smiley lewis

Smiley Lewis: Overton Amos Lemons (July 5, 1913 – October 7, 1966),[ known as Smiley Lewis, was an American New Orleans rhythm and blues singer and guitarist. The music journalist Tony Russell wrote that "Lewis was the unluckiest man in New Orleans. He hit on a formula for slow-rocking, small-band numbers like 'The Bells Are Ringing' and 'I Hear You Knocking' only to have Fats Domino come up behind him with similar music with a more ingratiating delivery. Lewis was practically drowned in Domino's backwash.

Lemons was born in DeQuincy, Louisiana near Lake Charles, to Jeffrey and Lillie Mae Lemons the second of three sons.  His mother died while he was a child, and later he named a song and several automobiles after her. In his mid-teens, he hopped a slow-moving freight train with some friends, who jumped off when the train began to speed up. Lewis alone remained on the train, getting off when it reached its stop in New Orleans. He found boarding with a family in the Irish Channel neighborhood and eventually adopted their surname, Lewis.
He began playing clubs in the French Quarter and "tan bars" in the Seventh Ward, at times billed as Smiling Lewis, a variation of the nickname earned by his lack of front teeth. He was often accompanied by the pianist Isidore "Tuts" Washington, with whom he played in Thomas Jefferson's Dixieland band in the mid-1930s. When the band dissolved, Lewis began playing in clubs, earning only tips.

Lewis married Leona Robinson in 1938. The couple lived with her mother until they began having children, when they moved to South Tonti Street. Lewis worked at manual labor during the day and performed at night. During World War II, he joined Washington again, this time with Kid Ernest Molière's band, entertaining soldiers stationed at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and serving as the house band at the Boogie Woogie Club. The two formed a trio with the drummer Herman Seals after the war ended and again began playing in clubs in the French Quarter and along Bourbon Street.

The trio was invited by David Braun to record a session for his DeLuxe Records in 1947, which produced Lewis's debut record, "Here Comes Smiley" (Papa John Joseph replaced Seals and played bass at this session). The single "Turn On Your Volume" was a local jukebox hit, but DeLuxe requested no more material and left two other recorded sides unreleased.  Acting on an invitation from Dave Bartholomew, who grew up in the same neighborhood as Lewis and was then beginning a career as a producer with Imperial Records, led to a recording session for the trio in March 1950, at which they recorded the song "Tee Nah Nah". Lewis had his first national hit song with "The Bells Are Ringing" in 1952. He was the first to record Bartholomew's song "Blue Monday", in 1954; Fats Domino's recording of the song was a hit two years later. In 1955 he achieved his biggest sales with "I Hear You Knocking", the first recording of the song (written by Bartholomew and Pearl King), with Huey Smith playing the piano.
In an attempt prompted by Imperial Records president Lew Chudd to attract new record buyers in 1957, Lewis recorded pop and country songs. The experiment failed and did nothing to boost Lewis's declining record sales.  Lewis was released from the label. In the early 1960s he performed as an opening act for new performers, including Lee Dorsey, Irma Thomas, and Ernie K-Doe, for which he was paid little. He arrived at gigs by taking a city bus. His career rounded out with a brief stint at Okeh Records in 1961 that consisted of one 45-rpm single, produced by Bill "Hoss" Allen in 1964 for Dot Records, and ended with a re-recording of "The Bells Are Ringing" for Loma Records, produced by Allen Toussaint.

Lewis was hospitalized in 1965 with a diagnosis of ulcer; surgery revealed that he had stomach cancer. Bartholomew organized a benefit for him at La Ray's on Dryades Street. On October 7, 1966, three days before the benefit, Lewis died, in the arms of his second wife, Dorothy Ester Lemons, whom he had married six months before.
None of Lewis's Imperial singles sold more than 100,000 copies, but cover versions of his songs were commercially successful for other artists. Gale Storm's pop version of "I Hear You Knocking" reached the top five on the charts.
Elvis Presley's cover of the Lewis song "One Night" (altering one risque lyric) was number 4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 1 on UK Singles Chart. Lewis's recording of "I Hear You Knocking" was released when U.S. radio was still mostly marketed to exclusively white or exclusively black listeners.  A version of the song recorded by Dave Edmunds in 1970 was his first solo hit, reaching number one in the UK and number four in the United States.  In this version, Lewis is mentioned in the lyrics, along with Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and Huey Smith.

Lewis's recording of "Shame, Shame, Shame" was used in the soundtrack of the film Baby Doll in 1956, accompanying a dramatic chase through a collapsing attic. The song failed to enter the R&B chart. It was covered by the Merseybeats for their EP On Stage in 1964. Aerosmith included it on their blues album, Honkin' on Bobo, in 2004.
A short clip from "I Hear You Knocking" is included on Buchanan and Goodman's novelty hit, "The Flying Saucer", in which, in an ironic nod to his original stage name, Lewis is referred to as "Laughing Lewis." Like everyone else whose music was appropriated for the record, Lewis was not paid.

Isidore "Tuts" Washington

Isidore "Tuts" Washington (January 24, 1907 – August 5, 1984) was an American blues pianist from New Orleans, Louisiana.  A longtime staple of the New Orleans blues and boogie-woogie community, pianist Isidore "Tuts" Washington was a primary influence on later Crescent City players spanning from Professor Longhair and Allen Toussaint to Fats Domino.

Recognized as something of a prodigy, Washington -- also known as "Papa Yellow" -- was already the superior of most local barrelhouse pianists by his teen years. He regularly sat in with prominent Dixieland and society bands; his style brought together an eclectic mix of ragtime, jazz, and blues textures. Despite a general reliance on instrumentals, he was also known to pull the occasionally bawdy vocal number out of his bag of tricks.

He taught himself to play the piano at age 10 and studied with the New Orleans jazz pianist Joseph Louis "Red" Cayou. In the 1920s and 1930s, he was a leading player for dance bands and Dixieland bands in New Orleans. His style blended elements of ragtime, jazz, blues, and boogie-woogie.

Washington achieved his greatest success in the company of singer/guitarist Smiley Lewis, with whom he joined forces during the late '40s; prior to the 1952 breakup, they cut some of the landmark New Orleans R&B sides of the period for Imperial, among them "Tee-Nah-Nah," "The Bells Are Ringing," and "Dirty People." However, for the most part, Washington considered recording of little consequence, content instead in his standing as the consensus choice as the French Quarter's champion pianist; as a result, he regularly rejected offers to cut solo sides, and in 1950 set out to conquer new territories, relocating to St. Louis to join the Tab Smith Orchestra. He was back in New Orleans by the end of the decade, signing on with the Clyde Kerr Orchestra and adding a new pop-oriented dimension to his playing for the sake of tourists. Finally, in 1983 -- at the age of 76 -- Washington consented to his first solo recordings, cutting New Orleans Piano Professor for Rounder.

A live recording by Washington, Live at Tipitina's '78, was released by Night Train International Records in 1998.
Washington died on August 5, 1984, after having a heart attack while performing at the World's Fair in New Orleans.

Professor Longhair
Birth name Henry Roeland Byrd Also known as Fess

Henry Roeland "Roy" Byrd (December 19, 1918 – January 30, 1980), better known as Professor Longhair or "Fess" for short, was a New Orleans blues singer and pianist. He was active in two distinct periods, first in the heyday of early rhythm and blues and later in the resurgence of interest in traditional jazz after the founding of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1970. His piano style has been described as "instantly recognizable, combining rumba, mambo, and calypso."
The music journalist Tony Russell (in his book The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray) wrote that "The vivacious rhumba-rhythmed piano blues and choked singing typical of Fess were too weird to sell millions of records; he had to be content with siring musical offspring who were simple enough to manage that, like Fats Domino or Huey "Piano" Smith. But he is also acknowledged as a father figure by subtler players like Allen Toussaint and Dr. John."

Byrd was born on December 19, 1918, in Bogalusa, Louisiana. His distinctive style of piano playing was influenced by learning to play on an instrument that was missing some keys. He left the city as a baby with his parents, who were most likely fleeing the racial tension surrounding the Bloody Bogalusa Massacre
He began his career in New Orleans in 1948. Mike Tessitore, owner of the Caldonia Club, gave Longhair his stage name.  Longhair first recorded in a band called the Shuffling Hungarians in 1949, creating four songs (including the first version of his signature song, "Mardi Gras in New Orleans") for the Star Talent record label. Union problems curtailed their release, but Longhair's next effort for Mercury Records the same year was a winner. Throughout the 1950s, he recorded for Atlantic Records, Federal Records and local labels. Professor Longhair had only one national commercial hit, "Bald Head", in 1950, under the name Roy Byrd and His Blues Jumpers. He also recorded his favorites, "Tipitina" and "Go to the Mardi Gras". He lacked crossover appeal among white and wide audiences. Yet, he is regarded (and was acknowledged) as being a musician who was highly influential for other prominent musicians, such as Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint and Dr. John.

After suffering a stroke, Professor Longhair recorded "No Buts – No Maybes" in 1957. He re-recorded "Go to the Mardi Gras" in 1959. He first recorded "Big Chief" with its composer, Earl King, in 1964.
In the 1960s, Professor Longhair's career faltered.  He became a janitor to support himself and fell into a gambling habit.

After a few years during which he disappeared from the music scene, Professor Longhair's musical career finally received "a well deserved renaissance" and wide recognition. He was invited to perform at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 1971 and at the Newport Jazz Festival and the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1973. His album The London Concert showcases work he did on a visit to the United Kingdom. That significant career resurrection is best marked by the seminal album "Professor Longhair - Live On The Queen Mary", which was recorded on March 24, 1975, during an invited-only party hosted by Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney on board the retired RMS Queen Mary.
By the 1980s his albums, such as Crawfish Fiesta on Alligator Records and New Orleans Piano on Atlantic Records, had become readily available across America. In 1974 he appeared on the PBS series Soundstage (with Dr. John, Earl King, and The Meters).

In 1980 he co-starred with Tuts Washington and Allen Toussaint  in the film documentary Piano Players Rarely Ever Play Together which was produced and directed by filmmaker Stevenson Palfi. That documentary (which aired on public television in 1982 and was rarely seen since), plus a long interview with Fess (which was recorded two days before his sudden death), were included in the 2018 released project "Fess Up".
Professor Longhair died in his sleep of a heart attack while the filming of the documentary was under way (and before the live concert, which was planned to be its climax). Footage from his funeral was included in the documentary.
Professor Longhair's manager through those renaissance years of his career was Allison Miner, of which jazz producer George Wein was quoted saying: "Her devotion to Professor Longhair gave him the best years of his life.”
Professor Longhair was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1981.

In 1987 Professor Longhair was awarded a posthumous Grammy Award for his early recordings released as House Party New Orleans Style.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.

The B-side of the 1985 Paul McCartney single "Spies Like Us", entitled "My Carnival", credited to McCartney and Wings, was recorded in New Orleans and dedicated to Professor Longhair.

His song "Tipitina" was covered by Hugh Laurie on the 2011 CD album Let Them Talk. Laurie is a long-time fan, having used Longhair's "Go to the Mardi Gras" as the theme for the pilot episode of A Bit of Fry & Laurie. Laurie used to perform these two songs regularly during his world concert tours of 2011-2014 with The Copper Bottom Band, and in March 2013 paid tribute to Professor Longhair in a special concert on board of the RMS Queen Mary.