A piano-pounding institution on the Southern Louisiana swamp blues scene during the late '50s and early '60s, Katie Webster later grabbed a long-deserved share of national recognition with a series of well-received Alligator albums.
Poor Kathryn Thorne had to deal with deeply religious parents who did everything in their power to stop their daughter from playing R&B. But the rocking sounds of Fats Domino and Little Richard were simply too persuasive. Local guitarist Ashton Savoy took her under his wing, sharing her 1958 debut 45 for the Kry logo ("Baby Baby").
Webster rapidly became an invaluable studio sessioneer for Louisiana producers J.D. Miller in Crowley and Eddie Shuler in Lake Charles. She played on sides by Guitar Junior (Lonnie Brooks), Clarence Garlow, Jimmy Wilson, Lazy Lester, and Phil Phillips (her gently rolling 88s powered his hit "Sea of Love").
The young pianist also waxed some terrific sides of her own for Miller from 1959 to 1961 for his Rocko, Action, and Spot labels (where she introduced a dance called "The Katie Lee"). Webster led her own band, the Uptighters, at the same time she was spending her days in the studio. In 1964, she guested with Otis Redding's band at the Bamboo Club in Lake Charles and so impressed the charismatic Redding that he absconded with her. For the next three years, Webster served as his opening act.
The 1970s were pretty much a lost decade for Katie Webster as she took care of her ailing parents in Oakland, California. But in 1982 a European tour beckoned, and she journeyed overseas for the first of many such jaunts. The Alligator connection commenced in 1988 with some high-profile help: Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, and Kim Wilson all made guest appearances on The Swamp Boogie Queen. The lovably extroverted boogie pianist encored with Two-Fisted Mama! and No Foolin' before suffering a stroke. She died on September 5, 1999 at the age of 63. ~ Bill Dahl