Monday, March 14, 2016


Piano Red’s Yo-Yo

“Mama tol' me, papa did, too
'Some-a these here women
Gonna be the death of you'
'Better find out which 'un you crave, son
Some a-these here women'll
Take you to yo grave'!

You got the right string, baby
But the wrong yo-yo”
                    “Wrong Yo-Yo”
                               By Piano Red

By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-The radio show started at 3 p.m. weekdays. Along with thousands of other white kids, when school was over I raced home to turn the radio on to station WAOK to hear two hours of “The Piano Red Show.” Not only was it live, but Red played the piano and sang, interspersing everything with R&B hit recordings, commercials and anecdotes. The commercials were highly entertaining. “Peters Street Grocery,” by Bobby Tuggle and the All-Stars, the upcoming shows with Hank Ballard and the Midnighters at the Royal Peacock on Auburn Avenue, concerts featuring Chuck Berry and Ray Charles at the City Auditorium and Herndon Stadium.

Piano Red, some believe, was the first to use the phrase rock and roll. It doesn’t matter if that is scientifically provable. He did play a barrelhouse piano better than anyone I saw or heard and his songs, sometimes politely ribald, made me very happy. That was in part because Red was happy.

I left Atlanta for college at FSU when I was 17. But Red didn’t leave me. His band, Dr. Feelgood and the Interns, played the frat houses of the Deep South, so I’d see him from time to time, still singing “Wrong Yo-Yo” and playing “Rockin’ with Red” plus dozens of R&B songs of the era.
Dr. Feelgood & the Interns (1961)

Later, I would enjoy Red’s songs and piano styling at Muhlenbrink’s Saloon in Atlanta, last seeing him in a Cajun restaurant in Atlanta’s Buckhead. Bad health finally took Red in 1985. I joined local DJ Stuart Meyers on his radio show for a personal tribute to Red. No tears. Red wouldn’t tolerate that.

For many years, the great Atlanta night club band, The League of Decency, packed ‘em in with songs by James Brown, Little Richard, Duke Ellington, Otis Redding, Louis Prima and others. No show was ever performed that did not include their tribute to “Mr. Piano Red.” Of course it was “Wrong Yo-Yo.” The song was also recorded by one of Rock’s founders, Carl Perkins.

2016 has been officially designated as the Year of Georgia Music. Piano Red, a man who provided lots of joy along with his songs, has a well-deserved place at the top of those we remember and honor.

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