performing for a live audience? When I get on stage, I call it ‘show off.’ I get up there and dance, do the splits, and everyone has a great time. The crowd really gets into it. There is no place I’d rather be than New Orleans and Louisiana. We got it good on the bayou.
Q: What do you do in your time off? At my house, during the day, I watch ‘The Young and the Restless,’ ‘The Bold and the Beautiful,’ and ‘Judge Judy,’ and I detail my car. Life is great.
Q: Who are some of your biggest musical influences? For performances, I like entertainers, like James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Prince, Michael Jackson. I love to listen to New Orleans artists, like the Neville Brothers, Irma Thomas, the Meters, Dr. John, Water ‘Wolfman’ Washinton. I was born in Lafayette, but my music roots are in New Orleans. I moved here in 1999, and musically it’s a better platform for me. I’m like a fish in the sea, swimming with whales and big fish and shit. I get to be on stage with the best. I love New Orleans.
Favorite food: Crawfish, when they are in season, sushi when they are not.
Favorite TV show: NCIS, New Orleans
Favorite place to listen to live music: Tipitina’s, because of the mix of local, national and international groups
Favorite Louisiana festival: It’s a toss-up between French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest
True confession: I have to sit under the hair dryer before each concert. My hair is naturally straight and I have to sit under the hair dryer to get my curls.