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James Carroll Booker III (December 17, 1939 – November 8, 1983) was a New Orleans rhythm and blues keyboardist born in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. Booker's unique style combined rhythm and…
James Carroll Booker III (December 17, 1939 – November 8, 1983) was a New Orleans rhythm and blues keyboardist born in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States. Booker's unique style combined rhythm and blues with jazz standards. Musician Dr. John described Booker as "the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced." Flamboyant in personality, he was known as "the Black Liberace".
Booker was the son and grandson of Baptist ministers, both of whom played the piano. He spent most of his childhood on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where his father was a church pastor. Booker received a saxophone as a gift from his mother, but he was more interested in the keyboard. He played the organ in his father's churches.
After returning to New Orleans in his early adolescence, Booker attended the Xavier Academy Preparatory School. He learned some elements of his keyboard style from Tuts Washington and Edward Frank. Booker was highly skilled in classical music and played music by Bach and Chopin, among other composers. He also mastered and memorized solos by Erroll Garner and Liberace. His performances combined elements of stride, blues, gospel and Latin piano styles.