Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Bobby Charles

Bobby Charles, the outstanding Louisiana singer songwriter, has died aged 71.

Born Robert Charles Guidry at Abbeville, Louisiana, his early musical influences were the cajun style and Hank Williams. But at the age of 15, he heard a performance by Fats Domino, and this had a huge effect on him.

On leaving a cafe one day, he called to a friend "see you later, alligator", and a wit in the room responded by calling out "in a while, crocodile". Bobby ran home and wrote a song based on this, which he at first called "Later, Alligator".

This song, under the title "See You Later Alligator" became one of the earliest rock`n`roll standards when recorded by the hugely popular Bill Haley and the Comets.

Bobby Charles, although a pleasing singer, never achieved much popularity as a performer, but several of his songs were picked up by others. "Before I Grow Too Old", recorded by Fats Domino, was written by Bobby, even though the record label credited the usual Domino-Bartholomew as composers.

Other songs which became popular were "(I Don`t Know Why I Love You) But I Do", recorded by Clarence "Frogman" Henry, and "Walking to New Orleans" (Domino again).

In 1972, he recorded the excellent album "Bobby Charles". Charlie Gillet, who on radio and in print always was supportive of my rock films initiative at the Classic Cinemas in Westcliff, regarded it, as I did, as a truly outstanding album.

Among the tracks was his own driving version of "Before I Grow Too Old", and the beautifully understated "Small Town Talk".

When I hosted the last of my famous late night parties at Westcliff, before leaving the area, the journalist John Allan, in charge of the music, played "Small Town Talk", which he dedicated, to much applause, to me.

When The Band played their last concert, entitled "The Last Waltz", one of the many guest stars (along with Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Dr. John and many more) was Bobby Charles. He can be heard singing "Down South in New Orleans" on the album, but director Martin Scorsese cut this performance out of the film.

Bobby Charles had been living in some obscurity for some years, although he had been working on an album of some of his major work over the years. In poor health with diabetes and in remission from cancer, he collapsed and died at home on 14th January 2010, aged 71.

Thanks for enriching so many of our lives, Bobby.