Sunday, January 28, 2018

Esquerita (1935 - 1986)

Steven Quincy (S.Q.) Reeder Jr. was born in Greenville, South Carolina in 1935. Steven taught himself to play the piano and sang gospel music at Greenville's Tabernacle Baptist Church under the tutelage of Cleo and Virginia Willis. He dropped out of high school and joined the evangelistic group, the Three Stars before playing with Brother Joe May, (the "Thunderbolt Of The Midwest").

In the early 50s he played backing piano for the Brooklyn based "Heavenly Echoes,” and in 1953 recorded Didn't It Rain with Willie Green & The Glovertones.

Later he joined Sister Rosa Shaw and toured the south.

When they appeared at the Owl Club in Greenville S.Q. met Richard Penniman (Little Richard) and taught him to play thundering piano.

Later Richard Penniman used the style to convince Robert ‘Bumps’ Blackwell to record him in 1955. Little Richard was originally a drag act but his recording company used a cleaned up version of "Tutti Frutti," a well-known bawdy ditty, and it became a massive international hit.

Paul Reek (Blue Caps) spotted S.Q. perform at the Owl Club (now under the stage name Esquerita or Professor Eskew Reeder) and encouraged him to record. Eventually Esquerita signed with Capitol Records as their answer to Little Richard but his outlandish style and thumping music earned him both praise and criticism. He released several singles produced by Ken Nelson including Oh Baby, Esquerita & the Voola, Laid Off and Hey Miss Lucy.

Although none sold well they were classics made after the first flush of rock’n’roll had passed. On stage Esquerita was wild and wore flamboyant brocaded shirts, and rhinestone shades. He was heavily made up and wore six-inch pompadour wigs.

When commercial success failed he left Capital but continued to record (sometimes under different names) with different labels working with many well-known studio musicians including the Jordonaires, Dr John and Allen Toussaint. In 1963 he recorded at Motown Record but the single Stubborn Old Me was never released.

Eventually he became “The Magnificent Malochi" in 1968 and signed with Brunswick Records.

As music fashion changed the fortunes of Esquerita dwindled and although he continued to gig he spend some time in prison during which time he lost an eye. By the end of the decade he had re-emerged in New York and was living off immoral earnings. He rehabilitated after more jail time and in the early 80s started performing again. By which time he was an unstable drug addict. He died in poverty in Harlem in 1986, from complications of Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Worth a listen

Oh Baby/Please Come Home (1958)

Rockin' The Joint/Esquerita And The Voola (1958)

Hey Miss Lucy (1959)

Get Back Baby (1959)

Getting’ Plenty of Lovin (1959)

Rockin’ the Joint (1959)

Laid Off/Just Another Lie (1959)

Hey Miss Lucy/Battie Over Hattie (1959)

Rockin' the Joint,

Sarah Lee,

Eskew Reeder

Green Door/I Waited Too Long (1962)

Never Again/We Had Love (1962)

A Tear/Johnny Little (1963)

Eskew Reeder Jr.

The Flu/Undivided Love (1963)

I Woke Up This Morning/I Woke Up This Morning Part Two (1963)

S.Q Reeder

I Want To Know/Just In Time (1966)

Tell The World About You/Two Ton Tessie (1966)

Eskew "Esque-Rita" Reeder

Dew Drop Inn/You Better Believe In Me (1967)

Magnificent Malochi

Mama Your Daddy's Come Home/As Time Goes By (1968)

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