Without Esquerita, there might have been no Little Richard, hence no Prince and no Elton John—and no rock ‘n roll as we know it. Little Richard himself credited Esquerita with showing him how to pound the piano with intensity and soul.
There’s no arguing Little Richard’s talent, importance and the daring artistry that influenced virtually every rock ‘n roll and soul performer who would follow.
But reading about Esquerita in Martin Aston’s 2017 book on LGBTQ musicians, Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache: How Music Came Out, opened my eyes to many other virtually unknown artists who paved the way for all of the popular music we love—country, rock, jazz, soul, gospel, and the blues.
Esquerita also taught me that the roots of rock ‘n roll were planted not only in Macon and Memphis, but of all places, my birthplace in South Carolina.
His birth name is believed to be Eskew Reeder, and he was likely in his late teens when he sashayed into the life of a young Richard Wayne Penniman, who was hanging out a bus station café in his hometown of Macon, Georgia.
When Esquerita got off the bus, Little Richard spotted him and said, "Oh boy!"
Read more about Esquerita's influence on Little Richard, hear some of Reeder's own wild music and more, in my full feature for the online magazine Country Queer.