“The President of Soul is gone”

March 18, 2010

This has been a rough month for Louisiana blues and R&B. Last week saw the passing of 67-year-old guitarist and vocalist Rockie Charles, who grew up in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. From his bio on the web site of Pondersosa Stomp, the annual music festival where he was a regular:

Charles cut his teeth with a neighborhood four-piece, the Eagles, and attended Houston’s School of Music on North Claiborne. By 18, Charles was both a tugboat captain and leader of his own band, the Gauges, best known for providing the entertainment at Tulane frat parties. In ’67, he cut his first single—”Mr. Rickasha” b/w “Sinking Like a Ship”—a local seller on Senator Jones’ Black Patch label. Signed to a booking company out of Nashville, Rockie Charles soon found himself backing O.V. Wright, Percy Sledge, Otis Redding, and others on the road. Back in New Orleans, Charles started the Soulgate label, a home for his own singles including “The President of Soul”—a masterpiece of dance groove Otis-influenced deep southern soul—and the legendary “Show My People Around The Curve”. Rockie Charles left showbiz for the next few decades, returning to his second career as a boat captain. He couldn’t stay away forever, however—his classic comeback CD “Born For You” was released on Orleans Records in 1996.

Classic comeback indeed. Even if you’ve never heard of Rockie Charles, go ahead and order yourself a copy of Born For You. You’ll quickly come to treasure this CD.

Above is a video of Charles playing at the famous French Quarter music store Louisiana Music Factory in 2007. And click here to hear his classic song Festis Believes in Justice.

As the folks at Stomp declared last week, “The President of Soul is gone.”

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