Huey ‘Piano’ Smith, New Orleans R&B Legend and Rock ‘n’ Roll Pioneer, Dead at 89
Huey "Piano" Smith, a New Orleans R&B legend and rock 'n' roll pioneer, has passed away at the age of 89.
Acquelyn Donsereaux, Smith's daughter, confirmed that her father died in his sleep on Tuesday at his home in Baton Rouge.
“He just slept away,” Donsereaux told the Baton Rouge Advocate. “Daddy was the most positive person I know. Easygoing and funny. He was a comedian until the last couple of hours.”
Among Smith's many songs, "Rocking Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu," "Don't You Just Know It" and "Sea Cruise" were his most notable.
While "Rocking Pneumonia..." was only a minor hit for him in 1957, its influence could be felt for decades as Johnny Rivers turned it into a hit in 1972 and other versions followed by the Grateful Dead, Aerosmith, and the Flamin' Groovies.
"Sea Cruise" also saw major success, but not with Smith singing it. He recorded it in 1958 while at Ace Records, but his vocals (not his boogie piano) were ultimately stripped from the track and replaced by Frankie Ford. The song became a platinum-selling hit the next year and would later be covered multiple times over by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty, the Beach Boys, the Eagles, Jimmy Buffett, and more.
The renowned pianist also recorded alongside the likes of Little Richard, Lloyd Price, Earl King, and a multitude of Big Easy musicians.
Smith basically left the music scene in the early '80s when he moved from New Orleans to Baton Rouge but would sporadically perform at concerts that honored his legacy in R&B and rock.
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