Huey “Piano” Smith and the Rocking Pneumonia Blues – John Wirt (Book)


In stock

SKU: 9780807152959 Categories: , Tags: ,


Release Year: 2014

Publisher: LSU Press


Huey “Piano” Smith’s musical legacy stands alongside that of fellow New Orleans legends like Dr. John, Fats Domino, Ernie K-Doe, and Allen Toussaint. His 1957 classic, “Rocking Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu,” made Billboard’s top R&B singles chart, and hundreds of artists including Aerosmith, the Grateful Dead, the Beach Boys, Johnny Rivers, and Chubby Checker have recorded his songs.
The first biography of the artist responsible for hits “Don’t You Just Know It,” “High Blood Pressure,” and “Sea Cruise,” Huey “Piano” Smith and the Rocking Pneumonia Blues follows the musician’s extraordinary life from his Depression-era childhood to his teen years as a pianist for blues star Guitar Slim to his mainstream success in the 1950s and ’60s. Drawing from extensive interviews and court records, author and journalist John Wirt also provides new insights on Smith’s professional disappointments and financial struggles in the 1980s and ’90s as he battled over royalties from his most successful and profitable work.
An enigmatic and guarded personality in a profession of extroverted performers, Smith made far-reaching contributions to the New Orleans music scene as a songwriter, pianist, and producer. Wirt reveals that Smith’s numerous collaborations with other artists—including the Clowns, the Pitter Pats, the Hueys, and Shindig Smith and the Soul Shakers—served as vehicles for his creative vision rather than simply as an anonymous backup for a leading front man.
Throughout this intimate account, Wirt details Smith’s significant impact on rock and roll history and underscores both the longevity of his music—which has entertained and inspired for over five decades—and the musician’s personal endurance in the face of hardship and opposition.

©Louisiana State University Press


Reviewed In OffBeat

David Kunian (July 2014 Issue)

Simply put, Huey “Piano” Smith is one of the great heroes of New Orleans and American music. As that generation ages and goes on to greener pastures, it’s important and necessary to acknowledge and praise these folks before they and the unique history that they embody are gone.

John Wirt’s extensive biography of Smith certainly gives him his due. Wirt starts from Smith’s beginning and traces his life path in a thorough fashion through his fame playing with the Clowns, the assorted record labels Smith recorded for, his conversion to the Jehovah’s Witness faith, his move to Baton Rouge, and all the way up the present day.

Besides interviews with Smith, Wirt’s book has interviews with both Smith’s well-known and more-obscure peers, including Earl King, Dr. John, Gerri Hall, Bobby Marchan, Deacon John and others, all of whom give colorful quotes and insightful explanations of what Smith was like and what it was like to hear him and make music with him.

Wirt places Smith in his rightful place in the pantheon with great descriptions of both the music and the scene that was full of creativity and wildness for which the golden age of New Orleans rhythm and blues has become both famous and notorious. Wirt’s research is excellent; he is great with the music history and the legal history of Smith’s series of lawsuits to get back and retain the rights to his songs.

Wirt’s focus during the second half of the book on the legal shenanigans and court cases can get a little dry but all of it illustrates textbook cases of how New Orleans musicians got screwed out of their money and song rights. One of the reasons that good rock and roll sounds the way it does is because of Huey “Piano” Smith’s musicianship and personality.

John Wirt’s biography explains why.

Additional information

Weight 20 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × 2 in
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