Obituary: Larry Hamilton (1951-2011)

Obituary: Larry Hamilton (1951-2011). Photo by Rick Olivier.

Larry Hamilton (1951-2011). Photo by Rick Olivier.

Larry Hamilton, a singer/songwriter who might be best known for a self-titled 1997 NYNO CD produced by Allen Toussaint, died December 28, 2011. Born in Galveston, Texas, March 23, 1951, he moved to New Orleans as a youth. At the age of seven, he began taking piano lessons with Ray Charles as his major influence. In 1965, he joined the Gladiators as vocalist often going on the road with the likes of B.B. King and Z.Z Hill.

In 1971, Hamilton cut his first single, “Gossip”, on Pelican Records produced by Wardell Quezergue. Around this time, his friend King Floyd was hot with “Groove Me,” and Floyd’s then-manager Elijah Walker signed Hamilton to a writer’s contract. In return, Hamilton wrote the minor hits “Feel Like Dynamite” and “Let Us Be” for King Floyd. He also wrote songs for Irma Thomas, Jean Knight and Johnny Adams.

Hamilton recorded a few songs at the Sea-Saint Recording Studio, but when he didn’t want to sign the contract he was offered, his voice was removed from the tracks and replaced with Johnny Adams’ vocals. Those tracks, a cover of Smokey Robinson’s “My Daughter’s Having a Baby” and his own “Stay with Me and Stay in Love,” appeared on Adams’ 1978 album, After All the Good is Gone.

Songwriting royalties didn’t quite pay all the bills, so Hamilton supplemented his income selling cars and clothing. The Larry Hamilton CD was part of an ambitious kick off to the NYNO label and garnered favorable reviews. NYNO’s existence was short-lived, so Hamilton took matters into his own hands and released Love Is? on his own label. Hamilton was a regular at the annual WWOZ Piano Night, but in recent years he began singing gospel. Hamilton is survived by a wife, Juanita, four children, and four grandchildren.