Listen to this, and then go watch Bayou Maharajah on Netflix. James Booker was from New Orleans, and he played piano real good. Better than Beethoven or that little blond kid Lucy had the crush on. Backed up Little Richard and Lloyd Price and Dr. John. He was gay and black, and insane, and a junkie, and the District Attorney of New Orleans, a guy named Harry Connick, got him out a charge one time in exchange for piano lessons for his son. His eye was put out by Ringo Starr, according to a story he used to tell.
They loved him in Europe.
His last regular gig was at a bar with washing machines in the back. The band would wait for him to show up, and then they’d wait for him to take the stage, and then they’d wait to see if he would ever stop talking and play. Made a couple hundred bucks a night and usually wouldn’t leave the bar with it. Sometimes you wander into a place on a Tuesday night and there’s a genius on the stand. Most of the time you don’t, though.
James Booker died young: his kidneys gave out in the waiting room of Baptist Hospital in New Orleans, which was where he was born and played piano.