Lloyd Price, 'Personality' and 'Stagger Lee' Singer, Dead at 88

Classic singer-songwriter Lloyd Price has passed away at 88. Price was one of the many stars of early rock and roll and found success with songs like "Personality" and his classic recording of the staple "Stagger Lee." He died earlier in the week, on May 3, in New Rochelle, New York, due to diabetes complications. According to his wife in a statement to The Associated Press, Jacqueline, Price lived in a long-term care facility.

Price is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, entering in 1998 due to his contributions to music history. Bruce Springsteen E Street Band bandmate Steven Van Zandt paid tribute to the late star in a message on Twitter.

"Very important part of Rock history. He was BEFORE Little Richard!" Van Zandt said Saturday. "Lawdy Miss Clawdy of 1952 has a legit claim as the first Rock hit.... Righteous cat. Enormous talent."

Price was one of the few surviving members of the postwar New Orleans music scene that laid the groundwork for rock and roll and R&B music for the coming decade. He rubbed shoulders with names like Fats Domino and David Bartholomew, building his own name and independent success.

According to the AP, "Mr. Personality" was one of the first artists to run their own record label, with the outlet comparing him to Frank Sinatra for holding onto his own publishing rights and filling the role of his own manager and agent. He was also quite outspoken despite his smiling demeanor and entertaining style. As the AP adds, Price wrote in a Facebook post during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests that he was a "man who is seething" despite his public persona.

"Lawdy Miss Clawdy" became a number one hit in 1952, featuring Fats Domino on piano and later covered by Elvis Presley and Little Richard. Despite the success, Price made it clear that the crossover success of the song was bittersweet due to the effects of the Jim Crow Laws in the south.

He later was drafted into the military during the Korean War, returning to music in 1957 with "Stagger Lee." The story behind the song was around long before Price wrote the tune, a legend appearing in music throughout the '20s and beyond. But Price's version was the right song for the right time, despite its source being a barroom murder after a showdown between two black men.

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Away from music, Price was involved in the promotion of The Thrilla in Manila and Rumble in the Jungle, featuring Muhammad Ali against Joe Frazier and George Forman respectively. The AP adds that Price was involved in building homes, spent time as a booking agent, created a line of foodstuff products and was a top-notch bowler. He also ran the Double L Records label with business partner Harold Logan, even taking charge of a New York nightclub together. But Logan was killed in 1969, leading to Price moving to Nigeria until the '80s. He is remembered for his talent and impact, but also remembered for his longevity. He gave credit to his clean life and abstinence from vices to the success.

"I never drank, smoked, used drugs or had bad habits," he said in a 1998 interview with Larry Katz. "I'd drive a taxi cab to get me the food I need to live. I never was starstruck. I had 23 hit records and I never looked for the next record to hit. I never had that need that they had to be somebody. I just wanted to be."