If Little Richard is the King of Rock 'n' Roll, as he claims, then what title should be given to the man he emulated? Although his debut album was released AFTER Little Richard's, it was indeed ESQUIRITA who taught Little Richard to play piano (literally). Little Richard also "borrowed' his obligato scream, and his outrageously flamboyant fashion sense.
It was sometime in 1984 when word got around that the legendary Esquirita was going to do a rare appearance at Tramps, a nightclub in New York's Greenwich Village. If memory serves, he was booked for a three night stint.Everyone on the NY Garage scene went down to check him out.Not having any idea what to expect, as no one had ever seen him, or had even seen any photos (other than the one famous album cover shot depicting him in ladies' rhinestone shades and his pompadour at least 6 inches higher than Little Richard's) therE was a great deal of anticipation. It turned out that he had been playing lounges for years, under the moniker "The magnificent Malochi," and was not quite prepared for a houseful of Rock 'n' Roll fanatics, yelling out requests for "Batty Over Hattie," "Rockin' In The Joint,' and many more that he'd long since forgotten. His appearance had changed drastically as well. No longer the crazed wildman of the 50's, his image was right in synch with the showtunes he was crooning. And worse, his obligatto holler was long gone, replaced by a very scratchy baritone. He was thankful, and a bit astonished, for all the recognition, and did end up running through a few classics, and promised he'd do alot more the next night. We all returned, of course. This time he had members of the A-Bones backing him.
Very poorly, I might add. It got to the point where he actually had to ask them, several times, to "Sit this one out." Still, we were seeing Esquirita, in the flesh, and it was a thrill. As it turned out, Fuzztones bassist Michael Jay had his parent's upper west side mansion all to himself that night, and invited the whole gang for a party - including Esquirita, who arrived with his "bodyguard." The Outta Place played a set and I joined in on harp for "1-2-5", after which a jam ensued, with various Lyres and A-Bones backing Esquirita on an impromptu run through of two or three of his 50's classics. Seeing the combo organ unattended, I jumped up and played along. But the highlight of the evening was when Esquirita sat down and played the Jay household piano, while we all gathered around in amazement. He had huge hands and a reach that enabled him to play more notes at once than any pianist I'd ever seen. He really was the BEST Rock 'n' Roll pianist I'd ever heard, even better than Jerry Lee. About two or three days later, Esquirita called me, asking me to pay him $50 for playing the party! He also knew I was planning to take a trip to New Orleans soon, and gave me Allan Tousant's home phone number, though I was too intimidated to call for some reason. Esquirita died shortly after, of AIDS, the same day as Liberace's death.