The ‘Prince of the Blues’ was a gospel Blues shouter from Atlanta whose elaborate costumes, effeminate make-up and extravagant stage show was a model for his protege, Little Richard. After a stellar recording debut this ‘Prince’, a.k.a. Billy Wright, had a busy five year recording career that stopped abruptly around the time Little Richard hit the big time.
In 1951, Billy introduced the young Richard Penneman to his friend, the DJ ‘Daddy’ Sears who helped Little Richard get his first recording contract with RCA, and his first records were closely modelled on Billy’s style. Billy himself continued to record successfully for Savoy, usually with rocking sax man Fred Jackson on board, until 1955 when he signed with Don Robey‘s Peacock Records in Houston. This was not a good partnership and the new set-up was out of tune with the wave of Rock’n’Roll records that swept the country. Billy cut a few more tracks for the Fire and Carollton labels in the late 50s, but he found himself all washed up before he was 30. Billy made a living as an MC on the Atlanta club scene until he had a stroke in 1971, and he passed away in his hometown in 1991.