The last of the black Rock 'n' Roll pioneers?

I just learned Huey "Piano" Smith passed away in his sleep on February 13th.

Rock ’n’ Roll doesn’t seem to be that popular with participants on this sight, but many of the artists who are revere Huey and his contemporaries: the black songwriters, singers, musicians, and bandleaders who created the music that led to the Big Bang that is Rock ’n’ Roll. And by Rock ’n’ Roll I am speaking of the music that came out of Memphis, Muscle Shoals, New Orleans (Huey’s hometown), Kansas City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and a few other hotbeds of musical activity in the late-40’s and early-50’s.

Guys like Dylan, Springsteen, John Fogerty, John Lennon & his bandmates, the glimmer twins (I hate that term, but okay ;-), Dave Edmunds, Robert Plant, Leon Russell, even Elton John (shudder ;-) owe a LOT to the originators. One such guy was Huey Smith, who can be heard in the recordings of Little Richard (McCartney’s favorite singer), Lloyd Price, Fats Domino, Smiley Lewis (for a shot of intense Rock ’n’ Roll, listen to Dave Edmunds’ recording of Lewis’ "I hear You Knocking". Phew!), Dave Bartholomew (I named my son after him), a bunch of others.

Have you ever heard Huey’s "Rockin’ Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu"? (The Flamin’ Groovies do a great version of the song on Supersnazz, their 1969 debut album on Epic Records). How about "Don’t You Just Know It"? SO cool! Surely you’ve heard "Sea Cruise", but most likely the hit version by Frankie Ford. Guess who wrote the song and recorded it first? Ace Records decided a version by a white singer would sell better, so replaced the original vocal by the singer of Huey Piano Smith And The Clowns with that of Ford.

I can’t think of another Rock ’n’ Roll originator who is still living. I treasure the memory of backing Don & Dewey (Specialty Records label mates of Little Richard, Lloyd Price, Sam Cooke, John Lee Hooker, many more)---both now gone---when they played The Continental Club in Los Angeles in the late-90’s (the great Earl Palmer played drums on many of their recordings). I couldn’t believe it: on the bandstand with Rock ’n’ Roll Royalty!

Honor the man; play some of his music tonight.


Not a bad bone in his body, and a fountain of knowledge. Living down South for eight years (2008 thru 2016) @bdp24, soaking in all of them sights and sounds The French Quarter / Beale Street had to offer were a must. And I loved every minute when those opportunities arouse.

@dabel: Did you ever see & hear The Continental Drifters while they were residing in "Nawlins"? I did a buncha times when they were living in Los Angeles. A fantastic band!

Not to my recollection @bdp24, and likely do to the very fact "I was a Drifter." ;-)

Hand Grenade in one hand and many acts to see & hear during any given Friday / Saturday evening. Sorta a bar hopping fella with no road map if you will .... Surely could've used the guidance of someone with your expertise then!

Purely exploration.

@dabel: The Continental Drifters were an "underground" super group, the members being Susan Cowsill (of The Cowsills obviously), Vicki Peterson (of The Bangles), Peter Hopsapple (of The dB’s), Mark Walton (of The Dream Syndicate), Gary Eaton (a mighty fine songwriter and singer, formerly of The Ringling Sisters), a great drummer named Carlo Nuccio (and I mean GREAT. I say that having seen & heard live Ringo Starr, Charlie Watts, Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, Mitch Mitchell, Buddy Miles, Jim Keltner, and many other drummers far more well known than Nuccio. You can hear him on albums of Tori Amos, Dr. John, and Emmylou Harris), and a succession of lead guitarists.

The Drifters had a "residency" at Raji’s in Los Angeles (a club in the basement of a very old hotel on Hollywood Blvd.), playing every Tuesday night for much of 1992. And let me tell ya, they were one of the very best live bands I’ve seen & heard in my many years of attending music shows. Every week they would have a different local band or artist (or two) opening for them, and the place was packed with musicians and songwriters and singers (both well known and aspiring). They made a buncha albums while they were together, but Nuccio tragically died last year at only 61 years of age (good ol’ liver "complications").

I’m slightly embarrassed to even admit but I’ve been residing in San Diego since 1987 @bdp24 (subtracting them there eight years) and I have yet to experience any sort of LA night life, go figure. Now my Son and his gal on the other hand occasionally frequent LA "underground" and they’ll typically ask me days or even weeks in advance, wanna go? And I’ll respond with, ahh one day ... "to busy with work / fatigue." :-)

My Son played his very first live show here at The Casbah about four or five weeks ago, standard sets and they were second in line for stage appearance. Wow what a blast, that was so much fun! You musicians are much alike ... he seems to follow in your footsteps, sits behind the drum kit and is all about the "who’s who." ;-)

Thanks for tossing out The Continental Drifters recommendation, the lineup, and a little history for all to see. Yeah I’d have to say, they’re really darn good and impressive!

Oh. "Nawlins" Hand Grenade Cocktail that is ....


@dabel: L.A. nightlife? You had great local talent right there in San Diego! The Beat Farmers (roadhouse Rock ’n’ Roll), The Paladins (a 3-pc. Blues band, and a good one), The Crawdaddy’s (early-Stones influenced), and a 3-pc. Rockabilly band whose name escapes me at the moment.

The 3-pc instrumental band I was playing in during the 1990’s (one of the band’s numerous bassists---five over the years---was in an early incarnation of Los Lobos. Real good player. Another has been playing with Los Straitjackets for about twenty years now.) played a show with the Rockabilly band at The Casbah. They had a female bassist, Asian if my memory hasn’t gone fuzzy.

Why so many 3-pc. bands? More dough per member ;-) .

Too funny and so true ....

Why so many 3-pc. bands? More dough per member ;-) .

Yeah you’re absolutely right, but lately for me anyway its been work and home, on repeat! He has a gig coming up very soon April 8th (lands on a Saturday, 9pm center stage but in the rear :) Location is still unknown until tomorrow when it’ll be discussed. During their weekly Wednesday practice / rehearsal.

4-pc band, Psychedelic Rock btw

It's interesting how the younger generation is coming to embrace psychedelic music. Are the psych bands dropping acid? ;-) Hope they have learned from history, and take it easy with that VERY dangerous drug. We don't wanna see anymore Syd Barrett's, Skip Spence's, Peter Green's, and Brian Wilson's.

Syd Barrett’s, Skip Spence’s, Peter Green’s, and Brian Wilson’s.

Very sad state of affairs indeed @bdp24 :-(

Are the psych bands dropping acid?

Not this band ... Management contract specifically states, "ice cold Ales and Lagers." As for others I can only speculate and if so, I pray in the form of caps & stems with a (big emphasis in / on moderation).

For one, this “psychedelic” label can be very nebulous (what qualifies as ‘psychedelic music’ often leaves me perplexed - I suppose ‘space-y,’ heavily-phased, strobe-y/tremolo-heavy music is ‘psychedelic’) and also by no means mandates that the creators are avid hallucinogen consumers.  

Further, demonizing hallucinogenics is unfair.  

Anything is bad if abused or administered unwisely. 

The positive impacts of hallucinogens are scientifically proven. Due to a silly, ignorant and power-hungry government, we have halted what should have been a greater effort in studying this further. These studies are now (finally) occurring again in earnest.

“…this VERY dangerous drug…” we could also say about alcohol and cigarettes.  
A much bigger problem these days is meth and heroin. 

Uh, yeah @tylermunns, that’s why I said ".....and take it easy with that very dangerous drug." George Harrison said he and the others tripped only a handful of times, and were fine. Syd Barrett, Skip Spence, Peter Green, and Brian Wilson didn’t, and look what happened to them.

I saw first hand what LSD can do. A girl I first met in 7th grade got involved with an older guy when she was 16, and in the summer of ’67 the two of them killed themselves together in a cabin in the Santa Cruz mountains. They had taken a lot of acid, which those who had remained close to her said drove her crazy.

I’ve known a fair number of heroin addicts, including my sister. While heroin addiction (and alcoholism) is not pretty, it doesn’t do what acid can. I've known a few guys who died of liver failure (the great guitarist/singer/songwriter Evan Johns for one), and even more of lung cancer. It killed them, but it didn't drive them insane. Acid can, and has. 

Title of a Spacemen 3 album: Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Take Drugs To. ;-)

I was into Psychedelic music only fairly briefly: from the Summer of ’67 (I saw The Grateful Dead and The Airplane live that Summer) until the Summer of ’69. In the Spring of ’68 my best friend and I dropped together, unknowingly haven gotten a hold of some bad acid (it must have been cut with speed, ’cause I was buzzing like a chainsaw!). That was the end of tripping for me. Weed too, as from that moment on getting high made me very paranoid. Been a (light) drinker ever since. I think of that as getting low. ;-)

When I moved to L.A. in October of ’78, my God coke was everywhere. You’d go to a party and instead of joints being past around (as was common in Northern California), a mirror with lines of coke was. A very fun drug, unless you have enough dough to overdo it. Nobody I knew did, except for a dame I briefly dated, who told me she sold her car to buy as much of the stuff as she could get her hands on. Coincidentally, she was an absolute animal in.....hmm, perhaps I should leave the rest to your imagination. ;-)

All it ever took for anyone is generally one bad trip! A very dear friend of mine (ten years my senior) while growing up in Illinois tripped at the age of seven. Turns out (because how else could this have happened) some wise guy with his so-called brainiac powers decided to lace one or more of them lick-em & stick-em tattoos that would come in Cracker Jack boxes for kids, well guess what Mr Brainiac.

Two weeks pass after my friend / boss explains this "wild and vivid story" of his (man has the memory of an elephant), low and behold a customer walks in our store shortly before closing time with a personal (much later in life) first time experience story of his own, in fact his bad trip happened the night before! I ease dropped on most of their conversation but at the very end stepped in with, "so, who’s the wise guy that said it was okay to eat more than your fair share of caps & stems, and let me guess, trip by yourself first timer?" One could easily see in this mans eyes the fear, for he’d now realized what harm might have come to his beautiful wife and precious young children.

@bdp24 - through the mid-70's through the next 10 years or so, pretty much any party I'd go to in the SF Bay Area would have at least as much blowzeen on hand as cannabis. I liked 'em both, plus some other goodies, so it was fine with me. Starting in the later 80's, Ecstasy was very popular as well.... 

@larsman: I played live at some Raves in the 1990’s, and the kids looked to be having a great time. I’ve never heard any bad stories about Ecstasy. Just peace, love, & understanding. And sex ;-) .

I have no doubt Alcohol has caused more misery in the world than any other drug. More of it gets consumed, of course, but it also can lead to very aggressive behavior (mean drunks, of which I’ve known a few). So can Speed. The worst show I ever played was for an entirely-male biker audience. When the Speed and Alcohol kicked in, it got real ugly. Not Altamont ugly, but ugly enough.

Ugh ... what do we have hear, sounds of Happy Hour Confessions!

@tylermunns, I had lost my Virginity to LSD ... and lets just say a multiple of times.


Hey Eric, I almost bought a pp Continental Drifters lo recently but got something else.....