Academic journal article ARSC Journal

Huey "Piano" Smith and the Rocking Pneumonia Blues

Academic journal article ARSC Journal

Huey "Piano" Smith and the Rocking Pneumonia Blues

Article excerpt

Huey "Piano" Smith and the Rocking Pneumonia Blues. By John Wirt. Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 2014. 294pp (softcover). Notes, Bibliography, Photos, Index. ISBN 978-0-8071-5295-9

Of all the ivories legends to call New Orleans home during the postwar heyday of R&B--Professor Longhair, Archibald, Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, Mac Rebbenack, James Booker, and plenty more--only one dared to decorate his name with the word "Piano." Huey Smith had every right to. As one of the Crescent City's first-call session aces, Smith's rolling, rippling 88s graced some of the biggest hits to emerge from Cosimo Matassa's recording studio. What's more, Smith and his zany vocal group, the Clowns, were hit makers in their own right for Johnny Vincent's Ace Records, scoring in 1957 with "Rocking Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu" and again the next year with the humorous "Don't You Just Know It." Huey mostly preferred to let his fingers do the talking, hiring the effusive Bobby Marchan and other vocalists to front his group while he pounded the keys and sang backgrounds.

John Wirt's fascinating and meticulously researched Smith biography covers the piano man from his beginnings in Uptown New Orleans through his early days of backing Wildman Eddie "Guitar Slim" Jones and then guitarist Earl King while developing an immediately identifiable keyboard attack of his own. Smith's profile zoomed skyward after signing with Ace as a leader; the book is worth its weight in gold for clearing up who sang lead on "Rocking Pneumonia" (turns out it was "Scarface" John Williams, not Marchan), and precisely who the Clowns were at that crucial moment.

The turning point in Huey's career seems to have come when Vincent grabbed the Smith-penned rocker "Sea Cruise," which the pianist had sung with lone distaff Clown Gerri Hall, and replaced their duet vocal on the backing track with a more animated one by young white singer Frankie Ford, Ace looking to launch Ford as a teen idol. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.