Lawdy me stems from the phrase “Lordy me”, which is a contraction of “Lord help me”. This is said as an exclamation, “Oh me!”, or “Oh my goodness!”, or “My, my, my!”, or “Good grief Charlie Brown!” This minced oath is usually used to express surprise and it is often said with a Southern accent as Butterfly McQueen, the actress who played Prissy did in Gone With The Wind, “Lawdy, Miz Scarlett, I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ no babies!”. A minced oath is a euphemistic expression formed by misspelling, mispronouncing, or replacing a part of a profane, blasphemous, or taboo term to reduce the original term’s objectionable characteristics thus allowing a person to avoid swearing when expressing surprise or annoyance. The word Lawdy goes well with the name Clawdy, just as Dizzy goes good Miss Lizzy, or Good Golly fits in with Miss Molly, the same way as Mary, Mary goes together with quite contrary. The name Clawdy is most likely a nickname for Claudette, or Claudia, or Claudine. Lloyd Price wrote the song ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’, but in 1958, Larry Williams, who had been Lloyd’s valet, reworked it to become ‘Dizzy Miss Lizzy’.
Lloyd Price was born in Kenner, Louisiana on March 9, 1933 and he is an American R&B vocalist, known as “Mr. Personality”, after his 1959 million-selling hit, ‘Personality’. He began writing songs in grade school, and by the time he was 13, he was proficient on piano and trumpet. He formed a group with his school mates that they called themselves “the Blue Boys”, and they played around Kenner at the Top of the Town and the Perkins Lounge. Lloyd had a younger brother Little Leo Price, and the teenagers were both exposed to music from the jukebox in their mother’s popular New Orleans sandwich shop, Beatrice’s Fish ‘n’ Fry. One day Dave Bartholomew discovered Lloyd when he stopped in at Beatrice’s to get a bite to eat and heard the youth working on his new song ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’.
His first recording, ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’ became a hit in 1952 and Lloyd Price went on to work in the music industry as a musician, bandleader, songwriter, producer, record-company executive and a booking agent. While still in high school, nineteen-year-old Lloyd Price was working for New Orleans radio station WBOK. He provided jingles (music for radio advertisements) for various products, including those hawked by disc jockey James ‘Okey Dokey’ Smith, the first big black disc jockey in New Orleans. One of Smith’s catch phrases was “Lawdy Miss Clawdy”, which he used in ad slogans such as “Lawdy Miss Clawdy, eat Mother’s Homemade Pies and drink Maxwell House coffee!”
Dave Bartholomew had many talents and roles, but his outstanding accomplishment is his star-making ability. He discovered Fats Domino, Lloyd Price and a seemingly endless revolving door of New Orleans virtuosos. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as a nonperformer, in 1991. Lloyd Price was nursing a broken heart when he wrote this influential R&B wailer on an old piano in his mother’s sandwich shop. He borrowed the title from James ‘Okey Dokey’ Smith’s catch phrase, as Price bids a painful farewell to the good-looking gold-digger who uses and abuses him.
In 1952, Art Rupe an American music industry executive and record producer and founder of Specialty Records in Los Angeles, came to New Orleans in search of new talent, particularly young singers who would attract the growing market of teens tuning into R&B radio. Local recording studio owner Cosimo Matassa introduced him to Dave Bartholomew, who co-wrote and produced many of Fats Domino’s early hit records. Bartholomew invited nineteen-year-old Lloyd Price to audition for Rupe at Matassa’s J&M Studio. Cosimo Matassa was an American recording engineer whose studio was the center of the New Orleans recording scene for two decades and in 2012 he was he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a nonperformer and he was also inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame in 2013.
Price had auditioned the song unsuccessfully several times at J&M, and when he went to this tryout that was supervised by label owner Art Rupe, Price decided to sing something else. When his turn finally came, Rupe was unimpressed as he had been with most of the day. It looked like he was going back to the West Coast empty-handed. Price sensed that he was going to be shown the door, and he nearly broke down in tears as he belted out ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’. Rupe hired Bartholomew to produce the recording session for ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’. On the day of the session, Fats Domino happened to be passing the studio in a brand new Cadillac. He stopped in just to say, “Hello”, but after he had a few drinks, Domino agreed to play on the session despite his initial reluctance. He was under contract to Imperial, but that didn’t stop him from supplying one of the catchiest piano intros in the history of recorded music. He started playing a boogie-woogie, but Dave stopped him because he wanted something different. So instead of playing boogie-woogie, Fats played the introduction like a tinkling piano roll. To this day, nobody has ever played that intro like Fats did that day.
Lloyd Price did not have a band to support him on this recording, so Dave let him use his band for this song. The drummer was Earl Palmer and the rest of Dave’s band included Ernest McLean on guitar, Frank Fields on bass, Herbert Hardesty on tenor sax, Joe Harris on alto sax, and Jack Willis was on trumpet. There was no sheet music it was all in their heads. They called it ‘padding’ with the horns holding their notes they played while Lloyd sang. Dave Bartholomew decided the song was too short and that it needed more of a story, so Price wrote the second verse, “Because I gave you all my money, girl, but you just won’t treat me right” on the spot as he was able to make up lyrics on the fly. Price didn’t hear the song until it was played on the radio four weeks after the recording session. When the record came out, Price’s mother moved it to the top spot on her shop’s jukebox.
The song was released on Rupe’s Specialty Records and went to #1 on the R&B chart. Although it didn’t reach the pop chart, the song did sell well outside of the R&B market and is considered an early crossover hit. At the time, many industry execs would tack their names onto songs they had little or nothing to do with to get a cut of the royalties. At best, the real songwriters would receive a sliver of the bounty, and at worst they wouldn’t get credit at all. To his astonishment, Price was listed as the sole songwriter, with only the publishing rights going to Rupe. Several artists have covered this, including Elvis Presley, Little Richard, The Hollies, The Dave Clark Five, Fats Domino, Conway Twitty, Carl Perkins, The Replacements, Joe Cocker And The Grease Band and Paul McCartney, among others. The Beatles also recorded it for their 1969 movie Let It Be.
In April 1952, Specialty Records released ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’ and on May 17, 1952 it spread like wild fire and entered Billboard’s R&B chart, staying there a total of 26 weeks. The song reached number one, where it spent seven weeks there, a feat that wasn’t surpassed by another New Orleans record until Domino’s ‘Blueberry Hill’. ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’ became the song of the year in 1952 and the first record to sell a million copies by a teenager. Lloyd Price was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. According to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’ made the list of The Top 500 Most Influential Rock Songs. Loyd has 4 songs listed on Rolling Stone Fifty Essential Recordings From The Fifties including ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’, ‘Stagger Lee’, ‘Personality’ and ‘I’m Gonna Get Married’. ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’ is also on the list of 660 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.
Well, lawdy, lawdy, lawdy, Miss Clawdy
Well, you sure look good to me
Well, please, don’t excite me, baby
I know it can’t be me
Well, I give you all my money
Yeah, but you just won’t treat me right
You like to ball every morning
Don’t come home till late at night
I’m gonna tell, tell my mama
Lord, I swear, gal, what you been doing to me?
I’m gonna tell everybody that
I’m in misery
So bye, bye, bye, baby
Gal, I won’t be comin’ no more
Goodbye, little darlin’
Down the road I go
Oh, goodbye, bye, bye, baby
Gal, I won’t be comin’ no more
Goodbye, little darlin’
Down the road I go