Dorothy LaBostrie

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Dorothy LaBostrie towers among the most prolific and popular songwriters to emerge from the New Orleans R&B community, authoring classics including Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti," Johnny Adams' "I Won't…
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Dorothy LaBostrie towers among the most prolific and popular songwriters to emerge from the New Orleans R&B community, authoring classics including Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti," Johnny Adams' "I Won't Cry," and Irma Thomas' "(You Can Have My Husband, But Please) Don't Mess With My Man." According to Jeff Hannusch's book I Hear You Knockin', she was born May 18, 1938, in Rayland, KY, and raised in Mobile, AL, relocating to New Orleans at 13 to seek out her father's Creole roots. While working as a domestic and waitress, LaBostrie frequented the blues joints up and down Rampart Street -- in her spare hours, she also wrote poetry.

Shortly after Specialty Records signed Little Richard and he arrived in New Orleans in mid-1955 to record at producer Cosimo Matassa's now-legendary studio, local radio broadcast the news that Specialty producer Bumps Blackwell was searching for songwriters. LaBostrie visited Matassa's studio the next day, and after hearing Richard sing, she claimed she wrote "Tutti Frutti" in about 15 minutes, although accounts of the song's origins vary greatly. Nevertheless one of the truly landmark records in the history of rock & roll, "Tutti Frutti" launched Richard into the stratosphere but did little for LaBostrie's career in the short term -- Specialty offered an exclusive contract she refused to sign, and the label purchased only one more of her songs, Li'l Millet's "Rich Woman."

She next landed with Joe Ruffino's local labels Ric and Ron; while in her apartment working on the devastating "I Won't Cry," from down the hall LaBostrie heard neighbor Johnny Adams singing gospel. She asked him to perform a few lines of "I Won't Cry," declaring the roofer perfect for the song and convincing Ruffino to sign him to a recording deal. She also launched the career of Irma Thomas, likewise tapping the 18-year-old ideal for the saucy "Don't Mess With My Man." But LaBostrie's relationship with Ruffino soon hit the skids amidst claims she never received a cent for any of her hits for the label, and she then signed with Matassa's White Cliffs Publishing, writing hundreds of songs over the next several years. Many were recorded, but none of them enjoyed the commercial success or longevity of her previous efforts.

In 1970, LaBostrie was injured in a car accident, and following the death of her mother she relocated to New York City, effectively quitting the music business. Although she continued writing, her late-period material focused almost exclusively on the church.