Prince La La

New Orleans R&B cult icon Prince La La was born Lawrence Nelson in 1936. A product of the Crescent City's Ninth Ward district, he was the brother of guitarist Walter "Papoose" Nelson, one of the signature guitarists in producer Dave Bartholomew's ace session band. Lawrence began his career as a songwriter, and became a recording artist almost by accident: producer Harold Battiste planned to record Lawrence's "She Put the Hurt on Me" with singer Barbara George, but was so intrigued by Lawrence's rough-edged demo vocal that at the last minute he called upon the writer to sing the song himself. Issued in mid-1962, "She Put the Hurt on Me" proved the maiden release on Battiste's A.F.O. label, and was credited to Prince La La. A.F.O.'s publicity photos featured Lawrence in an eccentric yet regal costume drawn from both African and Mardi Gras traditions, and his otherworldly persona deeply affected up-and-coming New Orleans musician Mac Rebennack, who borrowed much of La La's image in creating his own "Dr. John, the Night Tripper" guise. A second Prince La La single, "Gettin' Married Soon," followed by year's end, but in 1963 Lawrence suffered a fatal drug overdose; he was just 27 at the time of his death. Childhood friend Oliver Nelson later issued the tribute record "Who Shot the La La?" ~ Jason Ankeny

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