A self-taught pianist, Esquerita performed initially in a local Baptist church, but by his late teens he had become the house rock and roll act at Greenville’s Owl Club, performing as “Professor Eskew Reeder.”
Musician. Born Eskew Reeder, Jr., in Greenville, Esquerita was among the wildest musical acts to grace the formative years of rock and roll. A self-taught pianist, Esquerita performed initially in a local Baptist church, but by his late teens he had become the house rock and roll act at Greenville’s Owl Club, performing as “Professor Eskew Reeder.” Paul Peek, rhythm guitarist to the recording star Gene Vincent, discovered Esquerita and brought him to the attention of Capitol Records. Esquerita recorded twenty-eight songs for the label in 1958, twelve of which were released the following year as an LP titled Esquerita! Sporting a six-inch pompadour, rhinestone sunglasses, and a raucous yet rhythmic piano-playing style, Esquerita produced debut recordings that have been hailed by All Music Guide as “some of the most untamed and unabashed sides ever issued by a major label.” Although his early recordings stand as classics among rock and roll aficionados, they did not bring Esquerita great success. Dropped by Capitol, he continued to record songs for minor labels throughout the 1960s, including a fledgling Motown label in 1963, most of which were never released. By the end of the decade he was recording under the moniker “The Magnificent Malochi.” Little is known of his later activities, although some of his material was reissued in the 1970s and 1980s. He died in poverty in Harlem, New York, on October 23, 1986.
Smith, Michael B. Carolina Dreams: The Musical Legacy of Upstate South Carolina. Beverly Hills, Calif.: Marshall Tucker Entertainment, 1997.