Lloyd Price is from the New Orleans school of rock and roll. He has that in common with many other performers, most notably Fats Domino. He was born March 9, 1933 in the Big Easy and was interested in music from a young age. He sang in the church choir as a boy and when he became a teenager, he learned the trumpet and played in the high school band. He also formed his first group in high school and they got experience playing school dances.
After high school, he got a job writing jingles for a New Orleans business and one of them was converted into a song called “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.” Lloyd Price recorded the song on Specialty Records in 1952 and it was a number one hit on the R&B chart. The song was also covered by many others, like Little Richard and Elvis Presley.
In 1954, Lloyd was drafted and spent a couple years in the Army. When he came home, he moved to Washington D.C formed another band and started writing songs. His first hit on the pop chart was “Just Because” which reached number twenty-nine in 1957. He next took an old folk song called “Stack-O-Lee” and re-worked it into the rock and roll hit “Stagger Lee.” The name is written different ways, sometimes called “Stagolee”
“”Stagolee” is about the murder of Billy Lyons, a gambler who was shot by “Stag” Lee Sheldon in St Louis, Missouri during the Christmas of 1896. Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians Orchestra recorded “Stack O’Lee” in 1911 and as far I can tell is the earliest recording of the song. But that 1911 song sounds nothing like Lloyd Price’s song. How things changed in 50 years.
Lloyd Price had several more hits in 1959, but none went to number one. The best he did was number two with “Personality,” a really great song in its own right. He was pretty much gone from the charts by the end of the year, but he continued to perform with his band for many years, travelling the oldies circuit. One footnote that resulted from Lloyd Price’s career was that he had a valet named Larry Williams. You may not remember the name, but if you were alive in the Fifties, you should remember his music. He did the hits, “Boni Maroni” and “Short Fat Fannie,” both fun songs as long as you don’t take them personally.
“Stagger Lee” debuted on the pop charts on January 5, 1959 and stayed at number one for four weeks.