Lloyd Price grew up in a suburb of New Orleans and took lessons on playing piano and trumpet. He and his brother formed their own band while they were still teenagers.
Dave Bartholomew had formed a band using local New Orleans talent in 1947 and was responsible for much of the music scene in the city. Lloyd’s singing style impressed him, so he convinced Art Rupe of Specialty Records to visit New Orleans to audition the singer. Rupe ordered a recording session for a song Lloyd had written, Lawdy Miss Clawdy, The single credited Lloyd Price and His Orchestra. Since Lloyd didn’t have a band at the time, Dave put together a group of musicians for the recording session (including Fats Domino on piano). The single topped the R&B chart in 1952. Four more top ten R&B singles followed before the Korean War interrupted Lloyd’s career.
The army drafted Lloyd and sent him to Korea in 1954. None of his older recordings sold well or reached the charts while he was deployed. When he returned to civilian life, it was necessary for him to find partners and form his own record company. He released the single Just Because in 1956 and it was quickly picked up by ABC Records. The record only reached #29 on the Hot 100 in 1957. It did much better on the R&B chart, where it peaked at #3.
Lloyd had six singles fail to reach the charts before he recorded his own version of a fifty-year-old song. A St Louis pimp named Lee Shelton had the nickname Stag or Stack, so people called him Stag Lee or Stack Lee. in 1895, Lee was drinking at the Bill Curtis Saloon with William “Billy” Lyons. Billy took Lee’s new Stetson hat, possibly after some gambling, after which Lee shot and killed Billy. The story was immortalized in the song Stack-a-Lee in 1897. Two versions of the song’s lyrics were published in 1911 and recorded versions began appearing in 1923.
Lloyd’s recording of Stagger Lee topped both the Hot 100 and the R&B chart in 1958. Dick Clark objected to the violence and gambling in the record. Lloyd recorded a second version of the song so he could lip-sync the song on American Bandstand. The altered version featured two friends in an argument over a girlfriend and nobody getting killed.
In 1959 he had another major hit when he co-wrote and sang Personality. The single reached #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B chart.
Sandwiched in between those two million-selling records was Where Were You On Our Wedding Day. Lloyd co-wrote the single. It made it as high as #23 on the Hot 100 while climbing to #4 on the R&B chart in 1959.
Lloyd had a string of hits through 1960, after which his charting records became scarce. His last visit to the R&B chart top forty came in 1973.
The RRHOF Foundation inducted Lloyd into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1998.
In 2005, Lloyd toured with Jerry Butler, Gene Chandler, and Ben E. King as the “Four Kings of Rhythm and Blues.”3