Lawrence (Booker T.) Laury (September 2, 1914 - September 23, 1995) was an American boogie-woogie, blues, gospel and jazz pianist and singer. Over his lengthy career, Laury worked with various musicians, including Memphis Slim and Mose Vinson, but did not record his debut album until he was almost eighty years of age. He appeared in two films.
Laury was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and grew up with his lifelong friend Memphis Slim. At the age of six, after helping his mother play the family's pump organ, Laury learned to play the keyboards. His barrelhouse playing style, which he developed alongside Slim, was based on the influence of the Memphis performers Roosevelt Sykes, Sunnyland Slim, and Speckled Red. In the early 1930s, and in the company of the younger Mose Vinson, Slim and Laury began playing in local clubs.
In 1935, Sykes suggested to Laury and Slim that they relocate to Chicago, with a view to obtaining a recording contract. Slim took the advice, but Laury decided to remain in Memphis, where he played in gambling houses and clubs for decades. Laury had a large hand width, which enabled him to span ten keys. His playing dexterity was such that, after losing one finger on his left hand following an accident with a circular saw in the 1950s, he was still able to play well. Based around Beale Street, in Memphis, as that area started to degenerate, Laury traveled around Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri. Despite differing fortunes, his friendship with Slim did not diminish over the years, up to Slim's death in 1988.
The 1989 Dennis Quaid film Great Balls of Fire! portrayed the young Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart looking into a juke joint to see Laury playing "Big Legged Woman". The attention helped to give Laury an opportunity to record later in his life. Laury appeared in the 1992 documentary film Deep Blues: A Musical Pilgrimage to the Crossroads, in which he is shown playing "Memphis Blues" in his living room.
In 1994, Bullseye Blues Records issued Nothin' but the Blues, an album of Laury's voice and piano, performing ten of his own compositions. The same year, the Austrian label Wolf Records released a live album, containing concert recordings made in 1987.
|Album title||Record label||Year of release||Sign||Notes|
|Nothing but the Blues||Blue Silver||1980||BS 3006||1980 band|
|Live||Indigo||1982||IND 9606||1980 solo|
|Booker in Paris||EPM Musique||1993||BC 157912|
|Nothin' but the Blues||Bullseye Blues||1994||CD BB 9542||solo|
|Blues on the Prowl||Wolf||1994||120.929 CD||2001 release entitled Live|