Sunday, 16 October 2011

Under-rated dead people....Esquerita.

Not many people have heard of Esquerita, it's a damn shame. In many ways Esquerita was Little Richard before Richard Penniman decided to don a pompadour and sing about a girl named Sue who knew just what to do. Eskew Reeder Jr. was born in South Carolina in 1935, when he was just a babe he sung for the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. He was a gospel singer naturally, but quickly made friends with two local girls who were studying the in's and out's of operatic singing. The two opera gals taught him how to hit the highest notes, which he then called upon in later life whilst performing his raucous, piano-driven rock & roll. Eskew taught himself piano, a natural pro with no lessons, according to Little Richard it was the wild Esquerita that actually taught him how to play.

He got his first break with a short-lived gospel group, the Heavenly Echoes, and when they split he ended up singing at the Owl Club back in Greenville. Eskew got wild with his style, he'd often sport make-up, a six-inch pompadour and a rock star's swagger, he was 'discovered' by talent scouts in 1958 and it was Mr Gene Vincent that actually convinced Capitol Records to sign him. Eskew Reeder changed his name to Esquerita and a star was born, well, maybe.

The music consumers of the late fifties didn't seem to be too interested in Esquerita, since they had all been pretty mesmerised by Little Richard, by the end of the decade raucous rock & roll had become old news. Sadly Esquerita never managed to get the critical acclaim and he died in 1986 due to aids related illnesses. I love Little Richard, but I strongly feel that Esquerita was a more talented musician. He was original y'know? He had these great ideas, these new and unique ideas, he basically invented camp rock & roll. I know that most of the great musicians ripped someone off somewhere along the line, I mean look at Elvis. Still, it makes me mourn for the original talent, the ones that have the ideas but never make it big. I mourn for Esquerita.

Music isn't what it once was, I'm not sure when it became so boring, so timid, so controlled. I long for the likes of Esquerita tearing up the piano, three wigs on his head, huge sunglasses, face covered in glitter. What makes me even more sad is that he spent the last years of his life as a parking lot attendant in Harlem. He watched his pal Little Richard get rich, get famous, get a mansion and get inducted into the rock & roll hall of fame. I'm not saying that Rich didn't deserve it, of course he did, but he still runs around claiming to be the architect of rock & roll, telling everyone how Elvis ripped off all those black musicians in the 50's. Well of course he did Richard, but so did you!

To close, I'd like to leave you with a few songs by the uber talented Esquerita. Listen to them, write about them, tell your friends, tell your family, play them in public. Don't let Esquerita become a forgotten name.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm currently working on the Esquerita bio and disco for a feature scheduled to be published by the Britsh mag " Blues & Rhythm " next year.

Pierre Monnery