Bobby Charles

Born: Feb. 21, 1938 in Abbeville, La.
Died: Jan. 14, 2010

Robert Charles Guidry is one of the pioneers of Swamp Pop. Born into a Cajun family, he grew up in Abbeville, Louisiana, and began performing with a small combo at Mount Carmel High School dances at a very early age. Incredibly, at the age of fourteen, he wrote a song that would firmly establish him in Rock 'N Roll history. "See You Later Alligator" caught the attention of Leonard Chess of  Chess Records.

 

Chess arranged for the young Louisiana singer to record the song in Cosimo Matassa's studio in New Orleans. The song gained immediate popularity. Chess signed Charles as an artist for his label and dropped Guidry from his name, feeling that Bobby Charles would be more memorable. Charles became the only white artist on an all-black label, touring with Chuck Berry and others.

 

Soon after, Bill Haley and the Comets recorded a cover version of "See You Later Alligator.” A worldwide hit, it helped to establish Bill Haley as the father of Rock 'N Roll. Charles continued to grow as a songwriter, achieving critical acclaim for his 1971 self-titled album for Bearsville Records. His compositions include “Walking to New Orleans” with Fats Domino, and “I Don’t Know Why (But I Do)” with Clarence “Frogman” Henry. When commercial success didn't measure up to creative accomplishments, he moved back to Abbeville to create the children's program, "The Solution to Pollution."

 

Through the years, Charles' songs have been recorded by a variety of artists, including Ray Charles, Etta James, Lou Rawls, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Junior Wells, UB40, Joe Cocker, Muddy Waters, Paul Butterfield, Dr. John, Wilson Pickett, Jackie DeShannon, Tom Jones, Amos Garrett, Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, Bonnie Bramlett, Bo Diddley, Delbert McClinton, David Alan Coe, and Jerry Jeff Walker.

Bobby Charles performs "See You Later Alligator."
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Museum Address: 700 Procter, Port Arthur, TX 77640

The Museum of the Gulf Coast is administered by the Port Arthur Historical Society in partnership with the City of Port Arthur.  

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