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James Booker

The Piano Prince.

As a piano player from New Orleans, he has no peers,though there is legion of those who have tried to imitate, duplicate and emulate his phenomenal approach on the keys.

James Carroll Booker III was born in New Orleans on December 17, 1939, son of a minister, who played piano. It was his sister’s music teacher who taught him piano scales and to read music. He was known for his musical gifts at an early age, and was considered a piano prodigy, giving classical recitals at age six, and continued classical training until twelve. He was acknowledged to have perfect pitch, instant musical recall, and a photographic memory in sight reading. He was playing Chopin, Erroll Garner, and Liberace, and could play their solos from memory. He would sneak out and play boogie woogie, and also learned local music from Tuts Washington, a family friend.

His sister took him along to her gospel show on WMRY in New Orleans, and he so impressed the staff at an audition, that he had his own show on Saturday afternoon at age eleven, playing blues and gospel piano. He would remain there for a few years even putting a band together, Booker Boy and the Rhythmaires.

By age of fourteen he auditioned for Dave Barthololmew at Imperial Records, where he cut a couple of sides as Little Booker. The records didn’t do much but Bartholomew recognized his talent for imitating any style, so he hired him as studio pianist to fill in and overdub piano parts, which he did for Fats Domino.

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