If all he made was “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” Lloyd Price would still be in the Rock Hall.
The New Orleans-influenced smash was a pivotal moment in the development of rock and roll. But Mr. Personality didn’t stop there—he continued to make chart-toppers while trying his hand in every aspect of the music business.
Lloyd Price is widely known as “Mr. Personality,” a nickname copped from one his best-known songs, “Personality,” from 1959.
Among the premier rhythm & blues singers of the Fifties and Sixties, the Louisiana native can also claim a host of other talents: musician, bandleader, songwriter, producer, record-company executive and booking agent. In his prime he recorded for the Specialty and ABC-Paramount labels.
The bulk of his R&B sides were cut for Specialty and bear the hallmark of the New Orleans sound. His biggest R&B hit, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” was an original song produced by Dave Bartholomew and featuring Fats Domino on piano. Based on a commercial jingle he wrote, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” topped the R&B charts for seven weeks in 1952.
It was also widely covered, both in the Fifties and beyond, by the likes of Elvis Presley (who performed it on his 1968 NBC TV special), the Buckinghams, John Lennon and Elvis Costello. “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” is a rhythm & blues classic that helped give birth to rock and roll.
Price recorded more hits during his early-Fifties tenure at Specialty, but his career was interrupted by the Korean War. Upon returning from three years of service, he launched KRC (Kent Record Company) with Harold Logan, a longtime friend and collaborator. A shrewd businessman, Price leased his recordings to ABC-Paramount, thereby retaining control of his music while receiving national distribution. His most renowned recording came with “Stagger Lee,” an R&B remake of the folk-blues standard “Stack-o-Lee” that topped the pop and R&B charts. Recorded versions of the song date back to the Twenties, but Price’s “takes the prize,” according to Greil Marcus in a detailed analysis of the song’s roots and evolution. “Price’s record was hard rock, driven by a wailing sax, and in retrospect his manic enthusiasm seems to be what many earlier versions lacked,” wrote Marcus.
Price’s biggest year was 1959, during which he released four hits: “Personality,” “Where Were You (On Our Wedding Day),” “I’m Gonna Get Married” and “Come Into My Heart.” His entrepreneurial skill led to the helming of more labels (Double-L and Turntable), as well as a New York City nightclub (Lloyd Price’s Turntable). Double-L launched the recording career of Wilson Pickett in 1963. Price continued to place his own recordings on the R&B charts into the Seventies. Meanwhile, he performed around the country with a nine-piece band while keeping a resourceful hand in various other entrepreneurial pursuits and ventures.
Inductee: Lloyd Price (born March 9, 1933)