NEW YORK (AP) — Singer-songwriter Lloyd Worth, an early rock ’n roll star and enduring maverick whose hits included such up-tempo favorites as “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” “Character” and the semi-forbidden “Stagger Lee,” has died. He was 88.
Worth died Monday at a long-term care facility in New Rochelle, New York, of issues from diabetes, his spouse, Jacqueline Worth, informed The Related Press on Saturday.
Lloyd Worth, inducted into the Rock and Roll Corridor of Fame in 1998, was among the many final survivors of a post-World Struggle II scene in New Orleans that anticipated the shifts in common music and tradition resulting in the rise of rock within the mid-1950s. Together with Fat Domino and David Bartholomew amongst others, Worth original a deep, exuberant sound across the brass and swing of New Orleans jazz and blues that positioned excessive on R&B charts and ultimately crossed over to white audiences.
“Crucial a part of Rock historical past. He was BEFORE Little Richard!” rock singer and E Road Band member Steven Van Zandt said on Twitter. “Lawdy Miss Clawdy of 1952 has a legit declare as the primary Rock hit…. Righteous cat. Monumental expertise.”
Worth’s nickname was “Mr. Character,” becoming for a performer with a heat smile and a tenor voice to match. However he was way over an interesting entertainer. He was unusually impartial for his time, working his personal document label even earlier than such stars as Frank Sinatra did the identical, holding on to his publishing rights, and serving as his personal agent and supervisor. He would usually communicate of the racial injustices he endured, calling his memoir “sumdumhonkey” and writing on his Fb web page in the course of the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests that behind his “affable exterior” was “a person who’s seething.”
Born in Kenner, Louisiana, one in all 11 siblings, Worth had been singing in church and taking part in piano since childhood. He was in his late teenagers when a neighborhood DJ’s favourite catchphrase, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” helped encourage him to jot down his boundary-breaking first hit, which he labored on in his mom’s fried fish restaurant.
That includes Domino’s trademark piano trills, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” hit No. 1 on the R&B charts in 1952, offered greater than 1 million copies and have become a rock commonplace, lined by Elvis Presley and Little Richard amongst others. However Worth would have blended emotions concerning the track’s broad attraction, later remembering how native officers within the Jim Crow South resisted letting each blacks and whites attend his reveals.
Worth was drafted and spent the mid-1950s in navy service in Korea. He started a profession restart with the 1957 ballad “Simply As a result of,” and hit the highest with the brassy, pop-oriented “Stagger Lee,” one of many catchiest, most celebratory songs ever recorded a few barroom homicide.
Written by Worth, “Stagger Lee” was based mostly on a 19th century battle between two Black males — Lee Shelton, generally often known as Stag Lee, and Billy Lyons — that ended with Shelton capturing and killing his rival. Their ever-changing legend was showing in songs by the 1920s, and has impressed artists starting from Woody Guthrie and Duke Ellington to Bob Dylan and the Conflict.
Worth’s model opened with a number of spoken phrases that had the understated rigidity of a criminal offense novel: “The night time was clear, the moon was yellow, and the leaves got here tumbling … down.” The band jumps in and Worth shouts out the story of Stagger Lee and Billy preventing over a recreation of cube, concluding with a bullet from Stagger Lee’s 44 passing by Billy and breaking the bartender’s glass. “Go Stagger Lee!” a refrain chants all through.
The track reached No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart early in 1959, however not everybody was entertained. “American Bandstand” host Dick Clark fearful the track was too violent for his teen-centered present and pressed Worth to revise it: For “Bandstand” watchers and a few future listeners, Stagger Lee and Billy peacefully resolve their dispute.
“I needed to go make up some lyrics about Stagger Lee and Billy being in some sort of squabble a few lady,” Worth informed Billboard in 2013. “It didn’t make any sense in any respect. It was ridiculous.”
Worth adopted with the highest 10 hits “Character” and “I’m Going To Get Married” and the highest 20 songs “Girl Luck” and “Query.” He fared no higher than a lot of his contemporaries as soon as the Beatles arrived within the U.S. in 1964, however he discovered his manner into different professions by a variety of mates and acquittances. He lived for a time in the identical Philadelphia house advanced as Wilt Chamberlain and Joe Frazier and, together with boxing promoter Don King, helped stage the 1973 “Thrilla in Manila” between Frazier and Muhammad Ali and the 1974 “Rumble within the Jungle” championship battle between Ali and George Foreman. He was additionally a house builder, a reserving agent, a wonderful bowler and the creator of a line of meals merchandise.
His profession in music continued, sporadically. He and his enterprise companion Harold Logan began a label within the early 1960s, Double L Information, that gave an early break to Wilson Pickett, they usually additionally ran a New York nightclub. However after Logan was murdered, in 1969, Worth turned so disheartened he ultimately moved to Nigeria and didn’t return till the 1980s. He would change into a favourite on oldies excursions, performing with Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis amongst others.
He settled in New York along with his spouse, however was not forgotten again dwelling. A avenue in Kenner was renamed Lloyd Worth Avenue and for years Kenner has celebrated an annual Lloyd Worth Day.
Worth would credit score clear residing and regular focus for his endurance.
“I by no means drank, smoked, used medicine or had unhealthy habits,” he informed interviewer Larry Katz in 1998. “I’d drive a taxi cab to get me the meals I must dwell. I by no means was starstruck. I had 23 hit data and I by no means regarded for the following document to hit. I by no means had that want that they needed to be someone. I simply needed to be.”
— Dalton reported from Los Angeles.