Earl King Biography

Earl Silas Johnson IV, 7 February 1934, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, d. 17 April 2003, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. The son of a blues pianist, King became an accomplished guitarist and singer with local bands before making his first recordings in 1953 for Savoy Records (‘Have You Gone Crazy’, credited to Earl Johnson) and Specialty Records (‘A Mother’s Love’). Strongly influenced by Guitar Slim, during the mid-50s he worked with Huey Smith’s band and recorded his biggest hit, ‘Those Lonely Lonely Nights’, with Smith on piano; this was on Johnny Vincent’s Ace Records label, for whom King was house guitarist. In 1958, he made a version of ‘Everyone Has To Cry Sometime’ as Handsome Earl. He went on to record for Rex and Imperial Records where he made ‘Come On’ aka ‘Let The Good Times Roll’ and the R&B hits ‘Always A First Time’ and ‘Trick Bag’ (1962) which featured King’s influential guitar figures. He was also starting to enjoy success as a songwriter, composing the Lee Dorsey hit ‘Do-Re-Mi’, ‘He’s Mine’ for Bernadine Washington, ‘Big Chief’ recorded by Professor Longhair and ‘Teasin’ You’, Willie Tee’s 1965 R&B hit. Jimmy Clanton, Dr. John and Fats Domino were others who recorded King compositions.

During the 60s and early 70s, King himself made recordings for Amy, Wand Records, Atlantic Records and Motown Records, although the Allen Toussaint -produced Atlantic session was not released until 1981 and the Motown tracks remain unissued. King remained active in later decades, recording for the Black Top label, including a session with Roomful Of Blues. King died in April 2003 of complications from diabetes.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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