Huey ‘Piano’ Smith, Session Man and Hitmaker, Dies at 89

Supporting Little Richard, Lloyd Price and other early rock stars, with his own group “Don’t You Just Know It” and “Rockin’ New Monia and Boogie Woogie” were party favourites. New Orleans session man Huey “Piano” Smith “flu” has died. he was 89 years old.

His daughter Acquelyn Donsereaux said: Associated Press He died in his sleep at his Baton Rouge home on February 13. She did not give a specific reason.

A New Orleans native who has performed nationally but always returned to Louisiana, Smith is one of the last survivors of the extraordinary scene of musicians and songwriters who helped give New Orleans its fundamental influence on rock and roll. He started playing professionally when he was only 15, and in his 20s he was singing Price’s ‘Where You At?’, Earl King’s ‘Those Lonely Lonely Nights’ and Smiley Lewis’ ‘I Hear You’. Knocking” and many other 50’s hits. Little Richard, Fats Domino and David Bartholomew were among many other artists he worked with.

In 1957, he formed Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns, which hit the Top 10 with the mid-tempo stomp “Rockin’ New Monia,” featuring John Martin’s vocals and Smith’s lilting keyboard playing. . “Don’t You Just Know It” Pierrot was also known for “We Like Birdland,” “Well I’ll Be John Brown,” and “High Blood Pressure.”

One Smith production became a major hit and rock standard for another performer. Smith and his group wrote, arranged, and recorded “Sea Cruise,” but Ace Records said that the song, as Smith candidly learned from local record dealer Joe Carona, was a white singer’s song. I thought it would be more successful, so I replaced Clown’s vocals with Frankie’s. Ford whose version became a million seller.

“I was crying when he (Carona) said that,” Smith told biographer Jon Wirt. Huey ‘Piano’ Smith and the Rocking Numonia Blues Appeared in 2014. I was heartbroken when he told me he was taking it.

Artists who have covered “Sea Cruise” and other Smith songs include John Fogerty, The Beach Boys, Aerosmith and Jerry Garcia. In 2005, Ford denied having “stole” the song, claiming he wrote the lyrics. rice field. quirky magazine.

Smith’s popularity faded after the arrival of The Beatles, and by 1980 he had left the business, settled in Baton Rouge with his wife Margret, and became a Jehovah’s Witness. Likewise, he battled for his paycheck on “Sea Cruise” and other hits, and suffered decades of legal battles and financial troubles. Meanwhile, local musicians continued to cite him as an inspiration.

“To me, he was the guy in New Orleans who got more out of simplicity than anyone else,” drummer Earl Palmer told Wirt.

In 2000 Smith received the Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation and was inducted into the Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame a year later. Admirers list him as one of the most important performers not to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

His daughter said he has a wife, 10 children, 18 grandchildren and 47 great-grandchildren. APs.

Smith grew up in the Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans, where his father was a roofer and his mother a laundry worker. As a boy, Smith began playing the piano, learning by watching his uncle play, and quickly mastering his eight-bar progressions that became the basis for countless blues songs. He played relentlessly, sometimes to the annoyance of his neighbors, and helped start a band called Joy Jumpers in high school.

He was still a teenager when he met Eddie Lee Jones, another young musician from New Orleans. Lewis’s own work initially referenced The Professor’s long-haired blues and his boogie-woogie. But eventually he absorbed a wide range of styles, including Jelly Roll his Martin jazz and Fats Domino rock his Rhythm and Blues.

“I started experimenting with different music, not just one style,” he tells Wirt. “I like my style, but it’s very different from rhythm and blues, calypso, etc. It’s funk at its core.”

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