Booker T. Laury

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Booker T. LauryBooker T. Laury (September 2, 1914 September 23, 1995) was an American boogie-woogie, blues, gospel and jazz pianist and singer. Over his lengthy career, Laury worked with various musicians including Memphis Slim and Mose Vinson. He appeared in two films, but did not record his debut album until he was almost eighty years of age.

Lawrence Laury was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and grew up with his lifelong friend, Memphis Slim. At the age of six, after helping his mother play the family's pump organ, Laury learned to play the keyboards. His barrelhouse playing style, which he developed alongside Slim, was based on the influence gained from regular Memphis performers Roosevelt Sykes, Sunnyland Slim, and Speckled Red. In the early 1930s, and in the company of the younger Mose Vinson, Slim and Laury began playing in local clubs.

In 1935, Sykes suggested to Laury and Slim that they relocated to Chicago, with a view of obtaining a recording contract. Slim took up the advice, but Laury decided to remain in Memphis, where he played in gambling houses and clubs for decades. Laury had a large hand-width, which enabled him to span ten keys. His playing dexterity was such that, after losing one finger on his left hand following an accident with a circular saw in the 1950s, he was still
able to play well. Based around Memphis' Beale Street, as that area started to degenerate, Laury traveled around Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri. Despite differing fortunes, the friendship with Slim did not diminish over the
years, up to Slim's death in 1988.

In the 1989 Dennis Quaid film, Great Balls of Fire!, the plot had a young Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart, look into a juke joint to see Laury playing "Big Legged Woman". This attention led to Laury having the opportunity to
record later in his life. Laury appeared in the 1991 documentary film, Deep Blues: A Musical Pilgrimage to the Crossroads. In the film,

Laury played "Memphis Blues" in his own living room. Laury finally recorded his debut album in his late seventies. In 1993, Bullseye Blues Records issued Nothin' But the Blues, which simply incorporated Laury's voice and piano playing his own compositions. The following year, Wolf Records released a live album, containing concert recordings made in 1987.

Booker T. Laury died of cancer, in September 1995 in Memphis, at the age of 81. He has a brass note on Beale's Walk of Fame.

 
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