Lloyd Price, who soared to the top of the charts with the 1950s hits “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” “Personality,” “I’m Gonna Get Married” and the No. 1 smash “Stagger Lee,” died Monday in New Orleans. He was 88. No cause was given by his manager, who confirmed the death.
Price was discovered at age 19 by legendary New Orleans producer and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dave Bartholomew, who was working with Specialty Records producer Art Rupe. He took Price in and soon recorded “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” with Fats Domino on piano and Earl Palmer on drums. The 1952 hit sold a million copies and spent seven weeks atop Billboard’s R&B charts but did not make the Billboard pop chart.
That launched a recording career that saw Price score 15 top-10 R&B hits, including “Personality,” which also reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and “Stagger Lee,” which spent four weeks atop the pop chart in early 1959.
Price told the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that he was shocked by the pre-rock success of “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.” The title was taken from a local disc jockey at station WBOK New Orleans, who would incorporate the phrase into his on-air banter.
“It was two weeks, the record [had been playing] on the radio. I’m hearing it every day,” Price told the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “And my brother, my elder brother said, ‘Ain’t no other Lloyd Price in Kenner. They keep saying [Lloyd Price]. Is that you?’ I said, ‘I think so!’ I had never heard myself. I never heard nothing about a microphone. And a week or so later, the world just blew loose.”
In an interview that was made for his 1998 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Price said the hit helped bridge the South’s racial divides.
“I revolutionized the South. Before ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy,’ white kids were not really interested in this music. People like Charles Brown and Fats Domino really only sold to the black community. But 10 months after I was in business, they were putting up ropes to divide the white and black spectators. But by 10 o’clock at night, they’d all be together on that dance floor.”
Price was drafted in 1952 into the Korean War effort, temporarily derailing his career.
To recover, Price co-founded his own label, KRC Records, and scored several more hits: “Just Because,” “Where Were You (On Our Wedding Day)?” and his 1958 rendition of the murder ballad “Stagger Lee” — which later was included among Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Price followed that up with “Personality,” a single that earned Price his nickname for the ensuing decades, “Mr. Personality.”
Price’s songs have been featured in numerous films and TV shows, ranging from Green Lantern, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, The Help and Runaway Bride to Peggy Sue Got Married, Pleasantville, Frank’s Place and Bosch. He also performed multiple times on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Midnight Special, The Dick Clark Show and Soul Train.
The singer moved to Nigeria for a decade, helming a music festival that accompanied the Muhammad Ali-George Foreman heavyweight championship there. He appeared in the 1996 documentary about that fight, When We Were Kings.
Price also made an appearance as himself in an episode of the HBO series Treme.
No memorial plans or survivors have been revealed.