James Carroll Booker III (December 17, 1939 - November 8, 1983) was an eccentric and flamboyant piano player and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana.
He was classically trained as a youth and developed an ability to imitate other player's styles. His own style combines elements of blues, boogie woogie, and classical piano. Professor Longhair was among Booker's important influences.
Booker toured Europe in 1976 and 1977. New Orleans Piano Wizard: Live! is a recording of his performance at the Boogie Woogie and Ragtime Piano Contest in Zurich, Switzerland in 1977. This album won the Grand Prix de Disque for best live jazz album (1977). He played at the 1977 Montreux International Jazz Festival
He was the house piano player at the Maple Leaf Bar in the Carrollton neighborhood of Uptown New Orleans between 1977 and 1982. Resurrection of the Bayou Maharajah and Spiders on the Keys are recordings from this period.
He struggled with drugs during most of his life, at one point serving a prison sentence at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Louisiana for heroin possession.
His problems with drug use held back his career; places that hired him regularly understood that it could not be known in advance if the unreliable Booker would be giving a brilliant virtuoso performance or show up in an incoherent distracted state. One night at the Maple Leaf he devoted the evening to playing compositions by Frederic Chopin in unusual Latin American music rhythms; another night he hardly played, mumbling obscenities, and ultimately urinating on the audience from the stage.
Booker's death from overdose was widely mourned by music lovers but was unsurprising to those who knew him.