Lloyd Price, best known as the first rock ‘n roll icon behind hits like “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”, “Personality” and the semi-banned “Stagger Lee”, has died at the age of 88.
Price’s wife, Jacqueline Price, confirmed to The Associated Press that he died in a long-term care facility in New Rochelle, New York on Monday, from complications from diabetes.
Price was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. He is one of the last survivors of a post-war scene in New Orleans that anticipated changes in popular music and culture leading to the rise of rock in the middle. 1950s. Along with Fats Domino and David Bartholomew and others, Price shaped a deep and exuberant sound around the brass and swing of New Orleans jazz and blues that topped the R&B charts and eventually reached white audiences.
“A very important part of rock history. He was BEFORE Little Richard! »Rock singer and member of the E Street Band Steven Van Zandt said on Twitter on Saturday. “Lawdy Miss Clawdy of 1952 has a legitimate claim as Rock’s first hit… Fair Cat. A huge talent. “
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Price’s nickname was “Mr. Personality,” befitting a performer with a warm smile and a matching tenor voice. But he was more than an attractive facilitator. He was unusually independent for his time, running his own label even before stars like Frank Sinatra did, retaining his publishing rights and serving as his own agent and director. He often spoke of the racial injustices he endured, calling his memoir “sumdumhonkey” and writing on his Facebook page during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests that behind his “affable exterior” was “a bubbling man.”
Born in Kenner, Louisiana, Price was one of 11 siblings and sang in church and played the piano since childhood. It was in his late teens when a local DJ’s favorite slogan, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” inspired him to write his first breakthrough hit, which he worked on at his mother’s fried fish restaurant.
Featuring Domino’s piano trills, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” reached No. 1 on the R&B charts in 1952, sold over a million copies and became a rock standard, picked up by Elvis. Presley and Little Richard, among others. But Price would have mixed feelings about the song’s broad appeal, later recalling the resistance of local authorities in Jim Crow South to let blacks and whites attend his shows.
Price was drafted and spent the mid-1950s in military service in Korea. He began a career resumption with the 1957 ballad “Just Because” and climbed to the top with the brassy and pop “Stagger Lee”, one of the catchiest and most festive songs ever recorded about a murder in a movie. bar.
Written by Price, “Stagger Lee” was based on a 19th century fight between two black men – Lee Shelton, sometimes known as Stag Lee, and Billy Lyons – which ended with Shelton shooting and killing his rival. Their ever-evolving legend appeared in songs from the 1920s and inspired artists ranging from Woody Guthrie and Duke Ellington to Bob Dylan and the Clash.
Price’s version began with a few spoken words that had the quiet tension of a detective story: “The night was clear, the moon was yellow, and the leaves were falling… down. The group enters and Price tells the story of Stagger Lee and Billy arguing over a game of dice, ending with a Stagger Lee’s 44 ball passing through Billy and smashing the bartender’s glass. “Come on Stagger Lee! a choir sings everywhere.
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The song reached number one on the Billboard pop charts in early 1959, but not everyone was entertained. “American Bandstand” host Dick Clark feared the song was too violent for his teen-centric show and urged Price to revise it: for “Bandstand” watchers and some future listeners, Stagger Lee and Billy peacefully resolve their dispute.
Price followed with the top 10 hits “Personality” and “I’m Going To Get Married” and the top 20 songs “Lady Luck” and “Question”. He did not do better than many of his contemporaries once the Beatles arrived in the United States in 1964, but he found his way into other professions through a wide range of friends and acquittals. He lived for a time in the same Philadelphia apartment complex as Wilt Chamberlain and Joe Frazier and, along with boxing promoter Don King, helped organize the 1973 “Thrilla in Manila” between Frazier and Muhammad Ali and the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” championship. fight between Ali and George Foreman. He was also a home builder, reservation agent, excellent bowler and creator of a food line.
His musical career continued, sporadically. He and his business partner Harold Logan started a label in the early 1960s, Double L Records, which gave Wilson Pickett an early break, and they also ran a nightclub in New York City. But after Logan’s murder in 1969, Price became so discouraged that he eventually moved to Nigeria and only returned in the 1980s. He would become a favorite on oldies tours, performing with Little Richard and Jerry. Lee Lewis among others.
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He moved to New York with his wife, but was not forgotten at home. One street in Kenner was renamed Lloyd Price Avenue and for years Kenner celebrated an annual Lloyd Price Day.
Price would attribute a life of cleanliness and constant focus to his endurance.
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“I never drank, smoked, used drugs or had bad habits,” he told interviewer Larry Katz in 1998. “I drove a cab to get the food I needed. to live. I have never been struck by the stars. I had knocked. records and I never looked for the next album to release. I never had this need that they had to be somebody. I just wanted to be. “
The Associated Press contributed to this report.