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Robert Charles Guidry (February 21, 1938 – January 14, 2010), known as Bobby Charles, was an American singer-songwriter.[1]

Bobby Charles
Birth nameRobert Charles Guidry
Born(1938-02-21)February 21, 1938
Abbeville, Louisiana, United States
DiedJanuary 14, 2010(2010-01-14) (aged 71)
Louisiana, United States
GenresSwamp rock, R&B
Years active1950s-1990s

Early lifeEdit

An ethnic Cajun, Charles was born in Abbeville, Louisiana, and grew up listening to Cajun music and the country and western music of Hank Williams. At the age of 15, he heard a performance by Fats Domino, an event that "changed my life forever," he recalled.[2]

Career and highlightsEdit

Charles helped to pioneer the south Louisiana musical genre known as swamp pop. His compositions include the hits "See You Later, Alligator", which he initially recorded himself as "Later Alligator", but which is best known from the cover version by Bill Haley & His Comets, and "Walking to New Orleans" and "It Keeps Rainin'", written for Fats Domino.

"(I Don't Know Why) But I Do" was an early 1960s song that Charles composed, which Clarence "Frogman" Henry had a major hit with, and which was on the soundtrack of the 1994 film Forrest Gump. His composition "Why Are People Like That?" was on the soundtrack of the 1998 film Home Fries.

Because of his south Louisiana–influenced rhythm and blues vocal style, Charles has sometimes been thought to be black, when in fact he was white.[3]

Charles was invited to play with the Band at their November 26, 1976, farewell concert, The Last Waltz, at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. In the concert, Charles played "Down South in New Orleans", with the help of Dr. John and the Band. That song was recorded and released as part of the triple-LP The Last Waltz box set. The performance was also captured on film by director Martin Scorsese, but did not appear in the final, released theatrical version. Charles did, however, appear briefly in a segment of the released film—in the concert's final song, "I Shall Be Released". In that segment, his image is largely blocked from view during the performance. That song, sung by Bob Dylan and pianist Richard Manuel, featured backup vocals from the entire ensemble, including Charles.[4]

He co-wrote the song "Small Town Talk" with Rick Danko of the Band. "Promises, Promises (The Truth Will Set You Free)" was co-written with Willie Nelson.

Charles continued to compose and record (he was based out of Woodstock, New York, for a time) and in the 1990s he recorded a duet of "Walking to New Orleans" with Domino.


In September 2007, the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame honored Charles for his contributions to Louisiana music with an induction.


Charles collapsed in his home near Abbeville and died on January 14, 2010.[5][6]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Bobby Charles among hundreds of artists who lost material in the 2008 Universal fire.[7]



  • Bobby Charles, 1972 (Bearsville Records)
  • Better Day, 1974 (Bearsville Records) - Unreleased until 2011
  • Clearwater, 1987 (Rice 'n' Gravy Records/Zensor Records)
  • Wish You Were Here Right Now, 1994 (Rice 'n' Gravy Records)
  • Secrets Of The Heart, 1998 (Rice 'n' Gravy Records/Stony Plain Records)
  • Last Train To Memphis, 2004 (Rice 'n' Gravy Records/Proper Records UK)
  • Homemade Songs, 2008 (Rice 'n' Gravy Records)
  • Timeless, 2010 (Rice 'n' Gravy Records)


  1. ^ Obituary The Guardian, 15 January 2010.
  2. ^ "Bobby Charles". Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  3. ^ Obituary The Times, 30 January 2010.
  4. ^ [Liner notes]. In The Last Waltz [LP]. Warner Brothers Records Inc., 1978.
  5. ^ "Swamp pop legend Bobby Charles, 71, dies | The Advertiser". 2010-01-14. Archived from the original on 2012-02-29. Retrieved 2012-04-01.
  6. ^ Keith Spera (January 15, 2010). "Bobby Charles, Louisiana songwriter, dies at 71". Retrieved October 23, 2013.
  7. ^ Rosen, Jody (25 June 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2019.


  • John Broven, South to Louisiana: Music of the Cajun Bayous (Gretna, La.: Pelican Press, 1983).
  • Shane K. Bernard, Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996).

External linksEdit