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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Fabulous Esquerita!!

The FABULOUS Esquerita!!

With his flamboyant makeup, sculpted pompadour, assaultive piano playing and glass-busting trills, Little Richard is invariably described as a rock 'n' roll nonpareil. But Richard himself has often acknowledged that his persona has a lot to do with one of the true unsung heroes of rock – a forgotten wildman who answered to the stage name Esquerita.

Appropriately enough, they met in a Greyhound bus station in Macon, Ga., late one night, when the only people around were the prowlers "trying to catch something – you know, have sex," as Richard Penniman explained in his biography 'The Life and Times of Little Richard.' Eskew Reeder, as the man was then known, had the biggest hands Richard had ever seen. He performed, apparently, with an evangelist named Sister Rosa and an undersized singer appropriately called Shorty. When Richard asked this brother from another planet if he would teach him how to pound the piano, Reeder happily obliged.

Though Little Richard would later claim he gave Esquerita the idea for his gigantic bouffant, that's the only mention of Richard's mentor in the biography. To this day, little is known of Esquerita, whose sole album, released in 1959, was mistakenly seen as little more than a Little Richard copycat job.

Born in Greenville, S.C., in 1935, Steven Quincy Reeder began calling himself "Eskew" after his initials – S.Q. Later, of course, the name became Esquerita. (Little Richard claimed his predecessor liked to point out how his nickname sounded like "excreta.") An early performing career with a gospel group known as the Heavenly Echoes soon led, in a roundabout fashion, to the singer's outrageous nightclub act.

"Professor" Eskew Reeder was discovered playing a Greenville barroom called the Owl Club by Paul Peek, guitarist for Gene Vincent's rockabilly backing band, the Blue Caps. Peek introduced the free spirit with the rhinestone wraparound shades to talent scouts at Capitol Records, who had signed Gene Vincent as the label's answer to Elvis. Here was the label's answer to Little Richard.

Later, Reeder would scuffle his way through the '60s, reportedly gigging with the future Dr. John and a young Jimi Hendrix – and cutting a few sessions with a grateful Little Richard. He recorded some songs for Motown, never released. He began changing his stage name – Voola, the Magnificent Malochi – to no avail. By the '70s, he was playing seedy gigs in back-alley gay bars in New York, billed as Fabulash. A decade after that, he was reduced to begging for change as a squeegee man. Esquerita died of complications from AIDS in New York in 1986, at age 52.

Sadly, his one Capitol album, despite a fantastic, iconic cover image of the singer with his wig piled high and a collection of raucous bawlers inside, came across as one too many Little Richards for the world to handle. Ironically, it was only when an unproven Richard had stretched out his Esquerita muscle on a previously lackluster session in New Orleans that he found his own voice as early rock 'n' roll's most thrilling loony tune. 

And aawayyyy we go!

Baby come back
Baby, you can depend on me
Believe me when I say Rock 'n Roll
Crazy crazy feeling
Esquerita and the Voola
Get back baby
Gettin' plenty of lovin'
Golly Golly Annie 
Hey Miss Lucy
Hole in my heart
I found her
I live the life I love (vers 1)
I live the life I love (vers 2)
I need you
I'm battie over Hattie
Just another lie
Katie Mae
Laid off
Maybe baby
Oh baby
Please come home
Rockin' the joint
Sarah Lee
She left me crying
This thing called love
Wait a minute baby
Why did it take you so long
You can't pull me down


  1. Esquerita, the farthest out that man has ever gone!