DOROTHY LABOSTRIE

Born 28 May 1928, Rayland, Kentucky
Died 4 November 2007, Atlanta, Georgia

Dorothy Labostrie? Wasn't that the woman who cleaned up the lyrics of "Tutti Frutti", your first reaction will be. We'll see.

Dorothy was born in a small mining town in rural Kentucky. Her father, Amos Labostrie, came from a New Orleans creole family, but moved north to find work not long after his second marriage. After a mining accident, the Labostries moved to Mobile, Alabama, while Dorothy was still a child. She left Mobile in 1941 and headed for New Orleans to look for her father's relatives. There she went to a lot of clubs to hear music. Ever since she was in school she loved to write poems and sing. Dorothy knew that she wanted to do something musically but she wasn't sure just what it was. Labostrie's break came when Specialty Records, from Hollywood, brought Little Richard to Cosimo's Studio for his first session for the label. Interviewed by Jeff Hannusch for his book "I Hear You Knockin'", Dorothy remembered, "I was listening to the radio and an announcement came on that immediately caught my attention. It said that Bumps Blackwell [Specialty's producer] was looking for songwriters. Well, as soon as I heard where he was gonna be, I decided I was gonna be a songwriter. I was working as a cook for a lady and I told her that I had to quit because I was going to write a hit record. Well, she probably thought I was crazy, but that's exactly what I did. I practically broke Cosimo's door down the next day. Little Richard was sitting at the piano and it was the first time I'd ever laid eyes on him. I just asked to hear his voice and I sat down and put "Tutti Frutti" down on paper in 15 minutes." When confronted with Little Richard's claim that he in fact wrote the rock 'n' roll classic, Labostrie just laughed. "Little Richard didn't write none of 'Tutti Frutti'. I'll tell you exactly how I came to write that. I used to live on Galvez Street and my girlfriend and I liked to go down to the drug store and buy ice cream. One day we went in and saw this new flavor, Tutti Frutti. Right away I thought, 'Boy, that's a great idea for a song'. So I kept it in the back of my mind until I got to the studio that day. I also wrote the flip side of 'Tutti Frutti', 'I'm Just A Lonely Guy', and a spiritual, 'Blessed Mother', all in the same day."

That's the lady's story, folks! I advise you to take it with a grain of salt, though. After "Tutti Frutti", one would have expected Specialty to beat Labostrie's door down to get new material. But except for contributing the rousing "Rich Woman" for Li'l Millet, such was not the case. Her next opportunity, on a smaller scale, came in the form of Joe Ruffino, who was looking for material for his local labels, Ric and Ron. She persuaded gospel singer Johnny Adams, who lived in the same building, to record secular material, in particular her composition "I Won't Cry" (which wasn't a hit until it was rereleased in 1970). Labostrie was also responsible for supplying Irma Thomas' first record, the bawdy ("You Can Have My Husband But Please) Don't Mess With My Man", which went to # 22 on the R&B charts in 1960. Dorothy continued to write material in the sixties. She claims to have written "hundreds of songs", of which twenty-seven were recorded at least once, if the BMI files are anything to go by. (I must add that these 27 include both "Tutti Frutti" and "Wopbabalubop".)

Now living in New York, she seems to be living quite comfortably on her writing royalties, which come in every few months. From "Tutti Frutti", Labostrie claims she receives on the average of $ 5000 every three to six months. That was in the eighties, but I don't think much has changed since then.

(Based on page 219-224 of "I Hear You Knockin'" by Jeff Hannusch. Ville Platte, LA : Swallow Publications, 1985.)

 
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