Born: May 8, 1941 in Baton Rouge, La.
Died: April 14, 2005
John Fred Gourrier joined his first band with classmates in Baton Rouge. His friends were simply known as "white boys, doing black soul music." Local businessman Sam Montalbano regularly booked the band to perform at dances, and soon set forth with recording their single "Shirley" co-written by John Fred and Tommy Bryan. At just 16, John Fred was recording "Shirley" in the Cosimo Matassa studio in New Orleans backed up by Fats Domino's band. In 1959, the success of "Shirley" led John Fred to New York City to appear on rock 'n' roll pioneer Alan Freed's radio show.
By 1966, John Fred was re-thinking his R&B approach, ultimately making a successful leap to the Top 40 that eluded other Louisiana soul bands of the era. With a sound that leaned more heavily toward the pop rock of the day, he found a new groove, with his Paula Records singles "Up and Down" and "Agnes English" each enjoying an eight-week ride at No. 1 in New Orleans. Regional successes such as these paved the way for John Fred's most popular hit "Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)," a song that was partially inspired by the Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky (With Diamonds)." "Judy in Disguise" was an immediate smash hit for John Fred & the Playboy Band in 1968. To date, the song has sold more than 5 million copies. After its success, John Fred decided to leave Paula Records and joined the likes of Elton John and Neil Diamond on the roster of Los Angeles-based Uni Records.
In 1979, John Fred began producing records for other artists, including Irma Thomas' critically acclaimed comeback album, Safe With Me. He has also written, performed and produced jingles for such advertisers as Greyhound Bus Lines, Decker Hot Dogs, and Ban Deodorant as well as the song "Baseball at the Box" for Louisiana State University's baseball team.