Director Lily Keber’s acclaimed new documentary film Bayou Maharajah: The Tragic Genius of James Booker, will be shown on Wednesday, September 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Neon (130 E. Fifth St., Dayton). Keber will be on hand to introduce the film and lead a discussion about the movie following the screening. Admission is $10. Advance tickets are available at the Neon.
James Booker, “The Piano Prince of New Orleans” who died 30 years ago this fall, was a mercurial figure in New Orleans, a prodigy who was leaving his mark on legendary R&B records while still in his teens. A spectacularly gifted pianist and vocalist whose style melded blues, jazz, soul, gospel and classical influences with New Orleans rhythms, his sound defied categorization.
Booker taught players like Harry Connick, Jr., and Dr. John, who described Booker as “the best black, gay, one-eyed junkie piano genius New Orleans has ever produced.” As a sideman during his career, Booker played with the likes of Fats Domino, King Curtis, T-Bone Walker, Ringo Starr, Maria and Geoff Muldaur, Labelle, Joe Tex (including on his big hit “I Gotcha”), The Coasters, and the Doobie Brothers. His outrageous solo career was characterized by virtuoso performance, his bigger-than-life personality, and onstage performances in his underwear, dishing out drug-fueled conspiracy theories.
The movie includes archival footage of Booker in performance plus reflections by fellow musicians, observers and collaborators from the Crescent City and beyond which include Harry Connick Jr., Dr. John, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Charles Neville, Hugh Laurie, Douglas Brinkley and many others. The film was introduced at the 2013 South By Southwest festival, where its final screening sold out, and has subsequently sold out screenings at the Film Society at Lincoln Center, Outfest and the Melbourne International Film Festival.
“This winning doc features a can’t miss subject and plenty of performance footage,” said The Hollywood Reporter, calling it a “must see for aficionados of New Orleans music [that is] also accessible to viewers who don’t know a Professor Longhair from a Dr. John.”