Piano Red/Dr Feelgood/WILLIE PERRYMAN









Born in 1911, Willie Perryman was, like his brother Rufus who was 19 years older, an albino African American with red hair and freckles. Consequently he became known as ‘Piano Red’ (listed occasionally as Memphis Piano Red), whereas his older brother had been dubbed as ‘Speckled Red’. In fact in the latter part of his career during the 1960’s Willie Perryman was also known as Dr Feelgood. He was a barrelhouse pianist and vocalist who pounded out the blues and was a major influence on the piano playing of Jerry Lee Lewis and others. Perryman started learning the piano before he reached his teenage years and he was influenced predominately by Fats Waller. He went on the road with Curley Weaver, Barbecue Bob and Blind Willie McTell during the 1930s but he generally worked as a solo artist.

His big break came in 1950 when he signed with RCA Victor and his first release "Rockin’ with Red" reached the top ten in the R&B Billboard chart. (The song was also released by Little Richard in 1957 as "She Knows How to Rock"). Further hits followed including "Red’s Boogie", "The Wrong Yo Yo" (covered later by Carl Perkins) and "Laying The Boogie". The hits dried up towards the end of the 1950’s although Perryman continued as a mainstay on the club scene and on radio. In 1961 he emerged with a new identity as Dr. Feelgood & the Interns and his first release on Columbia’s Okeh label, "Dr Feelgood," gave him his first hit in the American pop charts. (The B-side ‘Mister Moonlight’ was covered by the Beatles.) Perryman spent the last years of his career in residence in Atlanta, although he also made several trips to Europe. He died in 1985.