Lloyd Price (March 9, 1933 – May 3, 2021) was an American R&B vocalist, known as “Mr. Personality”, after his 1959 million-selling hit, “Personality”. His first recording, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”, was a hit for Specialty Records in 1952. He continued to release records, but none were as popular until several years later, when he refined the New Orleans beat and achieved a series of national hits. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
Price was born on March 9, 1933, in Kenner, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans, and raised in Kenner. His mother, Beatrice Price, owned the Fish ‘n’ Fry Restaurant. Price picked up lifelong interests in business and food from her. He and his younger brother Leo were both musical.
He had formal training on trumpet and piano, sang in his church’s gospel choir, and was a member of a combo in high school.
Art Rupe, the owner of Specialty Records, based in Los Angeles, came to New Orleans in 1952 to record the distinctive style of rhythm and blues developing there, which had been highly successful for his competitor Imperial Records. Rupe heard Price’s song “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” and wanted to record it. Because Price did not have a band, Rupe hired Dave Bartholomew to create the arrangements and Bartholomew’s band (plus Fats Domino on piano) to back Price in the recording session. The song was a massive hit. His next release, “Oooh, Oooh, Oooh”, cut at the same session, was a much smaller hit. Price continued making recordings for Specialty, but none of them reached the charts at that time.
In 1954, he was drafted into the US Army and sent to Korea. When he returned he found he had been replaced by Little Richard. In addition, his former chauffeur, Larry Williams, was also recording for the label, having released “Short Fat Fannie”.
He eventually formed KRC Records with Harold Logan and Bill Boskent. Their first single, “Just Because”, was picked up for distribution by ABC Records. From 1957 to 1959, Price recorded a series of national hits for ABC that successfully adapted the New Orleans sound, including “Stagger Lee” (which topped the Pop and R&B charts and sold over a million copies), “Personality” (which reached number 2), and “I’m Gonna Get Married” (number 3). When Price appeared on the television program American Bandstand to sing “Stagger Lee”, the producer and host of the program, Dick Clark, insisted that he alter the lyrics to tone down its violent content. “Stagger Lee” was Price’s version of an old blues standard, recorded many times previously by other artists. Greil Marcus, in a critical analysis of the song’s history, wrote that Price’s version was an enthusiastic rock rendition, “all momentum, driven by a wailing sax.” In all of these early recordings by Price (“Personality”, “Stagger Lee”, “I’m Gonna Get Married”, and others) Merritt Mel Dalton was the lead sax player; he was also in the traveling band and appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show with Price. The personnel on the original hit recording of “Stagger Lee” included Clarence Johnson on piano, John Patton on bass, Charles McClendon and Eddie Saunders on tenor sax, Ted Curson on trumpet and Sticks Simpkins on drums.
In 1962, Price along with business partner, Harold Logan formed Double L Records. Wilson Pickett got his start on this label. Price and business partner Logan also formed a club together called Birdland in New York on 1674 Broadway in New York City. In 1969, Logan was murdered in the office connected to the club. Price then founded a new label, Turntable.
During the 1970s, Price helped the boxing promoter Don King promote fights, including the “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire and its accompanying concert which featured James Brown and B. B. King. He and Don King formed a record label, LPG, which issued Price’s last hit, “What Did You Do With My Love”, to limited success.
Price toured Europe in 1993 with Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Gary U.S. Bonds. He performed with soul legends Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, and Ben E. King on the “Four Kings of Rhythm and Blues” tour in 2005; concerts were recorded for a DVD and a PBS television special.
On June 20, 2010, he appeared and sang in the season 1 finale of the HBO series Treme. As of 2018 he continued to sing.
On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Lloyd Price among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.
Price was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. He received an honorary doctorate from Southern University in 2001. On March 9, 2010, his 77th birthday, in New Orleans, Price was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. He was entered into the National Black Sports & Entertainment Hall of Fame in 2001. In 2019 Price was inducted into the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.
Price and his wife resided in Westchester County, New York. He died from diabetes complications on May 3, 2021, at a long-term care facility in New Rochelle, New York, aged 88.
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Other Notable Musicians’ Deaths…
Although not a musician, Tawny Kitaen, 59, American actress (The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak, Bachelor Party, Witchboard), appeared in several music videos back in the ‘80s and the ‘90s. In case you don’t remember her, she was the girl who did acrobatics on the hoods of nice cars, particularly in White Snake’s videos! RIP, Tawny – we loved you lots.
12: Bob Koester, 88, American music executive, founder of Delmark Records; Maran, 48, Indian actor and singer (Ghilli), COVID-19; Vladimir Redkin, 65, Russian opera singer and music teacher.
11: Attila Demény, 66, Hungarian composer and theatre director.
10: Elfiya Burnasheva, 79, Russian music pedagogue and pianist, professor at Kazan Conservatory; Abdo Dagher, 85, Egyptian musician; Gerardo Orviz, 92, Spanish singer; Abdolvahab Shahidi, 98, Iranian barbat player, singer and composer, heart disease; Pauline Tinsley, 93, British soprano.
9: Luís Vagner, 73, Brazilian singer, songwriter and musician.
8: Tatiana Bershadskaya, 99, Russian musicologist; Curtis Fuller, 86, American jazz trombonist.
7: G. Anand, 67, Indian playback singer, COVID-19; Vanraj Bhatia, 93, Indian composer (Tamas, 36 Chowringhee Lane, Ramayana: The Legend of Prince Rama); Cassiano, 77, Brazilian singer-songwriter and guitarist; Jamal Salameh, 75, Egyptian songwriter and melodist, COVID-19; Jamal Salameh, 75, Egyptian songwriter and melodist, COVID-19.
6: Brano Alex, 55, Slovak punk bass guitarist, singer and lyricist (Zóna A, Slobodná Európa); Prateek Chaudhuri, 49, Indian sitarist, COVID-19; Comagan, 48, Indian singer, composer and actor, COVID-19; Vanya Kostova, 64, Bulgarian singer (Tonika); Walter Kraxner, 94, German scholar, poet and composer; María Rosa Marquesano, 68, Argentine folk singer, COVID-19; Prem Dhoj Pradhan, 82, Nepalese musician; Pervis Staples, 85, American Hall of Fame gospel singer (The Staple Singers).