Born in Northern Ireland but raised in Woolwich, South London, Lou learned to play piano at a young age. Taking classical piano lessons and reaching a high grade he also started to listen to the blues and boogie pianists who would influence his professional style..notably Memphis Slim, Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis.
The potent combination of these styles combined with Lou's own talent and enthusiasm created a powerful and exciting young player, and when Killing Floor came to visit in 1968, after Lou had answered an ad in the Melody Maker music paper, they were knocked out.
Lou's style was an important part of the early Killing Floor sound and his playing received excellent reviews. Highlights of this time included touring with Freddie King and an impromtu piano "contest" with the great Otis Spann, one of Lou's heroes. When the initial band band broke up as the British blues boom waned, Lou went on to work with numerous other projects, before rejoining Killing Floor towards the end of their life, (first incarnation) along with Bill Thorndycraft, Rod De'Ath, Mick Clarke and Stan Dekker on bass.
When Killing Floor finally metamorphosed into the new Cliff Bennett band, the third incarnation of Toefat, Lou was there.. indeed it was he who had introduced the band to Cliff. But almost immediately a new call came, from one Mr. Rory Gallagher.
Rod De'Ath was already working with Rory, and had told him about this fiery pianist that he knew. Rory was intrigued, and after a quick audition he augmented his three piece band with, for the first time, keyboards. The line-up stayed together for seven years and toured extensively all over the world. They played major venues such as the Albert Hall in London, The Hollywood Bowl and Budokan in Japan. In the course of their American tours Lou jammed with Otis Rush in his Chicago club and was asked to join Albert Collins' band. A full length feature film was made of their Irish tour by producer Tony Palmer, and shown on general release around the world. Five albums were released.. "Tattoo" "Blueprint" "Calling Card" "Against the Grain" and the huge selling "Irish Tour".
When their time with Rory was finally over, Rod and Lou decided to fulfil a long time ambition and put a band together with Mick Clarke and "Mac" McDonald. With Stevie Smith fronting the band they formed "Ramrod". The band toured Ireland and had some success in London, but unfortunately the times were against it.. punk music had arrived, and bands such as Ramrod had no chance at all of securing a record contract. Despite the valiant efforts of band members, particularly Rod deAth, the band broke up after just a year.
Lou and Rod were now booked for a tour of Europe backing Chuck Berry. The tour line up included Muddy Waters and was a huge success, being repeated soon afterwards. Lou returned from the tour with numerous hilarious stories of life on the road with Chuck.
Over the following years Lou took up long residencies as a solo pianist, and also recorded with Mick Clarke on several of his albums. In the early 1990's he joined up with Scottish band "Blues'n'Trouble", relocated to Edinburgh and went back on the road full time. The band recorded several albums and toured extensively across Europe. Following this Lou worked full time with Mick Clarke's band, again touring regularly across Europe, and played on the duo album "Happy Home" and the re-union Killing Floor album "Zero Tolerance".
Lou continued to work with various projects such as the "Band of Friends" and other Gallagher tributes. He also worked occasionally with Nine Below Zero and Gwyn Ashton.
Lou suffered a stroke a few years before his death and was unable to continue playing his piano, although he continued to have a lively interest in music, especially blues and classical. He then developed cancer and had to bear a lot of pain and discomfort in his last years but bore it with fortitude. In 2012 he took a short holiday and died in hospital early on Friday 17th August - deeply missed by his friends, family and colleagues, but leaving behind great music and memories of great times.
From Mick Clarke:
Lou was a close friend from the time we met in 1968 to his death in 2012. We just got on, socially and musically - very much the same tastes in music - ie great blues! And unusually for a pianist, Lou totally appreciated the great guitarists such as Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, and of course the Kings. And I loved the great piano players - Otis Spann and others, so our tastes kind of crossed over. Lou also loved and appreciated classical music, and good down to earth rock'n'roll and country. But if he thought anything was remotely phony he was having none of it. The Bowies and Elton Johns of the world got short shrift, regardless of their undoubted talents. With Lou you were in or out musically.
Socially, everybody was in. You were welcome to be regaled by Lou's hilarious tales and quirky look at the world. Ordinary words became catch phrases and would have the room in fits. You had to be there. the world is a sadder place without Lou, but we have our memories and we have his music. Enjoy his playing and raise a glass - Rock on Lou.
Top photo: Bill Thorndycraft. Lou with Chuck Berry, Alexander Palace London 1979 by courtesy of David Cooper.