Hitmaker Huey ‘Piano’ Smith dies aged 89


Huey “Piano” Smith, a beloved New Orleans man who supported Little Richard, Lloyd Price and other early rock stars and with his team created beloved songs favorites at the party were “Don’t You Just Know It” and “Rockin’ Pneumonia and Boogie Woogie flu,” dead. He was 89.

His daughter, Acquelyn Donsereaux, told the Associated Press he died in his sleep on February 13 at his home in Baton Rouge. She did not cite a specific cause.

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 have made New Orleans influential. basic to rock ‘n’ roll music. He was 15 years old when he started playing professionally, and in his 20s helped create many ’50s hits, including “Where You At?” by Price, “Those Lonely Lonely Nights” by Earl King and “I Hear You Knocking” by Smiley Lewis. Little Richard, Fats Domino and David Bartholemew are among the many other artists he has worked with.

In 1957, he formed Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns and broke into the top 10 with “Rockin’ Pneumonia”, a mid-tempo stomp featuring John Marchin’s vocals and Smith’s lively keyboarding, as well as the noisy and fun part. naturally “Don’t You Just Know It.” Clowns are also known for “We Like Birdland”, “Well I’ll Be John Brown” and “High Blood Pressure”.

A Smith production became a huge hit and rock standard, for another performer. Smith and his team wrote, arranged, and recorded “Sea Cruise,” but Ace Records thought the song would have been more successful with a white singer – as Smith frankly learned from the record distributor. local Joe Caronna – and replaced the Clowns’ voices with those. by Frankie Ford, his version sold a million copies.

“I cried when he (Caronna) said it,” Smith told biographer John Wirt, whose “Huey ‘Piano’ Smith and the Rocking Pneumonia Blues” came out in 2014. “I drank one little. my heart when he told me he was going to take it.”

Cover artists for “Sea Cruise” and other Smith songs include John Fogerty, the Beach Boys, Aerosmith, and Jerry Garcia. In 2005, Ford denied having “stealed” the song, alleging that he wrote the lyrics. “Huey went through a period and ‘forgotten’ a lot of things,” Ford told Offbeat Magazine.

Smith’s popularity dwindled after The Beatles arrived, and in 1980 he quit his business, settled in Baton Rouge with his wife, Margrette, and became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Like many rock musicians from the ’50s, he fought for pay and credit for “Sea Cruise” and other hits, and spent decades in legal battles and troubles. financial trouble. Meanwhile, local musicians continue to see him as an inspiration.

Drummer Earl Palmer told Wirt: “For me, he was more of a simple person than anyone else in New Orleans.

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

He left behind a wife, 10 children, 18 grandchildren and 47 great-grandchildren, his daughter told AP.

Smith grew up in the Uptown neighborhood of New Orleans, his father a roofer, his mother a laundromat. As a boy, Smith took piano lessons, learning by watching his uncle play, and he quickly mastered the eight-bar progression that has made countless blues songs. He played obsessively, sometimes to the annoyance of the neighbors, and in high school he helped form the band Joy Jumpers.

He was still in his teens when he met another young New Orleans musician, Eddie Lee Jones, whose nickname “Guitar Slim” has influenced countless musicians and given Smith the nickname “Piano”. Lewis’ own work was originally based on Professor Longhair’s blues-boogie woogie. But he’ll eventually pick up on a variety of styles, whether it’s Jelly Roll Martin’s jazz or Fats Domino’s rock and blues beats.

He told Wirt: “I tried to try out different genres of music, not just one personal style. “I like my own style, but my own style is completely different from rhythm and blues, calypso or any of that. It’s just a deep funk.”

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