|Birth: ||Dec. 1, 1926|
|Death: ||Feb. 26, 2003|
Article by Bill Ellis
Published in The Commercial Appeal
February 23, 2003
Drummer and singer Earl Lacy Forest, one of the legendary "Beale Streeters," died of cancer on Wednesday at Memphis Veterans Medical Center. He was 76.
Born in Memphis, Mr. Forest worked in a number of capacities throughout his musical career from performing and songwriting to Artists & Repertoire and studio engineering.
The Beale Streeters were an informal group of musical friends in the early '50s that played together throughout the Mid-South and on each other's recordings. They included future R&B and blues stars Bobby Bland, Johnny Ace, Junior Parker and Rosco Gordon.
B. B. King is sometimes considered a member, though he was more an excuse for the Beale Streeters to perform, and one version of the group - with Mr. Forest, Ace and saxophonist Billy Duncan - played on King's 1951 classic Three O'Clock Blues. Mr. Forest and the Beale Streeters were also on some of Bland's first sides, including the 1951 Sam Phillips-produced Chess single A Letter from a Trench in Korea and Bland's first Duke single, 1952's I.O.U. Blues. The group's moniker was coined by WDIA program director and Duke Records founder James David Mattis. All the Beale Streeters worked for Duke including Mr. Forest, who had his own hits at the label, notably Whoopin' and Hollerin'.
"We never called ourselves the Beale Streeters," said Mr. Forest a few years back. "That was (Mattis's) thing. In a sense, you could say he put us together, but we all had our individual gigs. Part of the time, I was playing one place, Bobby'd be playing another, Junior Parker was playing somewhere else. But whichever one finished up (a) gig first would go where the other was playing and help out. . . . I think it was the best little group that was around the city at the time."
Mr. Forest was also a songwriter and established himself later writing songs for Bland, Parker, Little Milton and others. Among his tunes is the standard Next Time You See Me, recorded by Parker, James Cotton, Nancy Wilson, the Grateful Dead and others. Mr. Forest composed in recent years with Malaco songsmith George Jackson, and the duo had co-written numerous tunes for Johnnie Taylor and Bland at the label.
Mr. Forest, can be heard on the B. B. King boxed set, "King of the Blues," and several Bland anthologies.
He most recently appeared on Robert 'Nighthawk' Tooms's album, "Selector Shoes." Tooms said Mr. Forest not only gave him his nickname but gave the local keyboardist entry into the blues world through bookings and mutual gigs.
"Earl Forest was my mentor," says Tooms. "He passed along the blues tradition very freely, one of the kindest people I've ever known in my life."
Mr. Forest, the husband of Blanche Forest, also leaves two daughters, Donisha McDaniel and Sharon Byrd, and two sons, Earl L. Forest Jr. and Michael O. Forest, all of Memphis; a half-sister, Sara Jennings of South Euclid, Ohio; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Services will be at 11:30 a.m. Monday at New Antioch Missionary Baptist Church with burial in West Tennessee Veterans Cemetery. M. J. Edwards and Sons Funeral Home Whitehaven Chapel has charge.
Note: PVT US ARMY, WORLD WAR II
West Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery
Plot: Section R, Site 8952
Created by: Carole McCaig
Record added: Sep 23, 2007
Find A Grave Memorial# 21726100