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James Booker

Certainly one of the most flamboyant New Orleans pianists in recent memory, James Carroll Booker III was a major influence on the local rhythm & blues scene in the '50s and '60s. Booker's training included classical instruction until age 12, by which time he had already begun to gain recognition as a blues and gospel organist on radio station WMRY every Sunday. By the time he was out of high school he had recorded on several occasions, including his own first release, "Doing the Hambone," in 1953. In 1960, he made the national charts with "Gonzo," an organ instrumental, and over the course of the next two decades played and recorded with artists as varied as Lloyd Price, Aretha Franklin, Ringo Starr, the Doobie Brothers, and B.B. King. In 1967, he was convicted of possession of heroin and served a one-year sentence at Angola Penitentiary (referred to as the "Ponderosa"), which took the momentum out of an otherwise promising career. The rediscovery of "roots" music by college students during the '70s (focusing primarily on "Fess" by Professor Longhair) provided the opportunity for a comeback by 1974, with numerous engagements at local clubs like Tipitina's, The Maple Leaf, and Snug Harbor. As with "Fess," Booker's performances at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festivals took on the trappings of legendary "happenings," and he often spent his festival earnings to arrive in style, pulling up to the stage in a rented Rolls Royce and attired in costumes befitting the "Piano Prince of New Orleans," complete with a cape. Such performances tended to be unpredictable: he might easily plant some Chopin into a blues tune or launch into a jeremiad on the CIA with all the fervor of a "Reverend Ike-meets-Moms Mabley" tag-team match.

Booker's left hand was simply phenomenal, often a problem for bass players who found themselves running for cover in an attempt to stay out of the way; with it he successfully amalgamated the jazz and rhythm & blues idioms of New Orleans, adding more than a touch of gospel thrown in for good measure. His playing was also highly improvisational, reinventing a progression (usually his own) so that a single piece would evolve into a medley of itself. In addition, he had a plaintive and seering vocal style which was equally comfortable with gospel, jazz standards, blues, or popular songs. Despite his personal eccentricities, Booker had the respect of New Orleans' best musicians, and elements of his influence are still very much apparent in the playing of pianists like Henry Butler and Harry Connick, Jr. ~ Bruce Boyd Raeburn
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Manchester 77

1. Let The Good Times Roll

2. Blues Minuet

3. Junko Partner

4. Black Night

5. Tipitina

6. Come Rain Or Shine

7. Pixie

9. Send Me Some Loving

10. Rip It Up & Long Tall Sally

11. Let Them Talk

12. Hound Dog & Hambone

x

Track List: The Lost Paramount Tapes

1. Goodnight Irene

2. Feel So Bad

3. Junco Partner

4. African Gumbo

5. Lah Tee Tah

6. So Swell When You're Well

7. Storm Monday

8. Hound Dog (Medley)

9. Hole In The Wall

10. Tico Tico

11. Junco Partner #2

x

Track List: Classified (Remixed & Expanded Edition)

1. Classified

2. If You're Lonely

3. Warsaw Concerto

4. Lawdy Miss Clawdy (Solo Piano Alternate Take)

5. Medley: Tico Tico / Papa Was A Rascal / So Swell When You're Well

6. All Around The World

7. Angel Eyes

8. Lonely Avenue

9. Professor Longhair Medley: Tipitina / Bald Head

10. King Of The Road

11. Theme From The Godfather

12. Lawdy Miss Clawdy

13. I'm Not Sayin'

14. Hound Dog

15. All These Things

16. Yes Sir, That's My Baby

17. Baby Face

18. If You're Lonely (Solo Piano Alternate Take)

19. Madame X

20. One For The Highway

21. Three Keys

22. Amen

x

Track List: New Orleans Piano Wizard: Live!

1. On The Sunny Side Of The Street (Live)

2. Black Night (Live)

3. Keep On Gwine (Live)

4. Come Rain Or Come Shine (Live)

5. Something Stupid (Live)

6. Please Send Me Someone To Love (Live)

7. Tell Me How You Feel (Live)

8. Let Them Talk (Live)

9. Come In My House (Live)

x

Track List: Junco Partner

1. Black Minute Waltz

2. Good Night Irene

3. Pixie

4. On The Sunny Side Of The Street

5. Make A Better World

6. Junko Partner

7. Put Out The Light

8. Medley / Blues Minuet / Until The Real Thing Comes Along / Baby Won't You Please Come Home

9. Pop's Dilemma

10. I'll Be Seeing You

x

Track List: King Of The New Orleans Keyboard

1. How Do You Feel

2. Classified

3. One Hell Of A Nerve

4. Blues Rhapsody

5. Rockin Pneumonia

6. Please Send Me Someone To Love

7. All By Myself

8. Ain't Nobody's Business

9. Something You Got

10. Harlem In Hamburg

11. Put Out The Light

12. Ray Charles Medley

13. Tipitina - Loberta

14. Junco Partner

15. Drown In The River

16. Black Night

17. Goodnight Sweetheart

18. Lonely Avenue

19. Stormy Monday

x

Track List: Classified

1. All Around The World

2. One For The Highway

3. King Of The Road

4. Professor Longhair Medley

5. Baby Face

6. Swedish Rhapsody

7. Classified

8. Lawdy Miss Clawdy

9. Angel Eyes

10. Hound Dog

11. If You're Lonely

12. Three Keys

x

Track List: Spider On The Keys

1. Papa Was A Rascal

2. Sunny Side Of The Street

3. So Swell When You're Well

4. A Taste Of Honey

5. He's Got The Whole World In His Hands

6. Gonzo's Blue Dream

7. Eleanor Rigby

8. Malaguena

9. Piano Salad

10. Little Coquette

11. Besame Mucho

12. Tico Tico

13. Over The Rainbow

Comments

Report as inappropriate
ANOTHER underappreci a t e d PHENOMENON in TODAY'S world....... . .
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A NOLA gem1
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Wonderful player and soulful singer. Confessin' that I love this guy!
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slkilleb
Booker did have a drug problem, but he did NOT overdose. He technically died from kidney failure.
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rducase
Brooker was one of many teachers for Harry Connick.
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rducase
KevinCruthir d s : The joint was Lou and Charlie's, no drywall on the walls, a long bar as soon as you walk in the joint.
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kevincruthir d s
Havng grown up in New Orleans, I'd never heard of James Booker. My best friend took me out the night before my wedding (2 man bachelor party) in 1975 to a hole in the wall place on Rampart Street a few blocks above Esplanade. James Booker played for about 2 hours and I sat in amazement the whole time.
Report as inappropriate
The Greatest... The Crowned Prince of Piano will live on forever and is only now beginning to be understood. I don't know if anyone else has maintained the integrity of being a folk singer in the Leadbelly tradition while simultaneous l y being one of the leading masters of his/her instrument. Take notes EVERYBODY...
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der bingle mesozoic turned me onto to mr. booker. soon to TRIBALAND
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If you love outstanding keyboard work, you can't help but love James' playing--mak e s me so darned jealous. I would have LOVED to see him in concert..
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Wow! A review that knows what he's talking about!!!
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SUCH a cutie-pie!!! !
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Check out Harry Connick's version of Winter Wonderland for an obvious homage to James Booker with whom, I believe, Harry studied.
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kathleenzb
Booker was the best piano player out of NOLA in the 20th century. Sadly, he died at 43--a victim of lonliness, drugs and booze. Fortunately, through recordings (although meager) his music lives on. RIP, sweet James.
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louie.liokis
The patron saint of the Maple Leaf Bar. Long live Booker!
Report as inappropriate
Booker may be ~the~ best New Orleans piano player, and that's sayin' something! He's ~not~ to be confused with Booker T Jones of Booker T and the MG's, the great Memphis rock n soul etc band.
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boogiespeed
What fingers.

What a performance on St James Infirmary... . wow,.. awesome
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Was he ever known as Booker T?
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thatrealtorg u y i n s h o r t s
Following a list of great blues pianists. A lot of these artist were given drugs by greedy promoters to get them hooked, and often playing for free, to get a fix and a bag of fries.
Report as inappropriate
St. James Infirmary is no joke. Gone somewhere in the by and by. Hauntingly Beautiful.
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brucejoh: your mom?

haha sorry, had to
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never heard him before Pandora...en j o y e d it very much. thanks, Pandora
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I used to see him at the Maple Leaf Bar and Laundrymat in New Orleans while I lived there. He was a brilliant piano player but a man troubled by inner demons that resulted in his abuse of alcohol and drugs. Sad to see a musician with so much talent kill himself, which he finally did with an OD.
Report as inappropriate
uniplmr
unbelelievav a b l y good....what a hand...both of them,,, untouchable
Report as inappropriate
think he was talented? think he could play the piano?

ok, who could play better? please answer!

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