Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Monday, June 12, 2017

James Booker: Bayou Maharajah

Probably the world's greatest piano player that you've never heard of, James Booker was affectionately known around his home town of New Orleans as the Black Liberace.  Another local bayou legend, Dr. John would call Booker "the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced. 

His story was unknown to me until I viewed the documentary Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker.   A tremendous talent, I would argue that success was limited because he managed to get in his own way.  He would record when he was clean, away from the booze and drugs, but he had a very tough time kicking those habits.  

He would record two studio albums, but the magic for Booker happened when he was live on stage. He recorded a total of ten live albums.  There are also six compilation albums to his credit. Following the viewing of his documentary I decided to do a little more research into this man. Fortunately there are quite a few YouTube views of his performance available.  Simply put, the man is amazing on stage.

He was wildly popular in New Orleans.  And at one point he went on tour and he started making a name for himself in  Europe.  Unfortunately the U.S. never openly embraced the man and his talent so he never became the household name he should have been.

For a glimpse into his world and his mastery of the piano, please view the clip below:

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