‘Stagger Lee,’ ‘Personality’ singer Lloyd Price dead at 88

Lloyd Price, a rhythm and blues singer whose 1950s hits, “Stagger Lee,” “Personality” and “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” helped form the rock ‘n’ roll era, has died. He was 88.

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Price died Monday at an extended-care center in New Rochelle, New York, The New York Times reported. The singer died from complications caused by diabetes, Jeffrey Madoff, the writer and producer of “Personality: The Lloyd Price Musical,” told the newspaper.

Maxwell Entertainment owner Rickey Poppell also posted the news of Price’s death on Facebook, saying, “My friend and Lloyd Price’s manager, Tom Trapani, just called to let me know that our friend, Lloyd, passed away last night. Those of us close to Lloyd have been keeping his declining health issues to ourselves for the past five years, while Tom kept me up to date along the way. Lloyd was one of the sweetest, caring and kindest man I’ve ever known, I’ll miss him. My prayers go out to his lovely wife, Jackie.”

Born in Kenner, Louisiana on March 9, 1933, Price was one of 11 children.

He rose to national prominence in 1952 with his first single, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” Variety reported. Price wrote the song, which appeared on the Specialty Records label. The arrangement featured Fats Domino on piano and Earl Palmer on drums, and the song shot to No. 1 on the national R&B chart, according to Variety.

More sad news, my friend and Lloyd Prices' manager, Tom Trapani, just called to let me know that our friend, Lloyd,...

Posted by Rickey Poppell on Friday, May 7, 2021

“Stagger Lee” reached No. 2 on the Billboard singles chart in 1959 and spent 21 weeks on the Hot 100 charts. The 1959 song “Personality” led to Price’s nickname -- “Mr. Personality.”

Price’s songs have been covered by many stars, and versions of “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” were sung by Elvis Presley and Paul McCartney, the Times reported.

Price was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

“I revolutionized the South,” Price said in an interview before his induction. “Before ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy,’ white kids were not really interested in this music. People like Charles Brown and Fats Domino really only sold to the black community. But 10 months after I was in business, they were putting up ropes to divide the white and black spectators. But by 10 o’clock at night, they’d all be together on that dance floor.”

“His talent, positive energy, tireless drive, and love of music still reverberate to this day,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame said on its website.

Kenneth Gamble, one-half of the songwriting/production team Gamble & Huff, told Billboard that Price was “a great dude who helped me, Leon (Huff) and Thom Bell a lot in the early days” when the three played as a band at Loretta’s Hi-Hat club in New Jersey.

Price, a savvy businessman, knew when to compromise.

When “American Bandstand” host and producer Dick Clark decided that the lyrics of “Stagger Lee” -- which involved gambling and a fatal shooting in a bar -- were too violent for the popular show, Price recorded a new version of the song for the show, the Times reported.

Price reached the Top 40 for the last time with a version of the “Misty” in 1963. He later became partners with boxing promoter Don King, the Times reported. Price helped King promote Muhammad Ali’s “Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire, in 1974 and the “Thrilla in Manila” against Joe Frazier in the Philippines in 1975.

Price appeared in “When We Were Kings,” Leon Gast’s Oscar-winning 1996 documentary about the Ali-Foreman fight, Variety reported.

Price was the son of Beatrice and Louis Price, who owned the Fish ‘n’ Fry Restaurant, in Kenner, the Times reported. As a child, Lloyd sang in the gospel choir at his family’s church and played the trumpet and piano.