Before Rock and Roll took over radio and record sales, Rhythm and Blues artists like Lloyd Price and Larry Williams were kings of both the pop and R&B charts. Mixing blues, rhythm, gospel and a New Orleans groove, these two artists along with the likes of Fats Domino and Little Richard influence British Bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds to create the British Invasion which still has ripple effecting today’s music. For my money, the original black artists created a sound that will last longer than the imitators, and these two multi-disc sets show why.
Originally the chauffer for Lloyd Price, Larry Williams brought in jazz musicians like Plas Johnson/ts and Irving Ashby/g for infectious and sweaty pieces like “Just Because,” while “Slow Down” and “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” were pasteurized and redone by the Beatles, and “She Said Yeah” was covered by The Rolling Stones, but were never improved, only whitened. Meanwhile, he had hits of his own like the steaming “Bony Moronie” became a right of passage for early rockers , while “Lawdy Mama” and Short Fat Fannie” were tunes that no one dared to imitate. In the later years, trying to become accessible to middle class America, he added background vocalists for pieces like “Ting A Ling,” but the energy never waned. This guy was a heat seeking missile of R&B!
Lloyd Price’s complete single collection is put together on this historically and musically important 4 disc set. He had a couple #1 hits in both pop and R&B fields, with a raucous “Lawdy Miss Claudy,” fun filled “Personality,” strolling “Just Because” and “I’m Gonna Get Married” but his signature piece is the rivetingly dark story mixed with an infectiously pop/black groove on “Stagger Lee.” Early sessions here include Fats Domino on the piano for “Restless Heart,” and “Oooh-Oooh-Oooh” while famed saxists Lee Allen and Red Tyler whoop it up on “Woe Ho Ho” and “Baby, Baby, Please Come Home.” The Ray Charles singers and jazz trumpeter Ted Curson dig deep on “Where Were You (On Our Wedding Day,” “I’m Gonna Get Married” and the fore-mentioned “Personality” and even proto-bopper Clifford Jordan gets into the act for a raucous read of “Chantilly Lace.” Price had the gift of always having a bit of a smile in his voice, disarming you before socking you in the belly with a swinging left hook. His classic “Stagger Lee” is a case in point; essentially it is the black version of Bobby Darin’s “Mack the Knife” in that during the context of an upbeat and swinging tune, the vocalist is delivering a foreboding tale that once you understand the lyrics you’re singing to, you wonder, “why am I singing this?” making the incongruity all the more attractive. And even when he’s succumbing to pop tastes like the Coasters-esque “Be A Leader” he makes the juke joint jump, while with strings on the seductive “Talk To Me,” he’s still unable to be bridled. Price made every song feel like it’s early morning Saturday night.