Arthur Gunter put the Excello label on the national map in the fifties with “Baby Let’s Play House”. Elvis Presley recorded the song a few years later and scored also a big hit with his version. Arthur Gunter a blues guitarist from Georgia eventually released one album called Blues after Hours in 1971.
Classic blues song “Crazy Me”
“Crazy Me” is my favorite song in his repertoire. It is a blues standard containing some groovy piano rhythm and excellent guitar work. The vocals in “Crazy Me” are catchy and straight forward. This song should be part of every blues set.
Around the internet, you’ll find some cool stories about this bluesman who was born in Gunterorn in Oglethorpe County, Georgia. Arthur Gunter did not have the career a musician with his talent should have had. But nevertheless, he was living comfortably in Michigan in the seventies because he had won $50,000 on the Michigan State Lottery in 1973.
He is a ‘National Treasure’ and the ‘High Sheriff of Louisiana’, he is ‘The Nut’, but above all Lazy Lester is a defining musician in the Louisiana Swamp and Country Blues scene. Since he started recording in the mid-fifties at the Nashville based label Excello alongside Lightnin’ Slim he has seen more Juke Joints in the United States than a man could remember.
Key creator of the Louisiana Swamp Blues
Lazy Lester (aka Leslie Johnson) Is one of the key creators of the South Louisiana swamp blues sound in the 1950s, Lester has been often imitated but never duplicated. His ride in the world of blues started when he was a boy working as a woodcutter and at a grocery store. In that store he bought the #1 hit record ‘Juke’ of Little Walter and a new harmonica. That buy was a life changer and a future living. He is highly influenced by Little Walter and Jimmy Reed, especially Reed’s vocal style is hearable in a lot of Lester songs. He has a lot of love for country and got hooked by Jimmy Rogers.
Meeting Lightnin’ Slim in the Bus
The most interesting story about Lazy Lester is the one about the Rayne, Louisiana bus ride. Lightnin’ Slim -who was already an established recording artist- was also on the bus Lester took. Slim was on his way to Crowley, where he would record at Jay Miller’s Studio for Excello Records. Crowley was seven miles further than Rayne and because Lester had a serious itch to be around big time music making he stayed on the bus and accompanied Slim to the studio. Slim’s harmonica player wasn’t in the studio. The probably nervous Lazy Lester was asked to do the harmonica part for Slim’s recording, and did not disappoint.
Jay Miller, the producer was impressed by Lester’s work and in 1957 he debuted at Excello as a solo artist with the record “ I’m Gonna Leave You Baby” and ‘Lester’s Stomp’. It was the producer Miller who gave Lester his nickname “Lazy”, “because of Lester’s slow and lazy style of talking. This nickname already stands more than fifty years now!
They call me Lazy album from 1976
A Lazy Lester album you should listen to is definitely They Call Me Lazy released in 1976. This album contains classic songs like ‘Lester’s Stomp’, I’m So Tired’, ‘Strange Things Happen’ and Tell Me Pretty Baby’. The cool thing about Lazy Lester’s material is the diversity. Song change from Rock ‘n Roll to Country, to Blues and to Swamp pop. This cocktail of musical roots makes his songs never boring and always interesting to Listen to.
Lazy Lester Rides Again
Lightnin’ Slim and Slim Harpo moved from Louisiana to Michigan and Lazy Lester would follow them. He lived in obscurity, till he recorded a new album Lazy Lester Rides Again. In 1988 he would release the follow up Harp and Soul which was recorded for Alligator Records. The album featured Lester’s harp-fueled swamp blues and brought him to the largest audience of his career.
Louisiana Swamp Heratige
Today Lazy Lester is one of the few original Bluesmen who is still around today. It is nice to imagine the man performing on a stage of an old school Juke Joint with a Harmonica in his hands blowin’ the Harp on a Swampy Blues beat. The heritage of Louisiana Blues and Country is in his hands, soul and bones.
Photo Credit: By Tom Beetz [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Pondarosa Stomp – Lazy Lester
Rockin’ Blues * I’M A LOVER, NOT A FIGHTER – Lazy Lester
My Home Is a Prison – Slim Harpo & Lazy Lester
Lazy Lester – They Call Me Lazy (Full Album)
Lazy Lester They call me Lazy (Released 1976)
01 – Lester’s Stomp
02 – Strange Things Happen
03 – I’m So Tired
04 – Lover Not A Fighter
05 – Late Late In The Evening
06 – Whoa Now
07 – They Call Me Lazy
08 – Bloodstains
09 – Come On Home
10 – Quit Foolin’ Me
11 – Tell Me Pretty Baby
12 – I’m Leavin