Larry Busacca, Getty Images Next month, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian will be…
- Posted on Jan 14th 2010 6:25PM by Steve Baltin
He had, and that little exchange led to 'See You Later, Alligator,' which became a monster hit for early rock heroes Bill Haley and the Comets. Singing the song over the phone earned Charles a deal from legendary label Chess Records. Though he could not read music or play an instrument, he put out several albums of his own over the years and became friends with the likes of Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Willie Nelson and Neil Young.
In fact, one of Charles' last big public appearances was in the 1976 Martin Scorsese-directed Band concert film, 'The Last Waltz.' After that, Charles, who dealt with several health issues, including cancer, and lost his home in Hurricane Rita, preferred to remain largely anonymous. Scheduled to appear at the Ponderosa Stomp in 2004 and New Orleans Jazz Fest in 2007 as part of a salute to his music, he canceled both at the last minute.
Charles was happiest as a songwriter, saying in an interview once, "I never wanted to be a star. I've got enough problems, I promise you. If I could make it just writing, I'd be happy. Thank God I've been lucky enough to have a lot of people do my songs."
Although Charles' biggest hits came at the advent of rock 'n' roll, he remained a popular composer with everyone from Joe Cocker and Muddy Waters to Kris Kristofferson and Tab Benoit covering his songs over the years. He was due to release a new album, 'Timeless,' next month. His manager, Jim Bateman, told the Times-Picayune that the record, dedicated to Fats Domino, was foremost on Charles' mind. "He kept saying, 'I've got to get this out. I want to hold it in my hands,'" Bateman said. "It's like he had a premonition." Sadly, that premonition came true as Charles saw the album artwork but never got to hold the record in his hands. As of now, the record is slated for a Feb. 23 release.