Dr. Feelgood
We at N.M.E. say this is not Lee Brilleaux (15 octobre 1977)

Article de Cliff White © N.M.E.

© Valerie Wilmer

"Yeah, I know all about those British boys", said Piano Red, otherwise Willie Perryman, otherwise Dr. Feelgood, when I cornered him in the 100 club before his show. "See, I got lots of friends come to see me in Atlanta and some of ‘em told me about this group who call themselves Dr. Feelgood about a year ago. The law officers know all about it too."

He leans back, chuckles and sucks on an empty pipe. The bit about the law officers was clearly thrown in for his own amusement. Piano Red, as he’s most commonly known, is not the kind of man to fret about such trifles.

A bulky figure of some 60 to 70 summers ; light of skin, short of sight, but still sporting some evidence of the cause of his nickname, a sparse thatch of ginger hair, Red seems fairly content in the autumn of his career.

Without awarding him fame or fortune, life hasn’t treated this jovial bluesman too harshly. Between occasional tours, like his present jaunt to Europe, he still works regularly in his home city, Atlanta, Georgia, where he’s resident performer at a saloon that’s just 10 minutes away from his house. It’s just the way Red likes it, and more or less the way it’s been for the past 30 years, even when he was recording regularly and selling like a pop star.

"When I was with RCA Victor in the early ‘50s they gave me two gold records, that was for Rockin With Red' and 'Right String Baby But The Wrong Yo Yo!' Later on, when I recorded 'Dr. Feelgood' for Columbia (released on Okeh in l962) I should have got a gold for that too but I never did get it. Matter of fact, I don’t think they wanted me to know they’d sold a million."

Red’s three most famous records, and many more releases, were all sprightly boogies with whimsical lyrics that he shouted rather than sang over some of the most eccentric piano playing ever laid down in the name of R&B.

"ln 1953 Zenas Sears got me on radio, on station WAOK in Atlanta, not playing, just talking and introducing records. After 6 or 8 months, I was always telling the older people that listened that I was gonna make ‘em feel young and good, so I just started using the name Dr. Feelgood. Then I went out on the college circuit, this was before integration in the south. I played all white colleges all over the United States - Princetown, Harvard, Yale and throughout the south. And you know Rock’n’Roll was out then but when I would go to those colleges those kids would be spellbound. They‘d been getting those high-school bands with the loud noise but when they got a chance to see me they’d always want me back.

"Around about 1957 Zenas got me with Columbia.
"'Course, by then, people all over knew me as Dr. Feelgood so that‘s what we recorded."

Okeh were still releasing Dr. Feelgood & The Interns' singles as late as 1966, by which time Red had settled back down to his modest life in Atlanta, where he‘s been appearing at the same saloon for the last eight years.

"l got my own stage built right by the window as you walk down the street, it‘s kinda like on the Strip y’know, there‘s about 35 clubs in that line, and as the people walk by the window they can see me playing. l’m the one who grabs people’s attention and brings ‘em in off the street.

"l’ll do anybody‘s song ‘cause I play it my way anyway. I got a different beat that they likes. I got a strong left hand because back in °29 and the ’30s I used to play house dances, where they take all the furniture out of the house, and my left hand was my wm. I just now did an album called ‘Let Me Play With Your Poodle’ and some people were listening at it and said, ‘Well, you don’t have nothing but the drum on that.’ I told ‘em l didn’t have any drum. They might’ve just heard my foot every once in a while but it was my left hand they was talking about.

"l made the album for a collector‘s item ; I did it myself. But it’s turned out so big I got two or three different companies want it." Red chuckles again and stabs the air with the stem of his unsmoked pipe. "So the highest bidder gets it", he explains dramatically, then collapses with laughter at the thought of his devilish cunning.

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© Dr Feelgood & Lucie Lebens - Tous droits réservés
In Memory of Lee Brilleaux & Gypie Mayo