Monday, April 29, 2013

Ike Turner Studio Productions: New Orleans And Los Angeles 1963 - 1965

Although this CD is credited to Ike Turner, it might be more appropriately classified as a various-artists compilation, since Turner is the credited artist on just one of the 27 tracks. As the title indicates, it's devoted to recordings he produced between 1963 and 1965, an era in which his industriousness was something to behold given he was also recording many discs with his then-wife Tina, as well as extensively touring. Tina herself is the singer on a couple of these tracks, and the Ikettes are heard as a backup band on a few others. But for the most part, this material is performed by artists who never made a name for themselves, like Jimmy Thomas, Stacy Johnson, Bobby John, and Vernon Guy, though ex-R&B star Jackie Brenston (of "Rocket 88" fame) does a couple numbers. Only five of the cuts were released at the time, some others only showing up on archival compilations decades later, and over half the stuff making its first appearance ever on this disc. Though Ike Turner was undoubtedly a major figure in rock and soul music, this is ephemera when stacked against his primary accomplishments, and of most interest to rabid Ike collectors/enthusiasts. The sound is consistently gutsy and sometimes rawer than almost anything else in the bluesy R&B/rock groove at the time, and the singers usually perform with the kind of passion heard in artists hungry for a break. True to the location of some of the recordings, some of the selections have a more pronounced New Orleans feel than others. But the songs are for the most part just OK, and sometimes not too worked out, as you might expect from takes that often didn't even make it into the marketplace. There's some good playing from the Kings of Rhythm, but unless this is one of your favorite all-time kinds of music, the songs do start to roll by without making much in the way of separate impact. And the two Tina Turner tracks might have been throwaway outtakes, but she sings everyone else under the table on covers of Maxine Brown's hit "All in My Mind" and Eddie Boyd's blues classic "Five Long Years." It's more a listenable document to fill in the some of the background of Turner's resumé than a testament to his finer achievements, with some of the moodier Turner compositions that came out on 1963 singles (Vernon Guy's "You've Got Me [Just Where You Want Me]" and Stacy Johnson's "Remove My Doubts") also standing out in this crowd. - Richie Unterberger / AMG

1 Jimmy Thomas – The Darkest Hour 2:29
2 Stacy Johnson – Remove My Doubts 2:15
3 Vernon Guy With Jessie Smith – They Ain't Lovin' Ya 1:46
4 Bobby John – Too Late 2:29
5 Bobby John & Ikettes, The – Like I Do 2:37
6 Jackie Brenston & Ikettes, The – In Love 2:32
7 Jackie Brenston – I'm Tore Up 2:31
8 Venetta Fields – Through With You 3:18
9 Vernon Guy – That's All Right 1:53
10 Vernon Guy – You're So Fine 2:25
11 Jimmy Thomas – I Smell Trouble 3:40
12 Jimmy Thomas – Feel So Good 2:21
13 Tina Turner – All In My Mind 3:13
14 Ernest Lane & Ikettes, The With Tina Turner – What Kind Of Love 2:18
15 Bobby John With Jimmy Thomas, Stacy Johnson & Vernon Guy – I'm Comin' Home 2:29
16 Bobby John – Dust My Broom 2:33
17 Vernon Guy & Ikettes, The – For Your Precious Love 2:18
18 Vernon Guy – Just To Hold My Hand 2:16
19 Jimmy Thomas – Tin Pan Alley 2:51
20 Jimmy Thomas – Mother-In-Law Blues 2:09
21 Ike Turner & Ikettes, The – Walking Down The Aisle 2:13
22 Bobby John & Ikettes, The – Think 2:12
23 Tina Turner – Five Long Years 2:07
24 Stacy Johnson – Consider Yourself 3:44
25 Stacy Johnson – Don't Believe Him 2:04
26 Vernon Guy With Ike* & Dee Dee* – You Can't Have Your Cake And Eat It Too 2:23
27 Vernon Guy – You've Got Me (Just Where You Want Me) 2:36

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Abyssinian Baptist Gospel Choir - Shakin' The Rafters

A classic John Hammond produced recording of Professor Alex Bradford's Abyssinian Baptist Gospel Coir from Newark, NJ in 1960. One of the few recordings ever to manage to capture the power and excitement of a large Gospel choir. If you want the experience of Shakin' The Rafters you need to turn it up real loud!

"Professor Alex Bradford (January 23, 1927 – February 15, 1978) was a multi-talented gospel composer, singer, arranger and choir director, who was a great influence on artists such as Little Richard, Bob Marley and Ray Charles and who helped bring about the modern mass choir movement in gospel.

Born in Bessemer, Alabama, USA, he first appeared on stage at the age of four, then joined a children's gospel group at thirteen, soon obtaining his own radio show. He organized another group after his mother sent him to New York City following a racial incident; he continued singing after returning to attend the Snow Hill Institute in Snow Hill, Alabama, where he acquired the title "Professor" while teaching as a student.

He moved to Chicago in 1947, where he worked briefly with Roberta Martin and toured with Mahalia Jackson, then struck out on his own with his own group, the Bradford Singers, followed by another group, the Bradford Specials. He recorded his first hit record, "Too Close To Heaven" (1954), billed as Professor Alex Bradford and his singers, sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc, then followed it with a number of other successes in the rest of the decade.

Artists such as Little Richard imitated Bradford's energetic style, ranging from a gravelly bass to a whooping falsetto, and his flamboyant stage presence. Ray Charles, for his part, not only borrowed some of Bradford's vocal mannerisms but based his Raelets on the Bradford Specials. His 1962 gospel song composition "Let the Lord Be Seen in Me", recorded for his One Step & Angel on Vacation album, was also recorded in 1964 by an emerging force in Jamaican music, Bob Marley & the Spiritual Sisters. Marley later adopted the Rastafarian faith, but along with his mother, at first he sung gospel in the local Shilo Apostolic Church.

In 1961, when his recording career was in decline, Bradford joined the cast of the off-Broadway show Black Nativity, based on the writings of Langston Hughes, which toured Europe in 1962. A member of the Alex Bradford Singers at that time was Madeline Bell, who settled in England after the show ended. Bradford appeared in Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope, for which he won the Obie award, in 1972. He died in Newark, New Jersey, in 1978, as the musical Your Arms Too Short to Box with God was in production." wiki

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Chicago Soul - Walter Jackson & Billy Butler

A little journey into Chicago Soul courtesy of Unky Cliff, his files,his commentary, Thanks Cliff! - 

"It is always amazing to me how much great music has vanished from our collective memory. In part because radio playlists, even those of 'oldies' stations, have been pared down to a top 100 songs and in part because some labels slip into unexplained obscurity.

Mowtown and Atlantic have held onto our imaginations because they have kept much of their material in print through out all the changes in taste and format. Others like Vee Jay and Brunswick have simply muddled along with poorly planned and limited reissue programs. These once mighty labels rarely ever make a dent on the mind of younger listeners.

As a kid in Chicago during the 1960 Okeh records dominated the R&B charts with some of the finest in Windy-City Soul. Two of that labels forgotten greats are presented here to help lift your spirits.

Walter Jackson from Pensacola FL contracted polio at an early age and performed on crutches for much of his career. His earliest recordings were as the lead singer of the Velvetones (Deb 1959). As a solo act he began recording for Columbia in 1962 and moved to their Okeh subsidiary in 1964. He
made the national charts 8 times between 1964 and 1967 but never managed to crack the top 10… except in Chicago. Produced by the great Carl Davis with material from Curtis Mayfield, Jackson's husky baritone is in the mode of Arthur Prysock and Billy Eckstine but was put to superb use in a brand of pop soul far more subtle than that generated by similar Mowtown artists. A perfect sampler of Davis' 'Chicago Sound'.

Billy Butler spent much of his career overshadowed by his brother Jerry. With the Enchanters (later simply Chanters) he recorded a number of songs for Okeh in 1965/6 two of which scratched the national charts. Also working with Davis and Mayfield, the younger Butler specialized in bright, vigorous and highly melodic songs, but is equally at home with mid-tempo and ballad material. On all his songs, his controlled and slightly gospelly vocals lend just enough intensity to give the songs that rich, soulful feeling."

NOT the same guy as the guitar player.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

LaVern Baker - Soul On Fire

One last one for this round of gals.

 "LaVern Baker (November 11, 1929 – March 10, 1997) was an American rhythm and blues singer, who had several hit records on the pop chart in the 1950s and early 1960s. Her most successful records were "Tweedlee Dee" (1955), "Jim Dandy" (1956), and "I Cried a Tear" (1958). She was born Delores LaVern Baker in Chicago, Illinois. She is occasionally referred to as Delores Williams because of an early marriage to Eugene Williams; in the late 1940s he was identified in RCA Victor record company files as "D. L. McMurley." She was the niece of blues singer Merline Johnson and was also related to Memphis Minnie.

She began singing in Chicago clubs such as the Club DeLisa around 1946, often billed as Little Miss Sharecropper, and first recorded under that name in 1949. She changed her name briefly to Bea Baker when recording for Okeh Records in 1951, and then became LaVern Baker when singing with Todd Rhodes and his band in 1952.

In 1953 she signed for Atlantic Records as a solo artist, her first release being "Soul on Fire". Her first hit came in early 1955, with the Latin-tempo "Tweedlee Dee" reaching #4 on the R&B chart and #14 on the national US pop charts. Georgia Gibbs scored the bigger hit with her version of "Tweedle Dee", for which Baker unsuccessfully attempted to sue her.

Baker had a succession of hits on the R&B charts over the next couple of years with her backing group The Gliders, including "Bop-Ting-A-Ling" (#3 R&B), "Play It Fair" (#2 R&B), and "Still" (#4 R&B). At the end of 1956 she had another smash hit with "Jim Dandy" (#1 R&B, #17 pop). It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[2] Further hits followed for Atlantic, including the follow-up "Jim Dandy Got Married" (#7 R&B), "I Cried a Tear" (#2 R&B, #6 pop in 1959), "I Waited Too Long" (#5 R&B, #3 pop, written by Neil Sedaka), "Saved" (#17 R&B, written by Leiber and Stoller), and "See See Rider" (#9 R&B in 1963).

In addition to singing, Baker also did some work with Ed Sullivan and Alan Freed on TV and in films, including Rock, Rock, Rock and Mr. Rock & Roll. In 1964, she recorded a Bessie Smith tribute album, before leaving Atlantic and joining Brunswick Records, where she recorded the album "Let Me Belong to You".

In 1966, Baker recorded a duet single with Jackie Wilson. The controversial song, "Think Twice", featured raunchy lyrics that were not considered appropriate for airplay at that time or even today. Three versions were recorded, one of which is the X-rated version with the raunchy lyrics.

In the late 1960s, she became seriously ill after a trip to Vietnam to entertain American soldiers. While recovering at the US Subic Bay Naval Base in the Philippines, her husband, Slappy White filed for a divorce. A friend recommended that she stay on as the entertainment director at the Marine Corps Staff NCO club there, and she remained there for 22 years.

In 1988 she returned to perform at Madison Square Garden for Atlantic Records' 40th anniversary. She then worked on the soundtracks to films such as Shag, (1989), Dick Tracy, (1990) and A Rage in Harlem (1991), which were all issued on CD.

In 1990, she made her Broadway debut replacing Ruth Brown as star of the hit musical Black and Blue. In 1991, Rhino Records released a new album Live in Hollywood recorded at the Hollywood Roosevelt Cinegrill, as well as a compilation of her greatest Atlantic hits entitled Soul on Fire. In 1992, she recorded a well-received studio album, Woke Up This Morning, for DRG Records. She continued performing after having both legs amputated from diabetes complications in 1994 and made her last recording, "Jump Into the Fire," for the 1995 Harry Nilsson tribute CD, For the Love of Harry on the Music Masters label.

She received the 1990 Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. In 1991, Baker became the second female solo artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, following Aretha Franklin in 1987. Her song "Jim Dandy" was named one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and was ranked #343 on the Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time." wikipedia

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sweet Soul Music 1968

"... This volume covers the year 1968 and includes classics like Smokey Robinson's "I Second That Emotion," Sam & Dave's "I Thank You," Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay," the Temptations' "Cloud Nine," and so much more. Every track shines and reveals new joys by affiliation -- listening to these 29 sides is like time traveling back to a beautiful summer's night and a long drive with the top down. This is what Bear Family does so well, turning out collections of essential music lovingly assembled, remastered, and restored. Sweet is exactly the right word for each of the ten volumes in this series." AMG

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Gwen McCrae - Rockin' Chair - Something So Right

These two albums happen to fall right in between the two albums of the previous post. Gwen was another Southern Soul diva existing in a world where funk and disco were making the money. While there are increasing influences from these pop veins injected into her music by her producers throughout the 70's, somehow McCrae always overpowers all the silliness by just belting out the song no matter what is around her.

1975's Rockin' Chair is one of the best unknown albums of that fine year. I recall being stopped in my tracks the first time I heard the title song, it just oozed sex like nothing I'd heard other than her label-mate Latimore. Henry Stone had quite a sound and quite a stable going down at TK - Betty Wright, Latimore, Gwen and George McCrae, certainly a rich chapter in Miami Soul.

"Gwen McCrae (born Gwen Mosley, December 21, 1943, Pensacola, Florida, United States is an American R&B singer, best known for her 1975 hit "Rockin' Chair".

Gwen was the youngest of five children (three sisters: one called Delores, and one brother Herman), She grew up singing in her Pentecostal church and later discovered secular singers like Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin. She began performing in local clubs as a teenager, and singing with local groups like the Lafayettes and the Independents. In 1963, she met a young sailor named George McCrae who she married within a week.

From 1963, she recorded as a duo with her husband George, and was first to receive a solo recording contract, with Henry Stone's TK Records. George and Gwen were discovered in 1967 by singer Betty Wright, who helped get them signed to Stone's Alston record label. Their debut single, "Three Hearts in a Tangle", was released in 1969; the follow-up, "Like Yesterday Our Love Is Gone", marked the first time they worked with the writing team of Clarence Reid (who would later morph into the bawdy comic Blowfly) and Willie Clarke. Both were regional hits, as was third single, "No One Left to Come Home", although none of those records broke nationally; meanwhile, the McCraes and Wright were collectively earning a reputation as stellar session vocalists.

Signed to TK subsidiary, Cat as a solo artist, she found success on the U.S. R&B charts with her cover version of Bobby Bland's "Lead Me On" in 1970, followed by "For Your Love". Following husband George’s unexpected solo success with "Rock Your Baby", Gwen went on to have a major hit of her own in March 1975 with "Rockin' Chair", a #1 R&B hit which also reached number 9 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The follow-up "Love Insurance" also made the R&B chart (#16).

By this time, the separate successes were taking their toll on the McCraes' marriage (Gwen has since alleged that her husband beat her frequently). A 1976 duet single, "Winners Together, Losers Apart", fell short of the R&B Top 40, and a full album of duets failed to improve matters. The couple split later that year, and Gwen scored what turned out to be her last chart hit for Cat, "Damn Right It's Good".

After TK Records collapsed, McCrae moved to New Jersey and signed with Atlantic Records, recording two albums and having another hit with "Funky Sensation" in 1981, (#22 R&B). She continued to record and the success of some of her earlier recordings on the UK's Northern Soul scene maintained her popularity as a live act in Europe. McCrae moved back to Florida, recorded a one-off single for the small Black Jack label in 1984 called "Do You Know What I Mean", and then temporarily retired from the music industry.

She travelled to the UK to record a couple of singles for Rhythm King in 1987. Pleased with her enduring popularity in the UK, McCrae eventually recorded an entire album for the British Homegrown Records label in 1996, titled Girlfriend's Boyfriend. Upon returning to the U.S., she signed with the revived Goldwax label, distributed by Ichiban Records, and recorded another album later that year, Psychic Hot Line. In 1998, Ichiban reissued Girlfriend's Boyfriend in the U.S. and McCrae returned in 1999 with Still Rockin', which received favorable reviews in blues and classic soul circles.

In 1999, the French house music duo Cassius released the single "Feeling for You", which sampled the vocals of McCrae's "All This Love That I'm Giving". It was a Top 20 hit in the UK Singles Chart. The track also appeared on Cassius' album, 1999.

In 2004 McCrae released her first gospel album. In 2008, rap DJ/producer Madlib released his album, WLIB AM: King of the Wigflip which includes the song "Gamble on Ya Boy", based on a "I Found Love" sample, from McCrae's album, Melody of Life.

In the summer of 2005, McCrae teamed up with the Soulpower organization, which is also responsible for the comebacks of Marva Whitney, Lyn Collins, Martha High, Bobby Byrd and RAMP. McCrae's two-year collaboration with Soulpower resulted in more than five dozen live performances with The Soulpower Allstars all over Europe, and the 2005 release of her album Live in Paris (Hi&Fly Records.)

Gwen McCrae released her latest single "Now I Found Love" in December 2010, released through Plain Truth Entertainment. "Now I Found Love" was mixed and produced by Steve Sola and composed by David Seagal. Also in 2010, her single "Funky Sensation" was heavily sampled in the German Language single "Get Up," by DJ Thomilla featuring Afrob." wikipedia

Candi Staton - Candi / Music Speaks Louder Than Words

 I was sorely tempted to split this two-fer apart and only use the first album but I resisted the temptation.

Candi is still fairly solid Southern Soul with only occasional nods to the funk and disco swirling around the music world in 1974. I'm not sure how much I would enjoy the material if weren't Candi Staton singing it but her wonderful emotional voice soars over these songs and triumphs. The album must not have done well though and Staton would change producers following this record.

Which brings us to the disco drek of Nights On Broadway and most of what follows on the unfortunate second album here 'Music Speaks Louder Than Words'. For my money the title track is the only thing in the first 8 songs even worth the time to listen. The song Main Thing has some potential in a party compilation. The one true saving grace moment happens when Candi returns to her old formula of taking a country nugget and singing the crap out of it; Before The Next Teardrop Falls is magnificent, a triumph!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Carla Thomas - The Queen Alone

Carla Thomas was more than deserving of her title "The Queen of Memphis Soul," but she was hardly oblivious to the sleeker, more pop-influenced sweet soul and uptown soul coming out of Detroit, Philadelphia and Chicago. One of her strongest albums, The Queen Alone isn't the work of someone who took a Memphis-only approach, but of someone who was well aware of what Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick, Martha Reeves and others were up to. What's surprising is the fact that this album (reissued on CD in 1992) contains only two hits: the playful "Something Good (Is Going to Happen to You)," which made it to number 29 on Billboard's soul singles chart, and the idealistic, gospel-influenced ballad and number 11 R&B single "I'll Always Have Faith in You." Songs ranging from the sweet and vulnerable "I Want to Be Your Baby" to the remorseful "All I See Is You" and the pessimistic "Any Day Now" (a song co-written by Burt Bacharach) weren't singles, but it wasn't for a lack of heartfelt singing. Drawing on both Southern and Northern soul, Queen Alone is a pleasant reminder that they were equally attractive options.AMG

Ruth Brown - Miss Rhythm Greatest Hits and More

Ruth Alston Weston, singer and actress: born Portsmouth, Virginia 12 January 1928; married first Jimmy Brown (marriage disallowed; one son with Clyde McPhatter), second Earl Swanson (one son; marriage dissolved), third Bill Blunt (marriage dissolved); died Henderson, Nevada 17 November 2006.

The highs and lows of the American singer Ruth Brown's life merit a biopic. Dubbed the "original queen of rhythm'n'blues", she recorded hit songs like "Teardrops from My Eyes", "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean", "Lucky Lips" and "This Little Girl's Gone Rockin' ", and became the first big-selling artist on Atlantic Records in the 1950s.

Indeed, for a while, such was her success in the rhythm'n'blues charts that the label, which had been founded in 1947 by Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson and would eventually sign Ray Charles, the Drifters, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, became known as "the house that Ruth built".

When white rock'n'rollers began eclipsing black rhythm'n'blues performers and took a watered-down version of their gutsy, gritty blend of gospel, jazz and blues into the mainstream, Brown disappeared from view; throughout the Sixties and early Seventies, she did odd jobs to make ends meet and raised two sons on her own. She came back in the mid-Seventies, appearing on television and on Broadway, memorably portraying Motormouth Mabel in Hairspray, the John Waters teen-movie satire and won a Tony for her appearances in the musical Black and Blue and a Grammy for the album Blues on Broadway.

Brown was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and three years later published her autobiography, Miss Rhythm, after the nickname given to her by Frankie Laine. In the Eighties, she campaigned tirelessly for better accounting from record companies and eventually secured retroactive royalty payments for herself and a host of other artists. Given the influence she had had on everyone from Little Richard to Bonnie Raitt via Etta James, Aretha Franklin and Janis Joplin, it was only fitting she should finally get her dues.

Born Ruth Weston in 1928, she was the eldest of seven children and first sang under the tutelage of her father, who worked on the docks but was also choir director in their local church in Portsmouth, Virginia. "I was always singing. That's all I ever done. It's my gift," she said:

I never thought that music would be my livelihood. I used to dump music class and I never learned to read music . . . I was a little rebel. When my daddy didn't know, I would sneak out and sing the so-called devil's music at the army bases. Then I fell in love, got married and ran away.

She later discovered that her "husband" the trumpeter Jimmy Brown wasn't exactly divorced but the name Ruth Brown stuck anyway.

In 1947, she had a short stint with the bandleader Lucky Millinder's orchestra until she was fired in Washington, DC, because she had taken a round of drinks to her bandmates on stage. Brown was rescued by Cab Calloway's sister Blanche, who hired her to perform at the Crystal Caverns night-club. When the Voice of America presenter Willis Conover accompanied Duke Ellington to the club, they were both impressed by Brown's performance and Conover called Ertegun to sing her praises, comparing her to Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington.

Abramson came to check her out and offered her a contract. Brown was all set to appear at the Apollo in Harlem and sign with Atlantic when she was involved in a serious car crash. She spent nine months in hospital with both legs in traction and was visited by Ertegun on several occasions, with presents and a contract.

Atlantic paid her medical bills, kept their word and, in May 1949, she made her recording début on crutches with Eddie Cotton's NBC Television Orchestra backing her on the ballad "So Long". Next year, she topped the rhythm'n'blues chart with "Teardrops from My Eyes" and repeated the feat again with the million-selling "5-10-15 Hours" in 1952 and "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean" in 1953.

Even then, she later admitted, Brown wasn't sure the material was right for her: "I was singing torch songs, country, standards, Bing Crosby songs, everything. "Teardrops" was the one that turned it around. Ahmet brought me the demo of "Mama". For some reason, I just wasn't impressed with it. "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean" felt kind of crude. It was one of those times where Ahmet insisted that this tune was for me."

Ertegun's hunch was proved right when the single crossed over and made No 23 in the US pop charts, further establishing Brown as Atlantic's best-selling artist in the Fifties era. She topped the R& B charts again with both "Oh What a Dream" and "Mambo Baby" in 1954, had an affair and a son with Clyde McPhatter and duetted with the Drifters singer on "Love Has Joined Us Together" in 1955, and took "Lucky Lips", a Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller composition (later covered by Cliff Richard), and "This Little Girl's Gone Rockin' " - written by Bobby Darin and Mann Curtis - into the Top Thirty in 1957 and 1958 respectively.

Though she paved the way for the black artists LaVern Baker and Etta James, like them Brown soon realised that white singers such as Georgia Gibbs and Patti Page could all too easily cover her repertoire for mainstream appearance. "Rhythm'n'blues was getting ready to be called rock'n'roll. It had become interesting enough; white kids were starting to pay attention to it," she explained:

And then on the scene came [the disc-jockey] Alan Freed, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis. But we already had Jackie Wilson, Bo Diddley, B.B. King. We had it all in place but it was not feasible for us as black artists to be the innovators or to be the performing acts that did this in person. Once you got rock'n'roll creeping in, the cover records got to be tremendous and we didn't get the media exposure. I never got to do The Ed Sullivan Show and I had never, ever, been on The Tonight Show, until September 1990!

Before that unlikely comeback, Brown struggled for over a decade. Having left Atlantic in 1961, she eventually stopped performing altogether. She drove a school bus, she washed dishes, she worked as a domestic, a cleaner, a cook and a teacher's assistant and she suffered at the hands of her third husband, a policeman. "I could pick a good song but I sure couldn't pick a man," she said.

Brown returned to show business in the mid-Seventies when the comedian Redd Foxx asked her to play Mahalia Jackson in the civil rights musical Selma. She went on to roles in the Hello, Larry sitcom and Little House on the Prairie. In the mid-Eighties, she began working with the New Orleans producer Allen Toussaint on a musical called Staggerlee and appeared in another show called Black and Blue, taking the production to Paris. She became a broadcaster too, presenting Harlem Hit Parade and Blues Stage on National Public Radio.

The cult director John Waters asked her in 1988 to portray Motormouth Mabel, the DJ and owner of a record store, in Hairspray, a satire on the teen movies of the early Sixties. However, she was unsure about the more outrageous side of the character. "I didn't want to wear a blonde wig and the crazy costumes that Motormouth Mabel wore," she recalled: " I felt kind of stereotyped. John had to convince me. He and Divine sat me down and said: "That's not Ruth Brown out there, that's Motormouth Mabel." That role was very possibly one of the luckiest things that ever happened to me because I really got a whole new audience of young people."

In 1989, she triumphed in Black and Blue when the musical transferred to Broadway and she won a Tony as well as a Grammy for the Blues on Broadway album.

However, she won her most personal battle after questioning the way royalties from her Fifties recordings for Atlantic had been accounted for. With the help of a lawyer, Howell Begle, Brown eventually recovered some of the royalties she was entitled to and also convinced Ahmet Ertegun to give $2m to help her set up the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in the late Eighties.

"We have paid a price to sing this music," said Brown: "As a young woman, I didn't sense what the lyrics really meant. I sing now because I know what I'm talking about. I was a singer in the beginning, but I'm a soul singer now. Meaning I sing from the soul."

Pierre Perrone, The Independent

Monday, April 15, 2013

Memphis Minnie

This one was put together and written by my friend Unky Cliff.
 Memphis Minnie's success isn't always a blessing when it comes to reissues of pre-war blues material. The ego of a collector, the folks who pushed the reissue boom in the 1960s, can motivate a desire for the obscure. Some performers, Leroy Carr comes to mind, recorded so much and their 78s were so common that they were frequently ignored.

Memphis Minnie, who recorded more than 200 sides before 1940, suffers from the other bane of the popular artist. The glut of reissues, some 35 CDS by my count, makes it hard for a novice to get a toe-hold.

One of the few blues women to achieve the popularity of male performers Minnie was described by Big Bill Broonzy as 'playing guitar like a man'. Born Lizzie Douglas in Algiers LA she grew up in the Memphis TN area. Her first release 'Bumble Bee' was a big hit and the model for Muddy Waters 'Honey Bee'. Led Zeppelin took 'When The Levee Breaks' from the same session. Other recordings she made over the years became blues standards ('Me And My Chauffeur' 'Black Rat Swing').

Much of the time Minnie recorded in the company of a second guitarist, frequently with husband Kansas Joe McCoy. Although she recorded in many different styles and was a pioneer both in the prewar and post-war band styles, her most lasting contribution was made in the intricate two guitar style of Memphis.

Two vinyl reissues from the early 1960s on Blues Classics provide a perfect introduction to Minnie. The first emphasizes the commercial side of Minnie's recordings with some fine small band accompaniment. Much of Vol.2 comes from the early years of her career featuring duets with Kansas Joe.

"Born June 3, 1897, in Algiers, Louisiana, Lizzie Douglas was raised on a farm before moving in 1904 to Walls in northern Mississippi. The following year Douglas was given a guitar for her birthday and quickly learned to play. A child prodigy, she began playing local parties as "Kid" Douglas before running away from home to play for tips at Church's Park ( the current W.C. Handy Park) on Beale Street in Memphis. During the 1910s and early 1920s, Douglas adopted the handle of Memphis Minnie and toured the South, playing tent shows with the Ringling Brothers Circus.

During the late 1920s Minnie began playing guitar with a variety of ad hoc jug bands during Memphis's jug band craze. Minnie also began a common law marriage with Kansas Joe McCoy, a musician with whom she had begun playing and would soon record. Their very first session yielded the hit song "Bumble Bee" (later recorded by Muddy Waters as "Honey Bee"), and McCoy would be her musical partner for the next six years. Within a year of her first recording date, Minnie had logged a half-dozen more sessions, including a reprise of "Bumble Bee" with the Memphis Jug Band. Bukka White claimed that Minnie sang backup on his 1930 gospel recordings. By the time the effects of the Great Depression had shackled the recording industry, Minnie had
recorded fifty sides that showcased her powerful voice and energetic guitar picking. She affected wealth as her idol Ma Rainey had done, traveling to shows in luxury cars and wearing bracelets made of silver dollars on her wrists.
During the 1930s, Minnie moved to Chicago where she set the musical style by taking up bass and drum accompaniment, anticipating the sound of the 1950s Chicago blues. After her breakup with Kansas Joe, Minnie married Ernest Lawlars, known as "Little Son Joe," and continued to record into the early 1950s. Poor health prompted her to return to Memphis and forsake the musician's life in 1958. Memphis Minnie was the greatest female country blues singer, and the popularity of her songs made her one of the blues most influential artists.

Memphis Minnie died August 6, 1973, in Memphis, Tennessee, and is buried in New Hope Cemetery in Walls, Mississippi."

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Dorothy Morrison - Brand New Day

Another Bay Area girl with a big voice. I don't think anyone who was around in the 70's will ever forget the first time they heard the full 50 member Northern California Youth Choir erupt from behind the lead vocal on Edwin Hawkins' Oh Happy Day. I thought that our car radio speakers were about to blow through the dashboard! That sublime, controlled lead vocal in the midst of the un-bridaled joy on that groundbreaking song was one Dorothy Combs Morrison. I'll pull out that original album soon but as soon as the song went national, Buddah launched Dorothy's solo career with this album. The music is a lovely Gospel/Soul mix that rings with the optimism of the era.

"Dorothy Combs Morrison was born in Longview, Texas, on May 8, 1944. The seventh child of ten, Dorothy showed early signs of her talents. She began singing at the age of 13 and released her first single "I Am Free", while singing with her siblings as 'The Combs Family'. Dorothy's continued exposure while appearing with her family at church events led to her talents being noticed by others in the San Francisco and Oakland Bay Area.

In the 1960s she then joined the Edwin Hawkins singers and was the lead vocalist on the Grammy Award winning, Hall of Fame Hymn, "Oh Happy Day". She toured with Edwin Hawkins, Van Morrison, Boz Scaggs, and Delaney and Bonnie, among others. She appeared on TV shows including The Carol Burnett Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson as well as Soul Train and Dance Party.

Dorothy's appearance at the 1969 Big Sur Folk Festival is seen in the film Celebration at Big Sur; with the Combs Sisters, she sang "All God's Children Got Soul", her only solo song to make the Billboard Top 100.

At home in the East Bay area, Dorothy performed for the Mayor of Oakland in the City Square and in 2002 was honored and awarded with the key to the city of Oakland." wikipedia

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Koko Taylor - The Earthshaker

Born Cora Walton in Shelby County, Tennessee, Taylor was the daughter of a sharecropper.  She left Memphis for Chicago, Illinois in 1952 with her husband, truck driver Robert "Pops" Taylor.  In the late 1950s she began singing in Chicago blues clubs. She was spotted by Willie Dixon in 1962, and this led to wider performances and her first recording contract. In 1965, Taylor was signed by Chess Records subsidiary Checker Records where she recorded "Wang Dang Doodle," a song written by Dixon and recorded by Howlin' Wolf five years earlier. The song became a hit, reaching number four on the R&B charts and number 58 on the pop charts  in 1966, and selling a million copies.  Taylor recorded several versions of "Wang Dang Doodle" over the years, including a live version at the 1967 American Folk Blues Festival with harmonica player Little Walter and guitarist Hound Dog Taylor. Taylor subsequently recorded more material, both original and covers, but never repeated that initial chart success.

National touring in the late 1960s and early 1970s improved her fan base, and she became accessible to a wider record-buying public when she signed with Alligator Records in 1975. She recorded nine albums for Alligator, 8 of which were Grammy-nominated, and came to dominate the female blues singer ranks, winning twenty five W. C. Handy Awards (more than any other artist). After her recovery from a near-fatal car crash in 1989, the 1990s found Taylor in films such as Blues Brothers 2000 and Wild at Heart, and she opened a blues club on Division Street in Chicago in 1994, which relocated to Wabash Ave in Chicago's South Loop in 2000. (The club is now closed.)

Taylor influenced musicians such as Bonnie Raitt, Shemekia Copeland, Janis Joplin, Shannon Curfman, and Susan Tedeschi. In the years prior to her death, she performed over 70 concerts a year and resided just south of Chicago in Country Club Hills, Illinois.

In 2008, the Internal Revenue Service said that Taylor owed $400,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest. Her tax problems concerned 1998, 2000 and 2001; for those years combined, her adjusted gross income was $949,000.

Taylor died on June 3, 2009, after complications from surgery for gastrointestinal bleeding on May 19, 2009.  Her final performance was at the Blues Music Awards, on May 7, 2009.


Koko Taylor's Alligator encore harbored a number of tunes that still pepper her set list to this day -- the grinding "I'm a Woman" and the party-down specials "Let the Good Times Roll" and "Hey Bartender." Her uncompromising slow blues "Please Don't Dog Me" and a sassy remake of Irma Thomas' "You Can Have My Husband" also stand out, as does the fine backing by guitarists Sammy Lawhorn and Johnny B. Moore, pianist Pinetop Perkins, and saxman Abb Locke. - Bill Dahl/AMG (4.5 / 5.0)

Alligator Records AL4711

Bass – Cornelius "Mule" Boyson;  Drums – Vince Chappelle;  Guitar – Johnny B. Moore, Sammy Lawhorn
Harmonica – Mervyn "Harmonica" Hinds;  Keyboards – Pinetop Perkins;  Saxophone – Abb Locke
Vocals – Koko Taylor

A1 Let The Good Times Roll    3:00
A2 Spoonful    3:00
A3 Walking The Back Streets    6:45
A4 Cut You Loose    3:24
A5 Hey Bartender    2:51
B1 I'm A Woman    4:36
B2 You Can Have My Husband    2:45
B3 Please Don't Dog Me    5:16
B4 Wang Dang Doodle    4:51

A superb album!!!  Ripped from minty vinyl at 24/44.1 wav and dithered to 16/44.1 FLAC... enjoy!!!

Tommie Young - Do You Still Feel the Same Way

Tommie Young is an American soul and gospel singer from Dallas, Texas.

Young got her start singing in Dallas nightclubs, and in 1972, producer Bobby Patterson heard one of her performances and signed her to the label he co-owned, Soul Power Records. For her debut single, Patterson recorded instrumental versions of the songs "That's How Strong My Love Is" (O.V. Wright) and "Take Time to Know Her" (Percy Sledge), and then had Young travel to his studios in Shreveport, Louisiana, where she finished the recording in one take per track. The single didn't chart but since has become a cult favorite among soul music fans. Her follow-up single, "Do You Still Feel the Same Way" (written by Patterson and his label co-owner, Jerry Strickland) was a smash hit in the American South and charted #28 on the national R&B chart. A full-length LP by that name followed, as did several more singles, but Young had little interest in promotion, and Soul Power did not have the distribution capability to make her a star. Young soon returned to singing in the Dallas church at which her father was pastor.

In 1978, her music was featured in a made-for-TV biopic of Harriet Tubman, A Woman Called Moses. After marrying she began performing as Tommye Young-West, and recorded several gospel albums. In 1981, she was featured in the single "I'm Gonna See You Through" by The Pictures released on the Texas label Southwest on the lead vocals. wikipedia

Friday, April 12, 2013

Barbara Lynn - You'll Lose A Good Thing

So what could be hotter than a soulful female vocalist with a guitar and she's playing lead!

Barbara Lynn (born Barbara Lynn Ozen, later Barbara Lynn Cumby, January 16, 1942) is an American rhythm and blues and electric blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. She is best known for her R&B chart-topping hit, "You'll Lose A Good Thing" (1962).

She was born in Beaumont, Texas, and attended Hebert High School. She played piano as a child, but switched to guitar, which she plays left-handed. Inspired by blues artists Guitar Slim and Jimmy Reed, and pop acts Elvis Presley and Brenda Lee, and winning several local talent shows, she created an all-female band, Bobbie Lynn and Her Idols.

She began performing in local clubs in Texas. Singer Joe Barry saw her and introduced Lynn to producer Huey P. Meaux, who ran SugarHill Recording Studios and several record labels in New Orleans. Her first single, "You'll Lose A Good Thing", co-written by her and Meaux, was recorded at Cosimo Matassa's J&M studio with session musicians including Mac Rebennack (Dr. John). Released by Jamie Records, it was a number 1 US Billboard R&B chart hit and Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit in 1962. The song was later recorded by Aretha Franklin and became a country hit record for Freddy Fender. Lynn also released an album, also titled You'll Lose A Good Thing, which featured ten of her compositions.

Unusual for the time, Lynn was a female African American singer who both wrote most of her own songs and played a lead instrument. Soon Lynn was touring with such soul musicians as Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Dionne Warwick, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, James Brown, Al Green, Carla Thomas, Marvin Gaye, Ike and Tina Turner, The Temptations, and B.B. King. She appeared at the Apollo Theater, twice on American Bandstand, and had her song, "Oh Baby (We've Got A Good Thing Goin')" (1964) covered by The Rolling Stones on their album The Rolling Stones Now! (1965). She continued to record for the Jamie label until 1966 and had several more minor hits.

No flipped negative, she plays it lefty
In 1966 she signed to Meaux's Tribe label, and recorded "You Left the Water Running," which was covered by Otis Redding among others. She signed for Atlantic the following year, and recorded another album, Here Is Barbara Lynn, in 1968. She married for the first time at age 28, in 1970 and had three children. This, together with dissatisfaction with poor promotion by the record company, contributed to her decision to largely retire from the music business for most of the 1970s and 1980s. However, while living in Los Angeles, she occasionally appeared at local clubs, and released several singles on Jetstream and other small labels.

In 1984 she toured Japan, and recorded a live album, You Don't Have to Go, which was released later in the US. She resumed her recording career after her husband's death, and returned to Beaumont, Texas, where her mother lived. She also undertook further international tours, to Europe and elsewhere. In 1994, she recorded her first studio album for over twenty years, So Good, and released several more albums for various labels in later years.

She continues to reside in Beaumont, and was given a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1999. wikipedia

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Big Mama Thornton - Jail

It's ironic that blues great Big Mama Thornton is most famous for originating songs that later became associated with other singers. Her sole R&B hit, which never made the pop charts, became Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog" in most listeners' minds, just as surely as Otis Redding's "Respect" was universally credited to Aretha Franklin. It must have seemed like déjà vu when Thornton's "Ball and Chain" became known to most music lovers via Janis Joplin's version with Big Brother & the Holding Company. Nevertheless, Thornton has rarely had trouble reclaiming these and other compositions once onstage, and Jail vividly captures her gruff charm during a couple of mid-'70s gigs at two northwestern prisons. As a live album, Jail works largely because Thornton gives her musicians plenty of room to improvise, especially on six-minute versions of "Little Red Rooster" and "Ball and Chain." In her spoken introduction to "Ball and Chain," Thornton initially gives props to Janis Joplin, then reminds the audience, "I wrote this song." Having lost little of her commanding, masculine voice, Thornton becomes the talented leader of a gritty blues ensemble that features sustained jams from George "Harmonica" Smith and guitarists B. Huston and Steve Wachsman. Despite several lengthy numbers, the running time is less than 40 minutes, and there's not much between-song banter à la Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. Listeners who are left wanting more Big Mama Thornton can invest in The Complete Vanguard Recordings, a triple-CD set that includes all of Jail and two albums from the same era: Sassy Mama and the previously unreleased Big Mama Swings. - Vince Ripol/AMG
Vanguard ‎– VSD 79351
Recorded live at Monroe State Prison, Monroe, Washington and Oregon State Reformatory, Eugene, Oregon

A1   Little Red Rooster   6:01
A2   Ball 'N' Chain   6:40
A3   Jail   5:50
B1   Hound Dog   2:45
B2   Rock Me Baby   6:41
B3   Sheriff O.E. & Me   3:20
B4   Oh Happy Day   3:52

Vocals, Harp - Big Mama Thornton;  Bass – Bruce Sieverson;  Drums – Todd Nelson
Guitar – B. Huston, Steve Wachsman;  Harmonica – George "Harmonica" Smith
Piano – J.D. Nichols;  Tenor Saxophone – Bill Potter

Vinyl ripped at 24/44.1 wav and dithered to 16/44.1 FLAC... enjoy!!!

Betty Wright - First Time Around 1968

Bessie Regina Norris, better known by her stage name, Betty Wright (born December 21, 1953), is a Miami-based soul and R&B singer-songwriter, who won fame in the 1970s with hits such as "Clean Up Woman" and "Tonight Is the Night". A pioneering singer-songwriter and entrepreneur, she remains one of the few black female musicians to have a gold record on her own vanity label. She is adept at using the whistle register.

Born Bessie Regina Norris on December 21, 1953, Wright was the youngest of seven children to Rosa Akins Braddy-Wright and her second husband, McArthur Norris. Wright began her professional career at the age of two when her siblings formed the gospel group, the Echoes of Joy. Wright contributed to vocals on the group's first album, released in 1956. Wright and her siblings performed together until the mid-1960s.

In 1965, following the group's break-up, 11-year-old Wright, who was already using the name Betty Wright, decided to switch musical styles from gospel to rhythm and blues, singing in local talent shows until being spotted by a local Miami record label owner, who signed her to her first label in 1966 at twelve. She released the singles, "Thank You Baby" and "Paralyzed", which found Wright local fame in Miami.

In 1967, the teen was responsible for discovering other local talents such as George and Gwen McCrae, helping them sign with Alston record label, part of Henry Stone's TK recording and distribution company. A year later, Wright released her debut album, My First Time Around, when she was still 14 and scored her first hit single with Judy White's "Girls Can't Do What Guys Do". While still in high school in 1970, Wright released the sensual "Pure Love" at the age of sixteen.

About a year later, Wright released her signature song, "Clean Up Woman", written by Clarence Reid and Willie Clarke when she was 17. The record reached number two on the R&B charts, where it stayed for eight weeks. It crossed over to the pop charts, peaking at number six and staying on the Billboard Hot 100 for 14 weeks. It eventually sold over a million copies and was certified gold on December 30, 1971, nine days after the singer turned 18. Wright struggled with a successful follow-up until 1972 when the single "Baby Sitter" (one of Wright's first compositions) reached the top 50 of the Hot 100 and peaked at number six on the R&B charts. Another hit that emerged during this early period was 1973's "Let Me Be Your Lovemaker", which peaked at number 55 on the Hot 100 and number 10 on the R&B chart, it was also the first instance (after "Baby Sitter") where Wright showed off her powerful whistle register vocals. Another successful composition was the proto-disco number, "Where Is the Love" (co-written by Wright, with producers, Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch, from KC & The Sunshine Band). This peaked at number 15 on the R&B chart, number-two on the dance charts and crossed over to the UK, peaking at #25, leading Wright to perform overseas. Wright later won the Best R&B Song Grammy Award for composing "Where Is the Love". wikipedia

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Sunset Travelers - With O.V. Wright

There was a request to re-up this and I know that Preslives has problems getting uploads thru. Here is the original post.

How else can I follow KC’s last incredible O.V. Wright post except with more of the same?   I have gathered here what should be something close to all of O.V. Wright’s first recordings from the late 50s and early 60s, when he was singing gospel with the Sunset Travelers and hadn’t yet crossed over into secular music.  Before O.V. Wright became a Soul legend, he had already become a sensation on the gospel programs (But I don't know of any photos of the Sunset Travelers with O.V. Thus, photo to the left) 

The Sunset Travelers started in Memphis in 1950.  They recruited the teenage O.V. Wright in the late 1950s and first recorded with O.V. for Peacock in 1959.  The first 12 tracks here correspond to the Peacock LP, “On Jesus Program.”   Although a few of the tracks do not feature O.V. Wright on lead vocals, I left them in for completeness.   

"On Jesus Program" was actually issued on CD in the US in the late 1980s on the compilation "Raisin' the Roof," pictured on the right.  When MCA launched the Peacock Spiritual Series at the dawn of the CD era, that raised a lot of hopes for a spectacular reissue series of the Peacock label.  But after this release and a few other CDs (which I may post later), MCA trashed gospel reissues altogether and never again released anything from the vast Peacock catalog in the US. 
I have tacked on to “On Jesus Program” ten more Sunset Travelers tracks featuring the incomparable O.V. Wright on lead vocals.   Track number 13, “Sit Down and Rest a While.” deserves comment.  This is the very first recording featuring O.V. Wright when had just joined the group.  The Sunset Travelers themselves made it as a demo.  When I first heard it, I didn’t even think that it was O.V.  The sonorities are right, but certain elements of his mature style are not there yet.  However, Grover Blake, a member and manager of this Sunset Travelers group, has verified that it is is indeed O.V. Wright.  Lazurus and You Are Blessed come from the very first 45 the Travelers with O.V. Wright made for Peacock in 1959.  Here, the unique presence of O.V. is already unmistakable. 

So there you have it – the first installment of the O.V. Wright story.  Whatever you do on this blog, do not miss the second installment (Backbeat and Goldwax recordings) posted by KC below.  The third installment (the Hi Recordings) might show up here sooner or later.  But those recordings are easily purchased commercially.   

Bessie Smith - Chattanooga Gal

I have been reluctant to post the entire 10 disc Columbia set so I was quite pleased to find this 4 disc distillation. This is a far more easily digested sampling.

"Nicknamed The Empress of the Blues, Smith was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s. She is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and, along with Louis Armstrong, a major influence on subsequent jazz vocalists.

The 1900 census indicates that Bessie Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee in July 1892. However, the 1910 census recorded her birthday as April 15, 1894, a date that appears on all subsequent documents and was observed by the entire Smith family. Census data also contributes to controversy about the size of her family. The 1870 and 1880 censuses report three older half-siblings, while later interviews with Smith's family and contemporaries did not include these individuals among her siblings.
Bessie Smith was the daughter of Laura (née Owens) and William Smith. William Smith was a laborer and part-time Baptist preacher (he was listed in the 1870 census as a "minister of the gospel", in Moulton, Lawrence, Alabama.) He died before his daughter could remember him. By the time she was nine, she had lost her mother and a brother as well. Her older sister Viola took charge of caring for her siblings.
To earn money for their impoverished household, Bessie Smith and her brother Andrew began busking on the streets of Chattanooga as a duo: she singing and dancing, he accompanying her on guitar. Their favorite location was in front of the White Elephant Saloon at Thirteenth and Elm streets in the heart of the city's African-American community.

In 1904, her oldest brother, Clarence, covertly left home by joining a small traveling troupe owned by Moses Stokes. "If Bessie had been old enough, she would have gone with him," said Clarence's widow, Maud. "That's why he left without telling her, but Clarence told me she was ready, even then. Of course, she was only a child."
In 1912, Clarence returned to Chattanooga with the Stokes troupe. He arranged for its managers, Lonnie and Cora Fisher, to give Smith an audition. She was hired as a dancer rather than a singer, because the company also included the unknown singer, Ma Rainey. Smith eventually moved on to performing in various chorus lines, making the "81" Theater in Atlanta her home base. There were times when she worked in shows on the black-owned T.O.B.A Theater Owners Booking Association circuit. She would rise to become its biggest star after signing with Columbia Records.

By 1923, when she began her recording career, Smith had taken up residence in Philadelphia. There she met and fell in love with Jack Gee, a security guard whom she married on June 7, 1923, just as her first record was released. During the marriage—a stormy one, with infidelity on both sides—Smith became the highest paid black entertainer of the day, heading her own shows, which sometimes featured as many as 40 troupers, and touring in her own railroad car. Gee was impressed by the money, but never adjusted to show business life, or to Smith's bisexuality. In 1929, when she learned of his affair with another singer, Gertrude Saunders, Bessie Smith ended the relationship, although neither of them sought a divorce.

Smith eventually found a common-law husband in an old friend, Richard Morgan, who was Lionel Hampton's uncle and the antithesis of her husband. She stayed with him until her death.
Smith's career was cut short by a combination of the Great Depression,which nearly put the recording industry out of business, and the advent of "talkies", which spelled the end for vaudeville. She never stopped performing, however. While the days of elaborate vaudeville shows were over, Smith continued touring and occasionally singing in clubs. In 1929, she appeared in a Broadway flop called Pansy, a musical in which top critics said she was the only asset. In 1929, Smith made her only film appearance, starring in a two-reeler titled St. Louis Blues, based on W. C. Handy's song of the same name. In the film, directed by Dudley Murphy and shot in Astoria, she sings the title song accompanied by members of Fletcher Henderson's orchestra, the Hall Johnson Choir, pianist James P. Johnson and a string section—a musical environment radically different from any found on her recordings.
In 1933, John Hammond, who also mentored Billie Holiday, asked Smith to record four sides for Okeh (which had been acquired by Columbia Records in 1925). He claimed to have found her in semi-obscurity, working as a hostess in a speakeasy on Philadelphia's Ridge Avenue. Bessie Smith worked at Art's Cafe on Ridge Avenue, but not as a hostess and not until the summer of 1936. In 1933, when she made the Okeh sides, Bessie was still touring. Hammond was known for his selective memory and gratuitous embellishments...

...On September 26, 1937, Smith was critically injured in a car accident while traveling along U.S. Route 61 between Memphis, Tennessee, and Clarksdale, Mississippi. Her lover, Richard Morgan, was driving and, probably mesmerized by the long stretch of straight road, misjudged the speed of a slow-moving truck ahead of him. Tire marks at the scene suggested that Morgan tried to avoid the truck by driving around its left side, but he hit the rear of the truck side-on at high speed. The tailgate of the truck sheared off the wooden roof of Smith's old Packard. Smith, who was in the passenger seat, probably with her right arm or elbow out the window, took the full brunt of the impact. Morgan escaped without injuries.
The first people on the scene were a Memphis surgeon, Dr. Hugh Smith (no relation), and his fishing partner Henry Broughton. In the early 1970s, Dr. Smith gave a detailed account of his experience to Bessie's biographer Chris Albertson. This is the most reliable eyewitness testimony about the events surrounding Bessie Smith's death.

After stopping at the accident scene, Dr. Smith examined Bessie Smith, who was lying in the middle of the road with obviously severe injuries. He estimated she had lost about a half-pint of blood, and immediately noted a major traumatic injury to her right arm; it had been almost completely severed at the elbow. But Dr. Smith was emphatic that this arm injury alone did not cause her death. Although the light was poor, he observed only minor head injuries. He attributed her death to extensive and severe crush injuries to the entire right side of her body, consistent with a "sideswipe" collision. Broughton and Dr. Smith moved the singer to the shoulder of the road. Dr. Smith dressed her arm injury with a clean handkerchief and asked Broughton to go to a house about 500 feet off the road to call an ambulance.

By the time Broughton returned approximately 25 minutes later, Bessie Smith was in shock. Time passed with no sign of the ambulance, so Dr. Smith suggested that they take her into Clarksdale in his car. He and Broughton had almost finished clearing the back seat when they heard the sound of a car approaching at high speed. Dr. Smith flashed his lights in warning, but the oncoming car failed to stop and plowed into the doctor's car at full speed. It sent his car careening into Bessie Smith's overturned Packard, completely wrecking it. The oncoming car ricocheted off Dr. Smith's car into the ditch on the right, barely missing Broughton and Bessie Smith.

The young couple in the new car did not have life-threatening injuries. Two ambulances arrived on the scene from Clarksdale; one from the black hospital, summoned by Mr. Broughton, the other from the white hospital, acting on a report from the truck driver, who had not seen the accident victims.

Bessie Smith was taken to Clarksdale's G.T. Thomas Afro-American Hospital, where her right arm was amputated. She died that morning without regaining consciousness. After Smith's death, an often repeated but now discredited story emerged about the circumstances; namely, that she had died as a result of having been refused admission to a "whites only" hospital in Clarksdale. Jazz writer/producer John Hammond gave this account in an article in the November 1937 issue of Down Beat magazine. The circumstances of Smith's death and the rumor promoted by Hammond formed the basis for Edward Albee's 1959 one-act play The Death of Bessie Smith."