ROY PERKINS (By Phil Davies)
Born Ernie Suarez, 26 April 1935, Lafayette, Louisiana.
Ernie was of Spanish/Irish extraction. Life was tough for his family during the depression. His dad was a bartender and would come home drunk, spin some old blues 78s and dance round the house with his wife. He got the record from a pal who was a jukebox operator. Boogie pianist Cecil Gant was a great influence on little Ernie. He tried to copy the licks on his granny's piano in the house next door.
He began playing R&B as a teenager in a high school band called the Modernaires in the early '50s, they played mainly swing and big band standards until Ernie got hooked on Lloyd price's now classic Lawdy Miss Clawdy, which became the highlight of the school band's set. Some nights they had to play it four times as it was the only r&b number they knew. Quickly they realised that this innovative New Orleans sound was the way forward. A local record shop owner got them an audition for a Capitol records distributor, Mel Mallory. He also owned his own little label Mel -A -Dee.
Ernie's name was changed to Roy Perkins by Mel , mainly due to the chart success of Sun god Carl P. He released a single by Roy Perkins and his band, You're on My Mind, cut at a Nawlins tv studio. Black guitarist Left Hand Charlie Morris played guitar on the session. It was a number one hit in Lafayette and did well in New Orleans, and was covered by swamp pop singer Rod Bernard on Argo in 1959. Roy remembers playing dates with Bobby Charles. His last Mal -A -Dee 45 was Here Am I /You're Gone. He still had a day job and played weekends with the band.
Mira Smith named him Roy " Boogie Boy" Perkins when she signed him to Ram Records. Pal Roy Prejan had recommended a hot local band to her, The Riff Raffs. She went to see them play at a local club, Bobby Page was the lead vocalist and he had a wild stage act but piano boy Roy impressed her most, she signed both the band and also Roy to a management and song writing contract. Roy recalled how she brought her guitar into the club and blew them away with her bluesy style.
Roy wrote and recorded a demo of Just Another Lie, which Mira gave to label mate and Hayride star Linda Brannon; it became a southern hit and one of Ram's best sellers. The 45 was eventually leased to Chess and covered by many artists. Roy went back to writing and was motivated by his new convertible and thus spawned Drop Top, writing it in about an hour. The band drove over to Eddie Shuler's studio in Lake Charles and Mira soon issued the final product. Mercury picked up on its local sales and arranged to lease it nationally on March 6th 1958, they took out trade ads and garnered a good review in Cashbox, where it was picked as "sleeper of the week" - "The number is a house rockin' jumper - wild and woolly R n R belting of a tune describing a convertible automobile that the songster has just bought -it's got that pile driving beat that doesn't let up for a second".
Unfortunately, Roy's big break never materialised, Mira didn't release any more Perkins 45s due to financial reasons and by 1959 she allowed Roy to cut sides for Bill Hall in Beaumont Texas. Roy cut Sweet Lies for Hall but the 45 eventually appeared on Pappy Daily's Dart label. It sold zilch.
Roy learnt to play Fender bass for the Riff Raffs when their bass player got drafted. Jimmy Scatman Patin was the tenor man and he featured on some fine instros. Legendary Louisiana horn man Harry Simoneaux played with the band for a while and also played with Roy in later bands. Guitar man Bessyl Duhon later joined the Jimmy C. Newman band for many years. Bobby Page (real name Elwood Dugas) also cut solo sides after the Riff Raffs split up in 1962. Roy played with Jerry Starr & the Clippers and Burt Miller's swing kings, he also played with old friend Johnnie Allan. Ray Topping calls Roy Louisiana's best kept secret. Luckily for us, he heard some of Perkins sides on a Ram mail order reissue series in the 70s. Eventually Ray compiled and annotated the excellent Ace cd that this feature is drawn from.
Roy Boogie Boy Perkins - Ace cd CDCHD619, has Perkins, Riff Raff, Simoneaux and Page numbers.
Or V A compilation Shreveport Stomp also on Ace.
|These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
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