Lloyd Price (March 9, 1933 – May 3, 2021) was an American R&B vocalist, known as “Mr. Personality,” after his 1959 million-selling hit, “Personality.” His first recording, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” was a hit for Specialty Records in 1952.
Art Rupe, the owner of Specialty Records, based in Los Angeles, came to New Orleans in 1952 to record the distinctive style of rhythm and blues developing there, which had been highly successful for his competitor Imperial Records. Rupe heard Price’s song “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” and wanted to record it. Because Price did not have a band, Rupe hired Dave Bartholomew to create the arrangements and Bartholomew’s band (plus Fats Domino on piano) to back Price in the recording session. The song was a massive hit. His next release, “Oooh, Oooh, Oooh,” cut at the same session, was a much smaller hit. Price continued making recordings for Specialty, but none of them reached the charts at that time.
In 1954, he was drafted into the US Army and sent to Korea. When he returned he found he had been replaced by Little Richard. In addition, his former chauffeur, Larry Williams, was also recording for the label, having released “Short Fat Fannie.”
He eventually formed KRC Records with Harold Logan and Bill Boskent. Their first single, “Just Because,” was picked up for distribution by ABC Records. From 1957 to 1959 Price recorded a series of national hits for ABC that successfully adapted the New Orleans sound, including “Stagger Lee” (which topped the Pop and R&B charts and sold over a million copies), “Personality” (which reached number 2), and “I’m Gonna Get Married” (number 3). When Price appeared on the television program American Bandstand to sing “Stagger Lee,” the producer and host of the program, Dick Clark, insisted that he alter the lyrics to tone down its violent content. “Stagger Lee” was Price’s version of an old blues standard, recorded many times previously by other artists. Greil Marcus, in a critical analysis of the song’s history, wrote that Price’s version was an enthusiastic rock rendition, “all momentum, driven by a wailing sax.” In all of these early recordings by Price (“Personality,” “Stagger Lee,” “I’m Gonna Get Married,” and others) Merritt Mel Dalton was the lead sax player; he was also in the traveling band and appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show with Price. The personnel on the original hit recording of “Stagger Lee” included Clarence Johnson on piano, John Patton on bass, Charles McClendon and Eddie Saunders on tenor sax, Ted Curson on trumpet and Sticks Simpkins on drums.
In 1962, Price formed Double L Records with Logan. Wilson Pickett got his start on this label. In 1969, Logan was murdered. Price then founded a new label, Turntable, and opened a club by the same name at 1674 Broadway in New York City.
During the 1970s, Price helped the boxing promoter Don King promote fights, including the “Rumble in the Jungle” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire and its accompanying concert which featured James Brown and B. B. King. He and Don King formed a record label, LPG, which issued Price’s last hit, “What Did You Do With My Love,” to limited success.
Price toured Europe in 1993 with Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Gary U.S. Bonds. He performed with soul legends Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, and Ben E. King on the “Four Kings of Rhythm and Blues” tour in 2005; concerts were recorded for a DVD and a PBS television special.
On June 20, 2010, he appeared and sang in the season 1 finale of the HBO series Treme. As of 2018 he continued to sing.
On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Lloyd Price among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.
Price and his wife resided in Westchester County, New York. He died on May 3, 2021, aged 88.