Born 9 March 1933, Kenner, Louisiana
Along with Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Clyde McPhatter, Brook Benton and a few others, Lloyd Price was in the first vanguard of R&B singers to crash the pop charts on a consistent basis during the late 1950s.
Growing up in Kenner, a suburb of New Orleans, Price was exposed to the music of Louis Jordan, the Liggins brothers, Roy Milton and Amos Milburn through the jukebox in his mother's little sandwich shop. Lloyd and his younger brother Leo (who later wrote "Send Me Some Lovin'" and "Can't Believe You Wanna Leave" for Little Richard) put together a band, the Blue Boys, for local consumption while in their teens. In 1951 Lloyd Price wrote his first song, "Lawdy Miss Clawdy", a classic eight-bar blues, the title of which was derived from a local deejay's catchphrase. It was heard by Dave Bartholomew, who at that time was temporarily at odds with his employer Lew Chudd at Imperial. Bartholomew tipped off Specialty boss Art Rupe, who was undertaking a talent scouting expedition in New Orleans. Initially Rupe was not impressed by Price and he was about to return home to Los Angeles when Lloyd broke down in tears, begging to be given another chance. This turned Rupe around and a session was held on March 13, 1952 with Dave Bartholomew's studio band, including Fats Domino on piano, doing a little moonlighting from his Imperial contract. "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" topped the R&B charts for seven weeks in the summer of 1952 and has become a standard, recorded by many artists including Elvis Presley. The next pair of Specialty singles, "Oooh Oooh Oooh"/ "Restless Heart" and "Ain't It A Shame"/"Tell Me Pretty Baby" were both double-sided Top 10 hits. Lloyd Price was on his way. When Dave Bartholomew's services were no longer available (after reconciliation with Chudd), Price used his own touring band on the recording sessions.
Then Uncle Sam came knocking. Though Lloyd found his way into the Special services as a musician, he still had to go overseas (Korea) and he cut no more sessions from January 1954 until February 1956. After his demob he did three more dates for Specialty (resulting in some good rockers like "Woe Ho Ho", "I Yi Yi Gomen-A-Sai" and "Rock 'n' Roll Dance") before he had a falling out with Art Rupe and left the label in September 1956, believing he could do better on his own.
It was unheard of for a black R&B singer to inaugurate his own record label, but that didn't stop Price from launching KRC Records in early '57, establishing offices in Washington, D.C., in partnership with Harold Logan. Lloyd's first KRC single was "Just Because", which was swiftly covered on Specialty by Larry Williams, his second cousin and ex-valet/ chauffeur. Knowing that his little label could never hope to compete with the established Specialty, Price made a deal with ABC-Paramount to put out his version of "Just Because". He won the battle with Williams, as his version reached # 3 R&B and # 29 pop, while Larry's went to # 11 R&B, while failing to crack the crossover market.
But the next ten KRC singles (by Price and others) sold poorly (apart from a one-week showing of Lloyd's "Lonely Chair" at # 88) and in September 1958 he signed directly with ABC-Paramount. His first record for them was an adaptation of the old New Orleans standard "Stagger Lee", spruced up with a big band and the Ray Charles Singers to make it palpable to the general public. It was a number one record for four weeks on both the pop and R&B charts in early 1959. Dick Clark forced him to tone down the violent lyrics for an appearance on American Bandstand. Lloyd continued doing the big band sound throughout his tenure with ABC. Initially, Don Costa was his arranger/producer there, but when Costa defected to United Artists in the summer of 1959, Sid Feller took over at the production helm.
"Stagger Lee" was followed in the charts by "Where Were You (On Our Wedding Day)" (# 23 pop, # 4 R&B), "Personality" (# 2 pop, # 1 R&B), "I'm Gonna Get Married" (# 3 pop, # 1 R&B) and "Come Into My Heart" (# 20 pop, # 2 R&B), all in 1959. Sales dropped in 1960, but "Lady Luck" and "Question" still made the pop Top 20 and the R&B Top 10 that year. By then his sound - aimed at the teen pop market - was far removed from its Crescent City beginnings. There were no hits in 1961-62.
Always a canny businessman, Price left ABC in 1963 to start another label of his own, Double-L Records, still with Harold Logan as his partner. Wilson Pickett, the ex-lead singer of the Falcons, had his first solo hits on Double-L ("If You Need Me", "It's Too Late", 1963). Lloyd himself scored his biggest hit in three years with a Vegas-ish version of "Misty" (# 21 pop, # 11 R&B), also in 1963. "Billie Baby" (a remake of "Bill Bailey") was his last pop hit in early 1964 (# 84). After Double-L folded later that year, Price bounced back with scattered releases on Monument, Reprise, Jad and Turntable, another self-run label, matching the name of the nightclub that he and Logan operated in Manhattan. But the music business turned sour for Price when his partner Logan was murdered in 1969. Lloyd hooked up with boxing promoter Don King, spent most of the 1970s in Nigeria and other African countries, invested in nonmusical pursuits, but returned to the USA in 1983. He refused to tour until 1993, when Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Gary U.S. Bonds accompanied him on a European tour. In 1998 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. Today he lives in New York City and still performs occasionally on the oldies circuit.
More info : http://www.answers.com/topic/lloyd-price
Book : His disappointingly brief (102 pages) autobiography came out in 2009 : "Lawdy Miss Clawdy : The True King Of the 50's : The Lloyd Price Story" (Pound Ridge, NY : Lloyd Price Books).
CD recommendation : Lloyd Rocks (Bear Family BCD 16999). 34 tracks, 12 from Specialty, 8 from KRC, 14 from ABC. Released 2008. Annotated by Bill Dahl.
Discography : http://www.soulfulkindamusic.net/lprice.htm
Acknowledgements : Bill Dahl, Colin Escott, Billy Vera
Dik, July 2012
|These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
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