Louisiana songwriter Bobby Charles died today at age 71. He was best known for two early rock ’n’ roll hits – “See You Later, Alligator” and “Walkin’ to New Orleans.”
The New Orleans Times-Picayune obituary is here.
For a Louisiana Cajun, Bobby Charles followed an unusual path to success... black music. He wrote “Walkin’ to New Orleans” for his idol, Fats Domino, and Fats took it to the Top 10 in 1960. Clarence “Frogman” Henry then had a hit with Charles’s “(I Don’t Know Why) But I Do.”
Robert Charles Guidry started out as a singer. According to legend, the Chess Brothers assumed by his singing voice that Guidry was black when they gave him a record deal.
Here’s a story from the Lousiana Music Hall of Fame website:
“The only white artist on a black label, [Bobby Charles] began touring with an all-black band along with Chuck Berry and Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers.
“They were touring Mississippi and were at the University of Mississippi for a gig when he had to go to the restroom. He was followed into the restroom by several Ole Miss football players who were unhappy that he was riding with Chuck Berry.
“Berry, however, had seen the players enter the restroom after Charles and suspected they weren’t seeking autographs so he and several other band members went in after the players. ‘Chuck and the others saved my damn life,’ Charles said.”
Click here to hear a young Bobby Charles performing “Time Will Tell.”