"Online since 1999"
Music legend John Fred Gourrier entered eternal life on Friday morning, April 15, 2005, at the age of 63.
He had been hospitalized for an extended period of time at Tulane University Hospital in New Orleans due to complications following surgery. He was a native of Baton Rouge, attended Sacred Heart Academy, and graduated from Catholic High School, where he excelled at basketball and baseball.
As a high school junior, he recorded his first single, "Shirley." His song hit the national pop music charts, and led to appearances on "The Alan Freed Rock & Roll Show" in New York City, which jumpstarted a career in music that spanned more than 40 years.
After graduating with a degree in education from Southeastern Louisiana University, where he set basketball and baseball records that remained unbroken until recent years, John Fred and the Playboys gained widespread recognition in the southeastern United States as a premier show band. Several regional hits, such as "Boogie Children," which was frequently played by Wolfman Jack on his radio show, plus "Up & Down," "Agnes English" and "The Harlem Shuffle" kept John Fred and the Playboys in the forefront of the '60s music scene.
He was best known for his multi-million selling, No. 1 hit song, "Judy in Disguise (with Glasses)." The national and international breakthrough of "Judy in Disguise," recorded in 1967, led to appearances on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" and Dick Clark's "American Bandstand."
John Fred and the Playboys toured internationally, and spent time with many rock 'n' roll icons of that era, including Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles. As a result of the success of "Judy in Disguise," John Fred and the Playboys soon joined Elton John and Neil Diamond on the roster of UNI Records in Los Angeles.
He had great respect and admiration for the art of songwriting and record producing, and produced records for other artists, including Irma Thomas and Fats Domino. He wrote and produced radio commercials and jingles, twice winning the prestigious Clio Award. In 1992, he teamed up with long-time friends G.G. Shinn and Joe Stampley to record the critically acclaimed CD titled "The Louisiana Boys." The last two releases were "I Miss Ya'll," taken from unreleased masters, and "Somebody's Knockin;" however, they never were promoted.
In 2000, he was recognized by Catholic High School as a Grizzly Great in honor of his accomplishments as an athlete while attending Catholic High and for his volunteer efforts in the years following his graduation. He coached youth league baseball for 29 years and, beginning in 1995, became the volunteer head coach of Catholic High School's freshman baseball team. The life lessons taught by John Fred to scores of young men through his coaching left a lasting impression.
One of his proudest accomplishments combined his lifelong passion for music and sports when he wrote and recorded "Baseball At The Box" for the LSU baseball team, coached by his good friend, five-time national champion coach Skip Bertman. Bertman once said that John Fred sent him more great baseball players than anyone else.
In 1991, he was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame, and in 1999, he received the Louisiana Hall of Fame Living Legend Award. Gov. Mike Foster gave special recognition to John Fred for being inducted into the Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame in 2000. He was also inducted into the Music Hall of Fame at the Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur, Texas. On July 4, 2001, he was presented the key to the city by the mayor of Baton Rouge, and Aug. 7, 2004, was declared John Fred Day by the mayor of Plaquemine. He received a special citation of achievement by Broadcast Music Inc.
He was appointed by Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco to serve on the Louisiana Music Commission. In 2001, he originated and hosted the popular local radio show "The Roots of Rock 'n' Roll" on WBRH-FM/KBRH-AM, a nonprofit radio station at Baton Rouge Magnet High School. He did this as a volunteer and enjoyed sharing his music and his experiences with his thousands of listeners.
The station will air an all-day tribute to John Fred on Saturday, April 23. John Fred's life and career touched untold thousands of lives in special ways. His hard work as an entertainer brought joy to an entire generation of young people in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and brought back memories of those special times in the 1980s and 1990s.
Visitation will be at St. Agnes Catholic Church, 729 East Blvd., Baton Rouge, from 10 a.m. Friday, April 22, until Mass of Christian Burial at 11:45 a.m.
He is survived by his loving wife, Sandra Ratcliff Gourrier; son, Kevin Morris Gourrier and wife Jodi of Miami; five step-children, Laurie Bloodworth of Lacombe, Britt Bloodworth of Sacramento, Calif., Clay Bloodworth of New Orleans, Jodi Bloodworth Gourrier of Miami and Chad Bloodworth and wife Jennifer of Covington; four step-grandchildren, Brooklyn, Candice, Vivian and Wesley; two sisters and brothers-in-law, Ann Gourrier Kleinpeter and husband Leonard and Kay Gourrier Begue and husband Sheldon; three nephews, Britton Kleinpeter, Bart Begue and wife Tammy and Briar Kleinpeter and wife Inge; and two nieces, Kelli Kleinpeter Becnel and husband Mike and Jodi Kleinpeter Griffon and husband George. He was preceded in death by his father and mother, John Fred Gourrier Sr. and Miriam Chaisson Gourrier.
Special thanks to Angel Connie Barrios, his kidney donor, and to Dr. Douglas Slakey and the staff of nurses on the Tulane University Hospital & Clinic Abdominal Transplant Unit. Memorial contributions may be sent to The Sister Dulce Foundation, 330 Government St., Baton Rouge, LA 70802 or St. Joseph's Spirituality Center, 2980 Kleinert Ave., Baton Rouge, LA 70806.
Published in The Advocate from Apr. 20 to Apr. 21, 2005.