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. He appeared in two films, but
did not record his debut album until he was almost eighty years of age.
Lawrence 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
gained from regular 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
In 1935, Sykes suggested to Laury and Slim that they relocated to Chicago,
with a view of obtaining a recording contract. Slim took up 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 Memphis' Beale Street, as that area
started to degenerate, Laury traveled around Tennessee, Arkansas and
Missouri. Despite differing fortunes, the friendship with Slim did not
diminish over the years, up to Slim's death in 1988.
In the 1989 Dennis Quaid film, Great Balls of Fire!, the plot had a young
Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart, look into a juke joint to see Laury
playing 'Big Legged Woman'. This attention led to Laury having the
opportunity to record later in his life.
Laury appeared in the 1991 documentary film, Deep Blues: A Musical
Pilgrimage to the Crossroads. In the film, Laury played 'Memphis Blues' in
his own living room.
Laury finally recorded his debut album in his late seventies. In 1993,
Bullseye Blues Records issued Nothin' But the Blues, which simply
incorporated Laury's voice and piano playing his own compositions. The
following year, Wolf Records released a live album, containing concert
recordings made in 1987.
Booker T. Laury died of cancer, in September 1995 in Memphis, at the age of
81. He has a brass note on Beale's Walk of Fame.