Little Leo

With marquee names like the Nevilles, the Marsalises, and the Batistes, the New Orleans area is famous for its musical families – and siblings. Earl Turbinton had his younger brother, Willie Tee. Tommy Ridgley had brother Sammy. And likewise, the city of Kenner's most famous export, Lloyd Price of "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" fame, has a younger brother too: Little Leo Price, who makes his Ponderosa Stomp debut this year. Exposed to seminal sides by Louis Jordan, Roy Milton, and Amos Milburn through the jukebox in their mother's fish-fry joint (named Beatrice's Fish 'n' Fry), teenagers Lloyd and Leo formed a band to cook up the R&B flavors of the day. Dave Bartholomew discovered Lloyd when he stopped in at Beatrice's to get a bite to eat and heard the youth working on his new song "Lawdy Miss Clawdy." Specialty Records chief Art Rupe took note, and the rest is history – at least regarding Lloyd.

But who is Little Leo Price? "Leo played drums," emperor Ernie K-Doe said during a 1996 visit with WWOZ DJ Billy Delle. And that's not all. Little Leo's greatest brush with stardom was co-writing "Send Me Some Lovin'," which was "later to become a standard recorded by singers of the magnitude of Sam Cooke and Little Richard," as Jerry Wexler writes in the liner notes of the Specialty Records reissue "Creole Kings of New Orleans." Richard of course had earlier cut "Slippin' and Slidin'," a tune partly based on New Orleans pianist Eddie Bo's "I'm Wise." Co-credited to John Marascalco, Little Leo's previously unissued demo version of "Send Me Some Lovin'" is available on that 1992 release. Price also snags a co-writing credit on Little Richard's "Can't Believe You Want to Leave." Little Leo then made some major noise for Meladee Records, releasing "What's It All About?," "Handwriting on the Wall," "Teenie Weenie Bee," and "I Cried." Working for Hull/Mascot Records in the late '50s, Price and his band are credited on Hull releases by Dee Erwin and The Blonde Bomber (Walter Rhodes). Moreover, a Hull record by the Miller Sisters titled "Just Wait and See" features Leo Price on lead vocal.

To honor its most famous son, in 1994 the city of Kenner named a street Lloyd Price Avenue. The city fathers (and mothers) would do well to consider adding a "Little Leo Lane" to honor this truly unsung hero of New Orleans R&B.

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