Who shot the La-La? (1 Viewer)

superchuck500

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So I have randomly stumbled upon a mystery that is beyond the mere question of Who Shot the La-La.

We all know it was a .44 – but the question for the ages is, who shot him? The song states that the shooter ran from the building, and proposes that it was possibly High Head, Jo Round, or Abazone John – but little more is offered in the way of facts about the incident.

Willy DeVille:Who Shot The La-La Lyrics - Lyric Wiki - song lyrics, music lyrics

But after some lunchtime research, I now wonder who is the La-La and whether he was shot at all.

According to conventional wisdom, the La-La is Lawrence Nelson, a/k/a “Prince La La” – the Ninth Ward musician from an accomplished musician family and childhood friend of Oliver Morgan, who recorded the hit “Who Shot the La-La” in 1964. Several sources conclude, without much discussion, that the La-La was Nelson, and Oliver Morgan – after Nelson’s death in 1963 – penned the song about his dead friend.

Prince La La - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Prince La La - Music Biography, Credits and Discography : AllMusic

But these sources indicate that Prince La La Nelson was not shot – but actually died of a drug overdose in 1963, the year before the song, at the age of 27. There is nothing in the limited information online to suggest that Prince La La was ever shot.

Yet, the song seems quite clear that the La La was shot and shot by a .44. Though the lyrics never suggest that the shooting was fatal, the incident seemed traumatic. So is it possible that the La-La isn’t Prince La La Nelson at all – but rather, the song memorializes another incident, from the lore of Storyville-era New Orleans?

According to mystery writer Robert Robertson, there was a powerful Frenchman operating in the Storyville district known as the “La La” (and the “Duke of the District”). As Robertson tells it, on the Easter morning of March 23, 1913, the La La was shot in a dramatic gun battle capping what had begun as a dance-hall “feud.” The incident was well known at the time and apparently cited in 1917 by the Secretary of the Navy who complained that port city red-light districts were often violent and should be shut down to protect servicemen in-port.

Amazon.com: Who Shot the La-La? (9781552129876): Robert P. Robertson: Books

Upon further research, however, Robertson’s “La La” story may have been inspired by what is known as the “Easter Massacre” in 1913, Storyville (New Orleans), an event that shattered the status quo in the district and resulted in the closing of the popular Tuxedo Dance Hall (and signaled the end of the Storyville dance hall era), but there does not appear to be anyone associated with the event that was known as the “La La.”

As the story goes:

William Phillips and Harry Parker had been partners at the '102 Ranch'. Parker sold out to Phillips and promised not to open a competing establishment in the vicinity but then opened the 'Tuxedo Dance Hall' across the street. A rivalry began and escalated to the point where Parker hired 'Gyp the Blood' [New York gangster Charles Harrison] to kill Phillips. Parker's plan was to kill Phillips, blame it on 'Gyp' and immediately kill him. While standing at his 'Tuxedo Dance Hall' bar, Phillips was fatally shot in the back. Parker shot 'Gyp'. The plan backfired when 'Gyp' in turn killed Parker.
1913 Storyville

According to this You Tube clip, the “massacre” killed 40 people – not just the three identified in the above recap. In this audio clip, musician Manny Manetta, who was in the Tuxedo hall’s band at the time of the shooting, tells the story.

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/Vk46MY48hko" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

It&#8217;s hard to really hear him completely, but I didn&#8217;t hear anything about a La-La or even someone who sounded French.

So here we have a mystery. The ostensible &#8220;La-La&#8221; doesn&#8217;t appear to have been shot. And it is quite likely that Oliver Morgan would have known of the story of the 1913 Easter Massacre &#8211; perhaps a bit of New Orleans lore that could clearly serve as a colorful inspiration to a song like &#8220;Who Shot the La-La.&#8221; Robertson&#8217;s book about the Duke of the District, known as the La La being gunned down in the shooting would seem to shed true light on the identity of the La La, but upon further review, it could simply be that Robertson is a fiction writer who fused the story of the Easter Massacre with Oliver Morgan&#8217;s 1964 hit to serve as the story for his book &#8220;based&#8221; on a true story.

Oliver Morgan died in 2007 after Katrina caused him to relocate to Atlanta. I&#8217;m sure the true identity of the La-La is well known in the Ninth Ward. Perhaps it simply is Prince La La Nelson and perhaps he was shot as some point prior to his death by drug overdose. Perhaps it really has nothing to do with the 1913 Easter Massacre in Storyville.

But at this point, the song seems to answer itself . . . &#8220;I don&#8217;t know.&#8221;
 

Zack Lee

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I have read a few history books that included sections on Storyville and yet somehow I have missed any mention of an Easter Massacre. I know that the military leader played an important roll in closing it down but did not know that they cited violence as a major concern. Was Thomas Anderson already done with it?
 

boutte

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I don't know.


<iframe width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/KPH5pC1kReI" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
 

B-Rich

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Bringing this back from the dead, as today is the date on which Oliver "Who Shot the La-La?" Morgan died, and there was an article/mention on him on Facebook, which led me down the rabbit hole of further research once I found that there was an actual musician named La-La, etc. and of course said web searches actually led me back here (this is what is passed off as "working" when you're heading off to Florida tomorrow).

As suggested by the conversation in the link below, the song may have a different meaning of the the term "shot", with shot meaning injected, not shot with a bullet. Shot with an fatal injection of Heroin. And it was a little shady; even Dr. John thinks he may have been done in.

But what about the term "it was a .44"? Surely that means he's talking about a gun? Not so fast. A .44 may have been slang for a big shot of H, an overdose shot.

Home of the Groove: How La La Became A Prince
Home of the Groove: Hey, Fellas!

Lawrence Nelson, the actual "Prince La-La" of the 9th Ward:
 

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superchuck500

superchuck500

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But what about the term "it was a .44"? Surely that means he's talking about a gun? Not so fast. A .44 may have been slang for a big shot of H, an overdose shot.

That was certainly a question that remained on the overdose theory discussed in the OP. But if that's indeed slang for a big hit of H, that would go pretty far to support the idea.

Nice work.
 

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