THE ICON: Earl King
THE LEGACY: As a high school student, Earl Johnson held such varied interests — cartooning, painting, chemistry — that a teacher nicknamed him “Da Vinci” in a nod to the teenager’s Renaissance ways. It was with music, however, that he would make his living. It was also with music that Johnson, after assuming the stage name Earl King in the early 1950s, would leave a lasting mark on New Orleans. For more than 50 years, the songwriter, guitarist and philosopher reigned over the city’s R&B scene, composing and recording hundreds of songs — including such local standards as “Big Chief,” “Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)” and “Trick Bag” — that would serve to inspire generations of younger players and which have provided the soundtrack to countless New Orleans lives.
THE ARTIST: Gabriel Flores
THE INSPIRATION: “‘Come On’ might be the one that people know, but I wish the world would hear more of his songs. He approached songs from different angles, from different places in life. Allen Toussaint went a certain way as a songwriter. Earl went a different way. There isn’t one word to sum up the Earl King way of writing a song and approaching music.” — Dr. John, in 2003