Lloyd Price was born in Kenner, Louisiana, on March 9, 1933. His mother ran a restaurant there called the Fish 'n' Fry, where Price got his start as an entertainer, dancing for tips to songs on the jukebox. He discovered his vocal talents singing in church, and when Fats Domino's "The Fat Man" became a hit at the end of 1949, Price decided he wanted to make music in a similar style. He and his brother Leo Price formed a band, and they landed a gig at a nightclub in Kenner. Legendary producer and A&R man Dave Bartholomew caught their show one night and persuaded Art Rupe to sign the act to his Specialty Records label. With Lloyd at the vocal mike, they cut a song he'd written called "Lawdy Miss Clawdy." (To Price's great surprise, Fats Domino was the piano player on the session.) Released by Specialty in 1952, "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" rose to number one on the Rhythm & Blues charts, and held the top spot for seven weeks. Price's next four singles ("Oooh-Oooh-Oooh," "Restless Heart," "Ain't It a Shame," and "Tell Me Pretty Baby") would all reach the R&B Top Ten, but in 1954, he was drafted into the Army, and while Specialty would continue to release material they had in the vaults, none of them were hits.
After his hitch in the Army was over, Price discovered Specialty was scoring hits with Little Richard and Larry Williams (the latter had briefly worked as Price's chauffeur) and had lost interest in him. He bought back his contract from Specialty and with the help of promoter Harold Logan, he started his own label, KRC (for Kent Record Company). In 1956, Price put out his first single on KRC, "Just Because," and when it began breaking out as a regional hit, ABC-Paramount licensed it for nationwide distribution, and he soon signed directly to the label. His ABC-Paramount releases boasted glossier production values and better promotion and distribution, and in 1958, "Stagger Lee" shot to number one on the Pop and R&B charts. In 1959, Price scored two more major hits -- "Personality" was a number two Pop hit, "I'm Gonna Get Married" peaked at number three Pop, and both tunes hit number one on the R&B listing.
"I'm Gonna Get Married" would prove to be his last song to reach the Pop Top Ten, but he continued to fare well on the R&B survey, and after his deal with ABC-Paramount ran out in 1963, he started another new label, Double L Records, in tandem with Harold Logan. Price's cover of "Misty" was Double L's first hit, peaking at number 21 Pop and number 11 R&B, and he signed Wilson Pickett for his first solo hit, 1963's "If You Need Me."
In the late 1960s, Price opened a nightclub in New York City, Lloyd Price's Turntable, and he also launched a label of the same name that released records by Price, Howard Tate, and the Coasters. However, when Harold Logan was murdered in 1969, Price dropped out of the music business. He worked for a while with his longtime friend Don King, the famous boxing promoter, and helped him stage the 1974 title fight in Zaire between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman that became known as "The Rumble in the Jungle." In addition, Price was part of the bill for a concert staged in conjunction with the fight. He also teamed with King to found LPG Records, who released the 1976 single "What Did You Do with My Love," which was his last R&B hit, scraping the lower reaches of the charts at Number 99.
Price once again stepped away from his musical career and focused on business interests, but in 1993 he was persuaded to take part in a tour of Europe and the United Kingdom that featured him along with Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Gary U.S. Bonds. The success of the shows led to Price returning to live performing, and he toured at a comfortable pace for much of the rest of his life. In 2010, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and the following year, he published his memoirs, The True King of the Fifties: The Lloyd Price Story. He also penned a collection of essays, Sumdumhonky, that was released in 2015. Lloyd Price died on May 3, 2021, at an extended care facility in New Rochelle, New York. He was 88 years old. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
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