" ... John Fred strode into the studios of KALB radio in Alexandria in the summer of 1966 bearing a copy of his brand new single release: "Sun City". You really had to be into Swamp Rock, which I was, to appreciate that song, which I did. I played it so often, it sounded like the hiss of a steam engine in the background. After hearing that, John stopped by to thank me, and shoved a half dozen copies into my hand. "Please don't stop playing it until these wear out," he laughed. "Then call me and I'll bring some more." Well, it never made many charts, but it was and always will be my favorite John Fred song...."
"Judy In Disguise" was his only National Chart hit. It was written by the Louisiana native who was born John Fred Gourrier. John was allready a well known Louisiana artist when he heard The Beatles "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds". John liked the ring of "disguise" over "the sky" and felt the Beatles had missed the opportunity to do a sequel, so he did it for them. Hence, Judy In Disguise was born, with some perfectly nonsensical lyrics, including the famous line from a Playtex living bra commercial.i.e., "Cross your heart, with your living bra" The band didn't want to do such a teeny bopper song and they hated the ending ("I guess I'll just take your glasses")
Born John Fred Gourrier in Baton Rouge May 8, 1941; he was married and had one son; John died in New Orleans University Hospital on April 15, 2005 of a kidney ailment.
His father was a professional baseball player, but Gourrier needed little encouragement to play sport at Catholic High School. Growing to six foot five, he became increasingly skilled at basketball and he was awarded an athletic scholarship to a university in Louisiana.
Gourrier became interested in black rhythm and blues after hearing Fats Domino's "Goin' to the River". In 1956 he formed a band with his school chum and at first they called themselves the Redcaps. Later they changed it to The Playboys, inspired by a copy of Playboy magazine one of the group members brought to a practice session.
In 1958 Sam Montalbano, who promoted dances in Baton Rouge, was so impressed that took them into the legendary Cosimo's studio in New Orleans for a session. The band followed Fats Domino, who was recording "Whole Lotta Lovin' ", and some of Fat's band members helped out on John's original "Shirley". The record became a regional hit but Montalbano had poor distribution and put a photograph of the band in a trade paper. When the disc-jockeys realized the band was not black but white, they stopped playing the record. John returned to his studies.
In 1959, the success of "Shirley" led John Fred to New York City to appear on rock 'n' roll pioneer Alan Freed's radio show.
Around 1964 he established a new group, John Fred and the Playboy Band. Their version of "Boogie Children" combined John Lee Hooker's "Boogie Chillen" with Frankie Lee Sims's "Walkin' with Frankie" and was a regional success, as was "Up and Down" and "Agnes English". The international breakthrough came with "Judy in Disguise (With Glasses)". The title was inspired by seeing girls in Fort Lauderdale sporting large sunglasses which disguised their features. As well as the obvious nod to the Beatles (for example, "lemonade pies" for "marshmallow skies"), the up-tempo dance number owed something to the bass line from "Rescue Me" by Fontella Bass. The record topped the US charts, ironically replacing the Beatles' "Hello Goodbye".
To date, the song has sold more than 5 million copies. After its success, John Fred decided to leave Paula Records and joined the likes of Elton John and Neil Diamond on the roster of Los Angeles-based Uni Records.
In 1969 Gourrier was introduced to Elvis Presley, who praised "Boogie Children". The Playboy Band made three albums but had no further hit singles, although, in 1982, "Shirley" was recorded by Shakin' Stevens and went into the UK Top Ten.
In 1979, John Fred began producing records for other artists, including Irma Thomas' critically acclaimed comeback album, Safe With Me. He has also written, performed and produced jingles for such advertisers as Greyhound Bus Lines, Decker Hot Dogs and Ban Deodorant as well as the song "Baseball at the Box" for Louisiana State University's baseball team. He also coached basketball.
John Fred & His Playboy Band was formed in 1955 by 14-year old John Fred Gourrier, a basketball/baseball player at LSU and Southeastern Louisiana University as “The Redcaps”, but in 1956 one of the members of the group who was a big reader of Playboy magazine suggested they rename the group to “The Playboys”. Sam Montalbano”, the president and owner of “Montel” records who also managed the local Catholic Youth Center would hold dances and sock hops. He booked John and his group and a close friend Johnny Ramistella (better known as Johnny Rivers) to as many of them as they could make. With his help the group released a few singles to little success, and they toured the US with Jimmy Clanton, Roy Orbison, Thomas Wayne and Duane Eddy. In 1960 John decides to attend college and at 6 foot 5 inches tall was a decent basketball player. After graduation he formed a new group and they started recording and releasing singleson the small independent label “N Joy” records, like Boogie Children (John Lee Hooker), Dial 101 (Cause I Still Love You), You’re Mad At Me and How Can I Prove. In July 1966 they sign a new contract with Paula records in Shreveport, LA owned by Stan Lewis and in December they released they debut album “John Fred & His Playboys” but it failed to make the charts. It is followed up by sme singles that did go to #1 in Louisiana charts, but again fails to make the national singles charts.
On 25 November 1967 they released “Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)” composed by both Fred and Andrew, that was a parody of “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” by the Beatles. By 20 January the next year Judy had supplanted “Hello Goodbye” by the Beatles, as the number one record in the U.S. It stayed at #1 in the US for 2 weeks and peaked at #3 in the UK. Fred once stated, "Judy In Disguise" was a once in a lifetime thing. That song was us, but we were so much more, and most people never got to know that side of us."
Because of the success of Judy the group was invited to appear on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson”. They also released their second album titled 㦎:40 Of John Fred” which was the length of time of all 12 of the songs that appeared on it but it never made the charts. They did released several LPs and singles but with with little or no success and they split in 1970.
In 1978 John began producing records for other artists, including Irma Thomas. He also went on to become vice president of RCS (Record Company of the South) in Baton Rouge, where he worked as a record producer. In 1984 the small independent company Sugarcane records compiled and released a 12-song compilation album titled “The Best Of John Fred & The Playboys”.
In the late 1990s Fred teamed up with bookie king G. G. Shinn and Joe Stampley of Springhill in North Louisiana to form a country music group calling themselves The Louisiana Boys. In March 1997 they released one album on Bayou Music records titled “The Louisiana Boys” they also performed at venues all throughout the state like the Louisiana Folklife Festival.
On 1 January 2000 John released his first new album in over 30 years with “I Miss Ya’ll (The Unreleased Masters)” on Club Louisianne records located in Baton Rogue. The 15 songs on this album were recorded at several different studios throughout southern Louisiana. The album contained a combination of new versions of some old John Fred songs with newly composed songs.
His final album, Somebody's Knockin' was released in 2002.