Music clubs are rarely dedicated to a single musician, and few as influential as performer, composer, and pianist Professor Longhair. Henry Roeland Byrd, (a.k.a. Professor Longhair) is one of the most revered rhythm and blues musicians in the legacy of New Orleans music. Longhair created a unique style by fusing rhumba rhythms with boogie-woogie, blues and southern R&B. Fess composed many songs which are part of the Crescent City lexicon, like “Mardi Gras in New Orleans,” which serves as the soundtrack to Carnival every year. Longhair influenced his musical peers and progeny in the Crescent City since the 1950s including Dr. John, the Meters, the Neville Brothers, Allen Toussaint, and many others.
Local music enthusiasts opened the venue on January 14, 1977. The name was inspired by a well-known song, "Tipitina", by Professor Longhair who also performed there until his death in 1980. Before adopting use of "Tipitina's" as its name, the facility was known as "The 501 Club," in reference to its street address (501 Napoleon Avenue). Tipitina's stands as one of the best-known clubs in New Orleans. The building itself was constructed in 1912, and prior to becoming Tipitina's, it served as a gambling house, gymnasium, and brothel.
In the early years, it had a juice bar, restaurant, and a bar. The only remnant of the juice bar is the banana in Tipitina's logo. In the early 1980s, the studios of radio station WWOZ were located in one of the apartments upstairs from the club. During that time, WWOZ would occasionally carry a Tipitina's show live by literally lowering a microphone into the club through a hole in the floor. Tipitina's closed for a time during the 1984 World's Fair, when much of the local music scene was drawn to venues in and around the Fair. The building was then remodeled to remove the upstairs apartments in favor of a higher ceiling in the downstairs music venue and reopened.
In 1998, Tipitina's opened a second location on North Peters Street in the French Quarter, which for a time was also a regular live music venue as well as open for private events and parties but is now closed. Apart from running these venues, Tipitina's established the Tipitina's Foundation, a non-profit organization to support local music and musicians. The main focus of the Tipitina's Foundation was to provide musical instruments and uniforms to New Orleans public high school marching bands. The Foundation was especially active in supporting the musicians victimized by Hurricane Katrina. The Tipitina's Foundation closed shortly after Tipitina's was sold in late 2018.
In December 2018, Tipitina's was purchased by the members of the New Orleans-based jam band Galactic from Mary and Ronald von Kurnatowski, who had owned the venue since 1997. Galactic formed theTip-It Foundation, a donor advised fund supported by the Greater New Orleans Foundation, after purchasing the club. The Tip-It Foundation's mission is to support and promote the future of the Gulf South's music, culture and heritage via the Tipitina's venue and brand.