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Lloyd Price was consistently advanced of his time.
He was rock-and-roll afore there was rock-and-roll. He was a music administrator afore there were African American music entrepreneurs.
Maybe that’s why the accompanist of “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” “Personality” and “Stagger Lee,” who died aftermost Monday at age 88, consistently seemed a little old for the army he was active about with on “American Bandstand.”
“I bethink seeing him on ‘Bandstand’ as a kid,” said Tommy James, a later-generation hitmaker. He could tell, he said, that Price was somehow added complete than the added 1960s pop stars on that gaga, teen-centric show.
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“You could acquaint Dick Clark was acting abnormally with Lloyd Price than with Frankie Avalon,” James said. “He would allocution to him about the music business. It was added central talk.”
Price, a 1998 Rock and Cycle Hall of Fame inductee, lived in Pound Ridge, in Westchester.
“I was a big fan,” said James, of Essex County, acclaimed for his own hits like “Mony Mony” and “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” “I bethink him advancing on ‘American Bandstand,’ and he was about a comedian. The guy had a abundant personality. And, of course, he had a song by that name. He was a altered affectionate of singer. ‘Personality’ and ‘Stagger Lee’ were big, affected songs. They weren’t the accepted three-chord rock-and-roll.”
When Price had his blemish hit, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” in 1952 — he was 19 — there was no rock-and-roll.
It was alone three years earlier, in 1949, that Billboard rechristened what acclimated to be alleged “race” annal with a new, beneath cringe-worthy name: “rhythm-and-blues.” Fats Domino had been accepting crossover hits. But “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” was gutbucket, juke collective stuff. It was the aboriginal song of its affectionate best white adolescence had heard. It’s one of the abundant proto-rock records.
“Three years afore anybody got ahold of the music, it was aloof me from Monday to Sunday” Price told 91.1- WFMU-FM’s Michael Shelley in 2017. “I was the Beatles, Michael Jackson and the Rolling Stones. I was aggregate in one.”
Price, from the New Orleans suburb of Kenner (where Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport is now), was of that aboriginal Crescent City R&B generation that included Domino, Professor Longhair, Shirley & Lee, and abounding others. Not absolutely rock-and-roll — but it paved the way.
“If you breach bottomward the timeline, you can’t say he was afflicted by Elvis Presley or ‘Rock About the Clock’ or Little Richard,” Shelley said. “He didn’t apprehend any of those people.”
Born in 1933, to a mother who ran a angle fry restaurant, Price got two things from his upbringing: a aftertaste for the entrepreneurial, and a assurance to get out of Dodge.
“There were badge who advised them terribly,” Shelley said. “He came from that affectionate of impoverished, racist childhood. I absolutely do anticipate it was that array of one-way-ticket approaching that the bodies in his adjacency were apparent that fabricated him say ‘No, I’m not activity to do that.’ He consistently approved to accept his business being together. He was a aerial in a lot of ways.”
Price got his adventitious aback Art Rupe, the buyer of the Los Angeles-based Specialty Records, came to New Orleans on a talent-scouting expedition. Producer Dave Bartholomew, again the kingmaker of the New Orleans music scene, had heard Price’s song “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” — it was aggressive by a New Orleans DJ whose tag bandage was “Lawdy Miss Clawdy, eat bootleg pies and alcohol Maxwell House Coffee!” — and anticipation it would be absolute for Specialty.
The record, with Domino anguish out the triplets on piano, became a monster hit. The song was No. 1 on the R&B charts, and had ample crossover success. “If he had aloof done ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy,’ it would accept been enough,” said WFDU-FM 89.1 radio host and music academic David “Ghosty” Wills.
Lloyd Price, in the aboriginal years
It wasn’t absolutely abundant for Price, who got drafted in 1954 (he exhausted Elvis to this, too) and alternate to acquisition that the rock-and-roll anarchy was in abounding beat — after him. Elvis, to add insult to injury, alike had his own hit, in 1956, with “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.”
Price regrouped by basic KRC Records, with Harold Logan and Bill Boskent, and began arising records under his own label, a groundbreaking thing for the time. One of them, “Personality” (1959), with its characteristic New Orleans “stroll” rhythm, became his signature song. “Mr. Personality,” he was dubbed.
“I bethink it from ‘Happy Days,’ ” Wills said. “Because aback they were advancing aback from commercials, they would accept an establishing attempt of Arnold’s [Drive-in] — and they played ‘Personality.’ It helped set the scene.”
But addition of Price’s hits, “Stagger Lee” (1958), was a bit of a cultural watershed.
It was a song acutely steeped in African-American folk culture. The alpha was a absolute incident: the cutting of gambler Billy Lyons by “Stack-O-Lee” Shelton in a St. Louis alehouse in 1895. The song “Stack-O-Lee,” or “Staggerlee,” had been free-floating in the dejection and folk apple for added than a half-century. But aback Price put it on the archive in 1958, it was a window into a absolutely new apple for abounding listeners. “Stagger Lee attempt Billy, attempt that boy so fast, the ammo went through Billy and it bankrupt the bartender’s glass.”
Jim Croce admired it abundant to do what was about an imitation: “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.” And Dick Clark admired it abundant to affection it on his appearance — but not after cleaned-up lyrics. “Listen, you can’t use that lyric because it has cutting and abuse and applesauce amateur in it,” Price remembered Clark cogent him.
In the adapted adaptation that abounding adolescence grew up with in the ’60s and ’70s, Stagger Lee and Billy ability as able-bodied be a brace of parsons. “Billy acquainted bad, because he aching his poor acquaintance Stag.”
“It’s aberrant that ‘Mack the Knife’ wasn’t censored at all,” Wills said. “It wasn’t OK for a Black guy to sing about murder, but it was OK for Bobby Darin? It could additionally be because ‘Stagger Lee’ was a rock-and-roll almanac aimed at teenagers, admitting ‘Mack the Knife’ was activity for a added developed audience.”
Price formed added labels: Double L (where Wilson Pickett got his start) and Turntable. He opened a New York club, Lloyd Price’s Turntable, on the armpit of the old Birdland applesauce area in 1968. He teamed up with Don King to advance the ballsy “Rumble in the Jungle” battle bout between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Zaire in 1974. He marketed his own bandage of branded products, including breakfast cereal, granola and candied potato cookies.
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“A lot of people, because of his success and influence, absolutely listened aback he had article to say,” said Ernie Isley, of Teaneck and Englewood’s world-famous Isley Brothers. “His chat was significant.”
And all the time, Price kept authoritative records. “He was a allegorical figure,” said Dennis Diken of Wood-Ridge, a music academic and bagman for the Smithereens.
He got to comedy with Price once. He’s never forgotten.
“It was a big thrill,” he said. “One of the abundant nights of my life.”
He had been alleged by guitarist Jimmy Vivino to be allotment of an ad hoc bandage for a Grammy after-party, in a New York hotel, in 1990. Max Weinberg was administration boom duty; guitarist Marshall Crenshaw, bassist Garry Tallent and the late Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens were some of the musicians in the lineup. Ben E. King, Ronnie Spector, Darlene Love and Lloyd Price took turns fronting, doing a brace of songs apiece. “He was so upbeat, so abundant fun, a absolutely air-conditioned guy,” Diken said. “Everything you ability apprehend from his records.”
He alike had a chance, during complete check, to shoot the breeze.
“We affectionate of spoke, and there was a moment aback I brought up a attenuate record, alleged ‘Bad Dreams,’ and mentioned it and he absurd up, because I knew a attenuate ancillary of his,” Diken said. “It was aloof one of those moments. A dream appear true.”
Jim Beckerman is an ball and ability anchorman for NorthJersey.com. For absolute admission to his insightful reports about how you absorb your leisure time, please subscribe or actuate your agenda annual today.
Email: [email protected]
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