Lloyd Price, a prominent, influential, and multi-talented musical artist, contributed extensively to R&B and early rock and roll. As a singer and songwriter in the 1950s, he recorded American classics “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” “Personality,” and “Stagger Lee,” all of which hit the R&B and pop charts. As a record producer, club owner, and shrewd businessman, he founded several successful record labels and the New York City club Turntable. Unlike many other successful artists at the time, Price wrote his own material, and nearly all of his hits were originals. He applied his New Orleans roots in blues music to writing and performing catchy tunes that crossed over onto the pop charts and warranted his status as a major influence in rock history.
Born in Kenner, Louisiana on March 9, 1933, Price, like many of the successful R&B artists of the 1950s, trained his voice singing gospel in the local church choir. By 1950, the teenage Price was leading a vocal quintet and playing gigs at local clubs. Not content to merely sing songs, Price soon began writing and performing commercial jingles for his local radio station, WBOK. One of these jingles, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” became so popular that Price decided to take it to Imperial Records in an attempt to secure a recording contract. The label turned him down, signing Fats Domino instead. The two became friends, and soon after Price was signed to the Specialty label, he re-recorded his jingle as a full-length song with Domino playing piano.
The single hit number one on the R&B charts, remaining there for a full seven-week run. In an attempt to achieve similar fame, several artists, Elvis Presley among them, copied Price’s song, but with less success. Two more top five R&B hits followed that same year—“Oooh, Oooh, Oooh” and “Restless Heart.” In 1953, Price’s wellknown hit “Ain’t It a Shame” reached number eight on the R&B charts in February, and reappeared at number eight again in December, establishing the song as a unique case in chart history and Price as a successful vocalist. But the talented musician also possessed an acute business sense. He urged Little Richard to send a tape to a subsidiary of Specialty Records, thus starting Little Richard’s recording career.
Price’s career was interrupted in 1953 when he was drafted to the Army to serve in the Korean War. Unable to leave his music behind, however, he formed a band abroad and performed for troops in the Far East. When Price was discharged from the Army in 1956, he relocated to Washington, D.C. and founded his own label, Kent Record Company. In orderto retain control of his material but ensure that it would be distributed nationally, the keen businessman leased his songs to ABC-Paramount. “Just Because,” the first release on his own label, reached number 29 on the pop charts. In 1959, Price rewrote the folk song “Stack-O-Lee,” giving it a more R&B, pop sound and changing its name to “Stagger Lee.” It reached the top of the pop charts and charted at number seven in the UK, becoming his first million seller. Price’s style was shifting from his New Orleans roots in blues to a more mainstream pop sound.
Later that year, he joined an R&B package tour in Virginia called “Biggest Show of Stars” for seven weeks, where he performed with peers Clyde McPhatter and Bo Diddley, among others. This was a bustling year for Price, who went on to produce the hit song “Personality,” a bluesy rock ballad which reached number two on the pop charts and topped the R&B chart, earning Price the nickname “Mr. Personality.” In September, “I’m Gonna Get Married” peaked at number three on the pop charts, and was Price’s final number one hit on the R&B charts. Augmenting these successful releases were: “Where Were You (On Our Wedding Day), “Wont’cha Come Home, and “Come Into My Heart,” which reached number 20 on the pop charts and served as a triumphant ending to a year that would become the height of Price’s career.
In 1960 Price continued to record, scoring his biggest hit of the year with “Lady Luck,” which reached number 14 on the pop charts, while its B-side, “Never Let Me Go,” reached a low number 82 on the charts. In May, the tune “For Love” climbed to number 43 on the pop charts and its reverse side, “No Ifs No Ands,” reached number 40
For the Record…
Born March 9, 1933, in Kenner, LA.
Led R&B vocal group in New Orleans, LA, wrote and performed commercial jingles for local radio station WBOK, including future hit “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” 1950; signed to Specialty Records and re-recorded “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” which reached top of the R&B charts, followed up with two more R&B top five hits, 1952; drafted to US Army to serve in Korean War, 1953; discharged from Army and founded Kent Record Company in Washington, D.C., 1956; “Stagger Lee” hit US at number one and the UK at number seven, “Personality” hit number one on R&B charts and number two on pop charts; “I’m Gonna Get Married” hit number one on R&B charts and number three on pop charts, 1959; founded Double-L label with friend Harold Logan and issued first solo recording by Falcons vocalist Wilson Pickett, 1963; established college scholarship fund for black students, 1964; moved to New York City and established new label Turntable, opened club by same name, 1969; released To the Roots and Back on GSF label, 1972; created three-day Zaire Music Festival in Africa with boxing promoter Don King, 1974; formed LPG label with King, 1976.
Awards: received Pioneer Award at sixth annual Rhythm and Blues Foundation ceremony, 1995; inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1998.
Addresses: Website —http://onlinetalent.com/Lloyd_Price_homepage.html; email—[email protected]
Releases “Just Call Me (And I’ll Understand)” and “(You Better) Know What You’re Doin’” both charted within the top 100, and the hit “Question” reached the top 20.
By 1963, Price was no longer scoring hits with the same frequency, and he put his energies starting another label, Double-L, with friend Harold Logan. Price’s first release on this label was a cover of Errol Garner’s “Misty” which would be his first single in three years to reach the top 100. “Billie Baby” followed in 1964, but by this time Price was busying himself establishing a college scholarship fund for African-American students. In 1969, Price’s Double-L partner Logan was found murdered in their New York City office, a Price album playing in the background. Price then went on to found Turntable, his new label, and a club by the same name, both in New York City where he was now based. This year was also notable for his final chart hit “Bad Conditions,” which peaked at 21.
With the exception of Price’s album release To The Roots and Back in 1973, and The Nominee in 1978, the 1970s were not too eventful for him. In 1976, he collaborated with boxing promoter Don King to promote a three-day music festival in Zaire, Africa, and later that year the two founded the record label LPG in New York. The various covers of “Stagger Lee” still charting in 1972 showed his continued force in the industry. In 1995 the Kenner City Council honored Price when they renamed 4th Street to Lloyd Price Avenue. Later that year he received the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, and in 1998 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
To The Roots and Back, GSF, 1972.
The Nominee, LPG, 1978.
Lloyd Price, Specialty, 1986.
Personality Plus, Specialty, 1986.
Walkin’the Track, Specialty, 1986.
Greatest Hits, Curb, 1990.
Lawdy!, Specialty, 1991.
Rees, Dafydd, Encyclopedia of Rock Stars, DK Publishing, Inc., 1996.
Romanowski, Patricia, editor, The New Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, 1995.
Warner, Jay, Billboard’s American Rock ‘n’ Roll in Review, Schirmer Books, 1997.
“Lloyd Price,” The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, http://www.rockhall.com (February 15, 1999).
“Lloyd Price,” Tom Simon’s Rock and Roll Page, http://ww.crl.com/~tsimon/price.htm (February 15, 1999).
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