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Lloyd Price, Music, and Boxing (1933-2021)

Thomas Hauser

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Music was the lifeblood of the youth culture when I was young. I came of age during the “Golden Age of Rock and Roll” and expanded my appreciation to other eras. I’ve been fortunate in that the profession I’ve chosen has enabled me to spend time with some of the icons of my youth. Muhammad Ali heads the list. But there have been many others, including some from the world of music.

Over the years, I’ve been privileged to meet Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Belafonte, Little Richard, Chubby Checker, Glen Campbell, Mary Travers, Ramsey Lewis, and others. I also spent time with Lloyd Price. Lloyd died in a longterm care facility in suburban New York on May 3 at age 88. A word of remembrance is in order.

Price was born in Louisiana in 1933 and grew up in the segregated American south. He was one of the early pioneers of rock and roll at a time when major radio stations in the United States wouldn’t play rock and roll by Black recording artists. Nat King Cole and Johnny Mathis were given airtime. But “race music” was forbidden. That gave rise to a phenomenon known as the “white cover” version. A Black artist like Little Richard would write and record a song like Tutti Frutti that received limited exposure. Then Pat Boone or another white singer would release a “socially acceptable” version that might sell a million copies.

In the mid-1950s, a white disk jockey in New York named Alan Freed began playing “race music”. The time was right. The Civil Rights Movement was gathering steam. In February 1959, for the first time ever, a rock and roll song sung by a Black recording artist became the best-selling “pop 45” in the nation. The singer was Lloyd Price.

In 1952 at age 19, Price had written and recorded a song called “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.” In 1958, he updated and recorded a song called Stagger Lee that dated back to 1911. Stagger Lee rocketed to #1 on the Billboard charts in the United States. One year later, Price wrote and recorded Personality which became an international hit.

What does this have to do with boxing?

Price had appeared in small clubs after the release of Lawdy Miss Clawdy. As Stagger Lee rose to the top of the charts, he was booked into the Top Hat Lounge in Louisville, Kentucky. When he arrived at the club, a tall good-looking teenager was waiting outside for him.

“I was on tour,” Price told me years later. “Ali was sixteen years old, sitting outside because he was underage and they wouldn’t let him in. When I got to the lounge, this crazy kid rushed over, saying, ‘Mr. Price, I’m Cassius Marcellus Clay; I’m the Golden Gloves Champion of Louisville, Kentucky; someday I’m gonna be heavyweight champion of the world; I love your music; and I’m gonna be famous like you.’ I just looked at him, and said, ‘Kid, you’re dreaming.’ But we got along. You couldn’t help but like him. The Top Hat Lounge was a popular place, and each time I played there, I saw him. After a while, I started looking for him and bringing him in with me. He had all sorts of questions – about music and traveling, but mostly he wanted to know about girls. There were a lot of things he didn’t know, and he asked me how to make out with girls. He was very sincere about it. I told him, ‘Just be yourself, and the girls will like you.’ Although as part of the lesson, I gave him a couple of dollars and said, ‘Always have some money. That’s the beginning of hanging out with the foxes.’”

Thus began a lifelong friendship.

“You have to remember what America was like at that time,” Price explained later. “In parts of the country, I’m being booked into white clubs. I’m being booked to do white dances. But I can’t stay at the white hotel and I have to go around to the back door if I want a sandwich. I went to some [Nation of Islam] meetings with Ali. For the first time in my life – as a grown man who was a star who had sold millions of records – I heard somebody saying, ‘You are somebody.’ The language gave you such a lift. You left feeling good about yourself. In the end, it wasn’t my thing. But I can understand how Ali got hooked.

“That’s how our friendship started,” Lloyd continued. “Then, after he turned pro, he came to New York and stayed with me at my apartment several times. Right before he fought Doug Jones, I drove him around town to publicize the fight. That was my red Cadillac he was in.”

Price was a savvy businessman. He kept the copyright to most of the songs he wrote and founded several record labels. He’s also the man who introduced Ali to Don King.

“I used to go to Cleveland because my song-writing partner, Harold Logan, lived there,” Lloyd reminisced. “I knew all the people Harold knew and, through him, I got friendly with Don. One day, I was over at Don’s place in the kitchen talking about Muhammad. Don’s daughter Debbie said, ‘I want to meet him.’ It was her birthday. She was about five. So I telephoned Muhammad and he sang Happy Birthday to her over the phone. Then Don got on and started talking. He was strictly a Cleveland man at the time. He didn’t know anything about New York or Chicago or Los Angeles. And he was into numbers, not boxing. But that was the introduction. He and Ali got together – once I think it was – and then Don went to prison. But when he got out, you could see the wheels turning in his mind.”

After King was released from prison, he prevailed upon Price to call Ali and ask if Muhammad would box in a charity exhibition to benefit the Forest City Hospital in Cleveland. Ali did it for free. History suggests that the primary financial beneficiary of the event was King, not the hospital. Later, Price was a key figure in orchestrating the Zaire 74 music festival in Kinshasa held in conjunction with the historic “Rumble in the Jungle” between Ali and George Foreman. And in 1980, he tried his best to talk Ali out of coming out of retirement to fight Larry Holmes.

“I kept thinking about a day I’d spent in New York with Ali and Joe Louis maybe ten years earlier,” Price told me. “Joe had been with me because there was a little bird singing in my band who he liked a lot, and Ali and I had been friends for years. Somehow or other, we got together and they were talking, mostly about boxing. I was listening. They got along well that day, no tension of any kind between them. Ali asked, ‘Joe, tell me something. What happens in the ring when you get old?’ He was asking about Joe’s fight against Rocky Marciano, when Joe was 37 years old with that bald spot in the middle of his head, when he got knocked through the ropes and was counted out. Joe said, ‘Ali, let me tell you something. When I was young and wanted to throw a punch, I could throw it as fast as I wanted. But when I got old, my brain would tell me to do something and my arms just wouldn’t do it.'”

“Don’t fight Holmes,” Price told Ali. “It’s over. Father Time is calling. You’ve got to hear the bell.”

lawdy

Price with Ali and Ali’s brother Rahman Ali

“You don’t know nothing about boxing and getting old,” Ali retorted. “You’re a singer, not a fighter.”

Then Price told Ali a story about going out on a national tour in 1963. As a favor to a friend who was trying to break into the music business, he agreed to let one of the friend’s groups open for him. The arrangement lasted until Price realized that the warm-up act was getting more applause than he was. So being a showman, he sent them packing with the request that his friend send him a different opening group.

“Who did you get rid of?” Ali asked.

“Some guys I’d never heard of before,” Price told him. “Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. And the next opening act made me look even worse. The first night they were on, when they finished their set, there was such pandemonium that I told the band to take a ten-minute break before I went out so the audience could calm down and I wouldn’t look bad by comparison.”

“Who were they?”

“Three Black chicks called the Supremes.”

Price then called his friend (who, of course, was Berry Gordy in the process of launching Motown records) and told him to stuff his groups where the sun didn’t shine. “Just send me one guy to open,” he instructed.

Whereupon Berry Gordy sent Marvin Gaye.

“And that was it,” Price told Ali. “I said to myself, ‘I don’t know what these folks have. But whatever it is, I don’t have it.’ So I took myself off the road, bought a club in New York [that he called Turntable], and signed a fifteen-year contract to promote concerts for Motown in Manhattan. I heard the bell.”

Over the years, I saw Lloyd maybe a dozen times. The most memorable of these occasions was a night when he and Ali were guests for dinner at my apartment. After dinner, I put an old LP of Lloyd Price’s Greatest Hits on the turntable and we sang along. There were seven of us. Ali was beginning to have trouble speaking at that time in his life. But that night he sang louder than the rest of us.

The last time I saw Lloyd, he was well into his eighties, thinner than before and walking with a cane. But his voice was clear. There was a gleam in his eye. And his contagious laugh still filled the room. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to know him.

Thomas Hauser’s email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Staredown: Another Year Inside Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, Hauser was selected for boxing’s highest honor – induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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Dan Parker Bashed the Bad Guys in Boxing and Earned a Ticket to the Hall of Fame

Arne K. Lang

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Twenty-five years ago this month, sportswriter Dan Parker was formally ushered into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the non-participant category. Parker wasn’t there to enjoy the moment. He had been dead going on 30 years.

Dan Parker, who began his career in journalism as a court reporter in his native Waterbury, Connecticut, hired on with the New York Daily Mirror in 1924, was named sports editor two years later, and remained with the paper until it folded during a prolonged newspaper strike in 1963, a total of 39 years.

Parker has been underappreciated by historians of the sports page because he worked for a paper that didn’t make the cut when advances in microphotography allowed copies of old newspapers to be stored on microfilm. During this reporter’s days as a college student — and here I date myself – the only out-of-town papers archived in the school library were the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post, and to cull something out of them for a term paper one had to commit to spending long hours manually scrolling through reels of microfilm on a clunky machine. The tabloids – and the Daily Mirror was a tabloid – were considered too lowbrow for serious research, and even today in the digital age, stuff by Dan Parker is hard to find if one doesn’t have the luxury of hunkering down for an extended stay in the periodicals section of the Library of Congress. His online omnibus consists entirely of scattered stories that were picked up by other newspapers and a few magazine pieces.

But among boxing writers, Dan Parker was a giant. He did more than anyone to cleanse the sport of the hoodlum element. The IBHOF electorate has come up with some curious choices in the non-participant category over the years, but in the case of Dan Parker they certainly got it right.

Parker was a big man, carrying about 240 pounds on his six-foot-four frame, but a man’s size is irrelevant when staring into the barrel of a gun and Parker was fearless when facing off with the goons that infested the fight racket. His best year, one might say, was 1955 when a story he authored for Bluebook magazine flowered into an award-winning, six-part series in the Mirror titled “They’re Murdering Boxing.” The series spawned an investigation that ultimately resulted in the imprisonment of Frankie Carbo, boxing’s so-called underworld czar, a man with a long rap sheet, and several of Carbo’s collaborators, most notably Philadelphia numbers baron Frank “Blinky” Palermo.

Parker’s friends urged him to lay off the hoodlums before something bad happened to him, but he ignored their counsel. “Everybody in boxing lived in fear of this enforcer (Frankie Carbo) but not Dan Parker. Nobody ever put enough heat on Parker to slow down his typewriter,” reminisced Hartford Courant sports editor Bill Lee.

Parker’s reputation as a reformer was well-established before he zeroed in on the machinations of Carbo and others of his ilk. In 1944, when a vacancy came up on the New York State Athletic Commission, Governor Thomas Dewey, who had made his reputation as a racket-busting District Attorney, offered the post to Parker.

It was easy money, but he declined. “What would I use for a punching bag if I were on the boxing commission myself?,” he said.

During a portion of Parker’s tenure with the paper, there were eight other New York dailies competing for readers. The Mirror was the paper of choice for well-informed boxing fans thanks in large part to Murray Lewin who came to be recognized as the city’s best fight prognosticator within the ranks of the newspaper writers. Lewin, the boxing beat writer, did the grunt work, attending all the little shows and writing up the summaries. Parker, as he freely admitted, was more interested in writing about sporting characters than about the games they played. And like his good buddy Damon Runyon, who wrote for the New York American (later the Journal-American), Parker was inevitably drawn to boxing and horseracing because that was where the most colorful characters were found.

Parker found time to write one book, a primer for novice horseplayers published in 1947 when horseracing was on the cusp of the boom that would lead it to becoming America’s top spectator sport (a distinction, needless to say, that wouldn’t last).

The book had a chapter on touts, one of Parker’s favorite subjects for his newspaper column. They were all charlatans, he wrote, an opinion that did not endear him to the bean-counters as they were forever cluttering up his sports section with ads from racetrack tipsters. Parker wasn’t afraid to make enemies on his own paper.

Believe it or not, but there were still folks back then who believed that professional wrestling was on the up-and-up. Parker educated them when he wrote a column that gave out all the winners on a show that hadn’t yet started.

The programs for the wrestling shows, which included the bout sheet, were published well in advance and then hidden away until they were needed. Parker procured a copy and from it was able to glean which wrestlers had won their preceding match.

“Dan was a shy, gentle, and kindly man with a quick sense of humor,” wrote New York Times sports editor Arthur Daley. But within his profession, he wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The legendary Herald Tribune sports editor Stanley Woodward once likened him to Fearless Fosdick, a character in the L’il Abner comic strip who was a parody of Dick Tracy. Parker had a long-running feud with New York Daily News sportswriter Jimmy Powers which may have had something to do with Powers becoming a well-known radio commentator. In the eyes of the old guard, a true journalist didn’t do “electronic media.”

When Damon Runyon died from cancer of the larynx in 1946, several of his close friends, notably Parker and the famous gossip columnist Walter Winchell, a Daily Mirror colleague, got together and resolved to create a charity in Runyon’s memory. What resulted was a foundation that has raised millions for cancer research. Parker worked tirelessly on its behalf.

Daniel Francis “Dan” Parker died on May 20, 1967, at age 73. He was quite a guy.

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What Next for Gabriel Rosado?

Ted Sares

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What Next for Gabriel Rosado?

Bektemir Melikuziev, Freddie Roach, Edgar Berlanga, and Jaime Munguia are names that, one way or another, figured into Gabe Rosado’s stunning KO last Saturday night in El Paso. It overshadowed the impressive showing by Noaya “Monster” Inoue later that night in Las Vegas.

Rosado (26-13-1) is a well-documented bleeder and just might start spurting during the walk-in, but he is never, ever in a dull fight. The tougher-than-tough Philadelphian won Top Gore honors for his blood and guts TKO loss to Canadian middleweight star David Lemieux in 2014. The year before, he bled aplenty in his game but losing effort against Gennady Golovkin.

This time against Melikuziev, the unbeaten Uzbek, the fight ended in round three when the 35-year-old underdog beat the Eastern Euro fighter to the punch during an exchange of rights with Gabe’s landing first and sending the former amateur star into dreamland. The force of the blow was amplified by the younger and faster man coming forward with caution to the wind. And this time, there was no bloodletting.

The knockout should be a contender for KO of the Year. In fact, it was reminiscent of Juan Manuel Marquez’s explosive knockout of Manny Pacquiao in their final match.

Once again, Rosado (who is now trained by Freddie Roach) has revived his career and can count on at least one last decent payday. While many think Jaime Munguia would be a solid next fight, the thinking here is that Rosado could get carved up by the undefeated Tijuana veteran who has won 30 of his 37 fights by KO. Munguia is just too good.

The Catch 22

Rosado is an all-action fighter but scar tissue and his propensity to bleed is his worst enemy. It has cost him in the past. For such an offensive-minded fighter as Gabe, he is trapped in a terrible catch-22. If he can get the lead early and the bleeding is stemmed within reasonable limits, he can be a force, but not against the likes of Munguia.

If not Munguia, then who?  Here is one suggestion: How about “The Chosen One,” Edgar Berlanga (17-0) whose first round KO streak recently came to an end. Brooklyn vs. Philadelphia would be a nice added touch –not to mention the Puerto Rican factor. Could Rosado expose Berlanga as someone without enough experience, aka rounds? Would Gabe show that Berlanga is more Tyson Brunson that Edwin Valero?

Let’s make it happen!

Ted Sares enjoys researching and writing about boxing. He also competes as a powerlifter in the Master-class. He can be reached at  tedsares@roadrunner.com

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Fast Results from Las Vegas: Inoue Demolishes Dasmarinas; Mayer UD Farias

Arne K. Lang

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Fast Results from Las Vegas: Inoue Demolishes Dasmarinas; Mayer UD  Farias

LAS VEGAS — Top Rank was at the Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas on Saturday, June 19, for the second of their three June shows. In the headliner, WBA/IBF world bantamweight champion Naoya “Monster” Inoue lived up to his nickname with a vicious third round stoppage of Filipino import Michael Dasmarinas.

Inoue (21-0, 18 KOs) had his opponent fighting off his back foot from the opening bell. He knocked down Dasmarinas in the second with a left hook to the liver and twice more in the third round before referee Russell Mora waived it off. The official time was 2:45.

Dasmarinas brought a 30-2-1 record and hadn’t lost since 2014. But he was no match for the “Monster” who looks younger than his 28 years. Those body shots landed with a thud that could be heard in the far reaches of the arena. This kid is really good.

Mikaela Mayer continues to improve as she showed tonight in the first defense of her WBO world super featherweight title. Mayer 15-0 (5) turned away Argentina’s Erica Farias (26-5) with a 10-round unanimous decision in a fight that was frankly rather monotonous.

Mayer won by scores of 97-93 and 98-92 twice. Farias, who landed the best punch of the fight, didn’t have the taller Mayer’s physical equipment but yet landed the best punch of the fight. Her only setbacks have come on the road against elite opponents—Cecilia Braekhus, Delfine Person, Jessica McCaskill (twice) and now Mikaela Mayer.

The opener on the ESPN portion of the show was a lusty 10-round welterweight affair between Ghana native Isaac Dogboe and Glendale, California’s Adam Lopez. Dogboe, whose only losses came at the hands of Emanuel Navarette in world title fights, improved to 22-2 by dint of a majority decision that could have easily gone the other way. Dave Moretti had it a draw but was overruled (97-93 and 96-94).

Lopez, one of two fighting sons of the late Hector Lopez, an Olympic silver medalist, did his best work late, particularly in the eighth round. With the loss, his record declines to 15-3.

Other Bouts

Monterrey, Mexico super lightweight Lindolfo Delgado, a 2016 Olympian, was extended the distance for the first time in his career but won a wide 8-round decision over Guadalajara’s Salvador Briceno

Delgado won by scores of 80-72 and 79-73 twice while advancing his record to 12-0. Delgado’s best round was the eighth, but Briceno (17-7) weathered the storm. Briceno is 5-6 in his last 11, but has been matched tough. The six fighters to beat him, including Delgado, were a combined 78-3 at the time that he fought them.

Vista, California lightweight Eric Puente has yet to score a KO but he is undefeated in six starts after winning a unanimous decision over Mexico’s Antonio Meza (7-6). Puente, who is trained by Robert Garcia, knocked Meza down early into the fight with a sweeping left and was the aggressor throughout. The judges had it 57-56 and 58-55 twice.

Puerto Rican super lightweight Omar Rosario improved to 4-0 (2) with a fourth-round stoppage of Reno, Nevada’s Wilfred “JJ” Moreno (3-1) The official time was 0:47.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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