All About Jazz

Home » Musicians » Booker T. Laury

Booker T. Laury Booker T. Laury

A Memphis native son, Lawrence “Booker T” Laury was born on September 2, 1914. A lifelong friend of Blues giant Peter Chatman, better known as Memphis Slim, the two grew up only blocks from one another. Laury would even at times claim the two were actually cousins. He was first introduced to keyboards at the age of six, stating that he began by assisting his mother playing the family's pump- organ. As Laury and Chatman grew older, the two developed their barrelhouse style with strong influences coming from the music of pianists, Sunnyland Slim, Speckled Red and Roosevelt Sykes, who passed through Memphis regularly. And, along with the younger Mose Vinson, these teenaged pianists began to hold their ground playing the clubs and card rooms of the city in the early 1930s with their hard-pounding boogies.

Having an enormous hand-width, capable of stretching across ten keys with his right alone, Laury was a natural for piano playing. It is an even more amazing feat that he retained this dexterity behind the keyboards after an accident with a machine saw resulted in the loss of one finger on his left hand in the early 1950s.

In 1935, while making one of his routine stops in the Bluff City, Roosevelt Sykes encountered Laury and Chatman. Impressed by their talent, he suggested that they travel to Chicago, where they may draw the attention of talent scouts and possibly attain a recording contract. Memphis Slim took this advice and moved North where he became one of the most-widely acclaimed pianists of his time. But, Laury remained behind and continued to play the gambling houses that he was familiar with instead. In later years as Beale Street began to deteriorate, Laury found work traveling throughout Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri playing in smaller venues.

Read more





Shop for Music

Start your music shopping from All About Jazz and through our retail affiliations you'll support us in the process.

Rare vinyl LPs and CDs from over 1,000 independent sellers
CDs, Vinyl, Blu-Ray DVDS, Prime membership, Alexa, SONOS and more
Specializing in high resolution and CD-quality downloads
Specializing in music, movies and video games
Marketplace for new, used, and vintage instruments and gear

All About Jazz needs your support

All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.