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Rockie Charles

Charles Merrick, hailing from Boothville, Louisiana, was born on November 14, 1942. He inherited the love for guitar from his father, Earlington Merrick, a well-known blues musician who performed in various juke joints across Plaquemines Parish. 

 

When Charles was 13 years old, he relocated to the 9th Ward of New Orleans and studied at the Houston School of Music on North Claiborne Avenue. His studies helped him acquire skills in music notation and composition. During segregation, the shores of Lake Ponchartrain hosted Lincoln Beach, an African-American amusement park where Charles often participated in talent contests alongside famous performers such as Ernie K-Doe and Aaron Neville. 

 

Being a teenager did not deter him from showcasing his abilities on stage. While attending Caffin High School, Charles was a member of the Eagles, an R&B band in his neighborhood. However, in the 10th grade, he left school and began working as a deckhand in Venice, Louisiana. While in Venice, he drew inspiration from the dynamic R&B musician Guitar Slim which led him to establish a new band called the Gadges Soulful Band upon returning to his hometown of New Orleans at the age of 18. The band performed at Tulane University fraternity parties and various clubs and dance venues in the neighboring areas. 

 

Still in his teens, Charles became one of the youngest African-Americans to captain a tugboat on the Mississippi River while still dedicating himself to pursuing his passion for music. Despite being rejected by Dave Bartholomew of Imperial Records and Allen Toussaint at Instant and Minit, he eventually inked a deal with Black Patch Records in the mid-1960s. Under this label, he dropped the iconic albums "Mr. Rickashay" and "Sinking Like A Ship," which have become highly sought-after collectibles. 

 

During the late 1960s, the Gadges performed in package tours on the Chitlin circuit, where they had the privilege of being the opening act for renowned musicians such as O.V. Wright, Percy Sledge, and Otis Redding. Charles established his own record label in the 1970s and unveiled "The President of Soul," a track that would earn him his lifelong nickname. In addition, he recorded the socially conscious "Show My People Around The Curve," a heartfelt political ballad that tackled the numerous challenges confronting African Americans following the tumultuous initial stages of the civil rights era.

 

 Charles experienced a local resurgence in his career during the late 90s after he advertised in Offbeat magazine's Louisiana Music Directory. In 1996, Charles' "Born For You" album was released on the Orleans Records label by singer-songwriter Carlo Ditta, who responded to the ad. 

 

 Rockie Charles died on Friday, March 12, 2010, after a bout with cancer. He was 67 years old.

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Rockie Charles
Born For You

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