Pery Mayfield: Weakness Is A Thing Called Man

It's not hard to see why Percy Mayfield has been so frequently covered and so often mentioned with admiration among his fellow blues singers; he was a master of the moody blues ballad, he had flawless timing and phrasing and as a writer his songs had a frank, penetrating insight into the dark, complex side of the human condition. Songs like "River's Invitation", "Please Send Me Someone To Love", "Life Is Suicide", "My Jug And I" and "Stranger In My Own Home Town', to name just a few, were adult songs for adult listeners, filled with a darkly hued, poetic sensibility, devilish wit and hipster coolness.

Mayfield's main hit making period was from 1950-1952 when he scored seven top ten hits for the Specialty label including "Please Send Me Someone To Love", the biggest hit ever for the label. He stuck with the label through the decade, cutting a few singles for Chess, Cash and Imperial along the way, but never matched his early success. In the 1960's Mayfield's song "Hit The Road, Jack"came to the attention of Ray Charles who was also starting his own record label called Tangerine. Charles hired on Mayfield as a writer and also gave him a chance to record for the label. Mayfield was at the height of his abilities penning songs for Charles like "Hide Nor Hair", "At The Club", "Danger Zone" and "On The Other Hand, Baby." Mayfield's own sides for Tangerine were every bit as good and have been collected on Rhino's limited addition His Tangerine And Atlantic Sides. After leaving Tangerine Mayfield moved to Brunswick, cutting the exceptional Walking On A Tightrope album.

Percy Mayfield SingsMuch less well known are the trio of superb records he cut for RCA in the 1970's, all unfortunately out of print: Percy Mayfield Sings Percy Mayfield (1970), Weakness Is A Thing Called Man (1970) and Blues…And Then Some (1971). While I won't go so far as to say these are better than his earlier records, they're not, they are quite good and deserve to be better remembered. Mayfield's writing and voice were in great shape, and he was surrounded by sympathetic studio bands including Eric Gale, Billy Butler, Chuck Rainey, Pretty Purdie, Seldon Powell, Snooky Young, and Richard Tee to name a few as well as full horn sections and female backing vocalists. The music is filled with blues ballads, funky shuffles and a touch of soul. Like similar era recordings from Bobby Bland and Junior Parker, the music has a bit of a period feel but finds a veteran artist still at his peak, making a few changes to still sound fresh and relevant.

The albums are filled with songs dealing with relationships, a preoccupation with the past and meditations on the human condition. Percy Mayfield Sings includes the bouncy "Live Today Like The Day Before" and the moody mumble of "To Live The Past", two songs that find Mayfield ruminating on the past. In the former song he sings:

Well my past is like a whirlwind, on a summer day
It whirls around inside, and I get carried away

So when I'm reminiscing, it's no fault of mine
It's just my past that won't let go but I'm sure it will in time

On Blues…And Then Some the memories of a past love at times soothe his mind on the lovely ballad "Memories That's All" and are harsher on the funky "Minden Is A Dry Town" from Weakness Is A Thing Called Man. Minden, Louisiana was Mayfield's hometown and where he returned for solace after he was involved in a terrible auto accident in 1952 which left his matinee-idol good looks disfigured. Mayfield explored this theme in 1964's masterful "Stranger in My Own Hometown" a devastating portrait of isolation and alienation and his struggle with alcoholism afterward in "My Jug And I" and "The Bottle Is My Companion." He likely has Minden on his mind on the smoldering "California Blues" also from Weakness Is A Thing Called Man:

I'm gonna leave here, I'm going back where I'm better known (2x)
Where smart people mind there own business, and the fool will leave your business alone
I was born to be a wise man, look how long I've been a fool (2x)
I don't mind being used by people, but I sure do hate to be misused

California, California, make room 'cause here I come (2x)
'Cause you see, you're more like a mother to me [spoken: in more ways than one]
Because that's where I started from

 Travel is also the theme of one of his best blues from this period, the slinky "The Highway Is Like A Woman", from Percy Mayfield Sings:

The time has come, and I've got to hit the road again (2x)
'Cause I travel with a passion, and the highway is my lady friend
You see the highway is like a woman, soft shoulders and dangerous curves (2x)

If  "Please Send Me Someone To Love" was a universal prayer for peace, Mayfield is still delivering a message on the troubled state of man on the super funky "Stand Tall", "Right On Young Americans", the shuffling "Brotherhood Week" and the brooding "Weakness Is A Thing Called Man."

Above all Mayfield sings masterly about the complicated state of love on the throbbing blues of "This Time You Suffer Too" punctuated by Eric Gale's economical, stinging licks and a batch of gorgeous blues ballads like "Lonely For My Baby", "Hand In Hand With Another Man", "Getting You Off My Mind", "Contact Me (When You Find Her)", "You Lied To Me For The Last Time", "Don't Want To Lose My Baby" and the evocative "Black Coffee" as Mayfield expertly charts the state of troubled love:

Well my nerves has gone to pieces, now my hair is turning gray
Well I'm a talking to the shadows from one o'clock to four
Lord how slow the moments go, and all I do is pour, black coffee
Love is a sorry affair, a sorry affair

It's not all gloom and dark shadows. In fact Mayfield has a wicked sense of humor as he displays most notably on "A Lying Woman" and "The Devil Made Me Do It." On the former he sings:

You're not a trustworthy woman, 'cause you just lie all the time (2x)
You and I never will never be successful, just as long as you keep on lying
I remember when I met you, you said your name was Mary Jane
But when I seen you in the line-up, the heat was calling you by another name

In the latter he sings:

Now a broad in a mini-skirt sitting at the bar, her big legs crossed
And just as I asked her, darling, how much do your mini-skirt cost?
Before she could answer my question, and she seemed so very nice
My old lady wanted to know, just what do you wanna to know the price?
I said the devil made me do it, I'm not guilty baby
Well now you might as well get used to it because the devil got most of me

A couple of years back the Raven label did issue Blues Laureate: The RCA Years which collects twenty-five tracks from Mayfield's RCA period. Still, I wish these records would be reissued in their entirety. After these albums Mayfield slipped back in obscurity but made a comeback in the early 1980's resulting in a pair of strong live recordings. He passed in 1984.



Show Notes:

Joe Brown and James Oden aka St. Louis Jimmy founded the J.O.B. label in August 1949. The name of the label was a combination of their two names. J.O.B. would hold on until 1974, but its main period of sustained activity ran from late 1950 through the middle of 1954. The company's one chart hit, "Five Long Years" by Eddie Boyd, was released in July 1952. Always a "mom and pop" scale business with erratic publicity and distribution, after 1954 JOB became more of a hobby for its owner than a serious business venture.  J.O.B consistently elicited great performances from notable blues artists such as Johnny Shines, Robert Lockwood, Leroy Foster, Sunnyland Slim, J.B. Lenoir and Snooky Pryor among others. The bulk of today’s tracks come from the 2-CD, 54 track collection, Rough Treatment – The J.O.B. Records Story, on the Westside label. An exhaustive history of the label can be found at the Red Saunders Research Foundation website. Below is some background on today's featured artists.

Johnny Shines had first met Robert Johnson in Memphis in 1934, and he began accompanying Johnson on his wanderings around the Southern juke-joint circuit with the twp playing together for three years. The two split up in Arkansas in 1937, and never saw each other again before Johnson's death in 1938. He made his way to Chicago in the 1940's making the rounds of the local blues clubs, and in 1946 he made his Aw Awfirst-ever recordings; four tracks for Columbia that the label declined to release. In 1950, he resurfaced on Chess, cutting sides that were rarely released (and, when they were, often appeared under the name "Shoe Shine Johnny"). Meanwhile, Shines was finding work supporting other artists at live shows and recording sessions. From 1952-1953, he laid down some storming sides for the JOB label, which constitute some of his finest work ever.

Robert Lockwood, Jr., learned his blues firsthand from Robert Johnson. When Lockwood's mother became romantically involved with Johnson in Helena, AR, Lockwood gained a role model and a close friend — so close that Lockwood considered himself Johnson's stepson. Settling in Chicago in 1950, Lockwood swiftly gained a reputation as a versatile in-demand studio sideman, recording behind harp genius Little Walter, piano masters Sunnyland Slim and Eddie Boyd, and plenty more. Solo recording opportunities were scarce, though Lockwood did cut fine singles in 1951 for Mercury and in 1955 for JOB ("Sweet Woman From Maine", "Aw Aw Baby", "Dust My Broom", Pearly B").

Bassist Moody Jones, who recorded regularly for JOB between 1950 and 1953, retired from playing blues shortly after his last session for the label.

Raisin' SandSnooky Pryor hit Chicago for the first time in 1940. Armed with a primitive amp, he dazzled the folks on Maxwell Street in late 1945 with his massively amplified harp. Pryor made some groundbreaking 78's during the immediate postwar Chicago blues era. Teaming with guitarist Moody Jones, he waxed "Telephone Blues" and "Boogie" for Planet Records in 1948, encoring the next year with "Boogy Fool"/"Raisin' Sand" for JOB with Jones on bass and guitarist Baby Face Leroy Foster in support. Pryor made more classic sides for JOB (1950-1953 and 1962 or 1963), Parrot (1953), and Vee-Jay ("Someone to Love Me"/"Judgment Day") in 1956, but commercial success never materialized. He wound down his playing in the early '60s, finally chucking it all and moving to downstate Illinois, in 1967. h e recorded an LP for Bluesway in 1973 (Do It If You Want), but did not become a hit on the blues revival circuit until a Blind Pig release in 1987 (Snooky). He continued to record into the 1990s for such labels as Antone's and Discovery. Snooky Pryor died on October 18, 2006. He was 85 years old.

Between 1948 and 1952 Baby Face Leroy Foster waxed a handful absolutely terrific sides under his own name for a number fledgling Chicago labels aided by some of the windy city's best blues musicians. In addition his vocals, drumming, and guitar playing can be found backing some of the greatest Chicago blues records of the era. His death in 1958, at the age of 38, robbed the blues world of a singular, memorable talent and likely did much to hasten his unwarranted obscurity. Foster's recorded twice for J.O.B.: First in 1949 with "My Head Can't Rest Anymore" b/w "Take A Little Walk With Me" backed by Snooky Pryor on harmonica and Alfred Elkins on bass and once more in 1952 with "Pet Rabbit" b/w Louella" backed by Robert Lockwood and Sunnyland Slim.

J.B. Lenoir spent time in New Orleans before arriving in Chicago in the late '40s. He cut his first single for Chess in 1951, "Korea Blues." From late 1951 to 1953, he waxed several dates for JOB in the company of pianist Sunnyland Slim, drummer Alfred Wallace, and J.T. Brown.

The four side for J.O.B. Memphis Minnie cut were her last commercial recordings. Her husband, Little Son Joe (Ernest Lawlars) plays guitar and cut two sides under his own name for the label.

Guitarist John Brim was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, on April 10, 1922. He moved to Indianapolis in 1941 and Chicago in 1945; in the early 1950s he lived in Gary, Indiana. Along with his wife Grace (on harmonica and drums), Brim made recordings for Detroit-based Fortune (1950) and St. Louis-based Random (1951), before hooking up with J.O.B. in 1953 cutting four sides.

Blues singer/guitarist Hudson Shower was born September 6, 1919, in Aguilla, Mississippi. At age 12 he took up guitar. In 1939 Shower came to Chicago, but it was not until 1946 that he entered the city's burgeoning deep blues scene, despite having played guitar for 15 years. He first followed some of the older musicians, such as Big Bill Broonzy, Big Maceo, and Tampa Red, before forming his own group, the Red Devil Trio, in 1950. With this trio he cut four sides for J.O.B. in 1953.

Five Long YearsEddie Boyd's first formal session for J.O.B. took place on June 30, 1951, when four tracks were laid down. Boyd's first release, on JOB 1005, didn't sell much. A second session was booked on May 30, 1952, at which two tracks were laid. Promptly released on JOB 1007, "Five Long Years" was a huge hit. In consequence, Joe Brown quickly called Ernest Cotton into the studio to overdub his tenor sax on three of the tracks recorded in 1951, and a few months later reissued overdubbed versions of both sides of JOB 1005 on JOB 1009.

Floyd Jones cut six sides for J.O.B. at sessions in 1951 and 1953. Jones came to Chicago in the mid-'40s, working for tips on Maxwell Street with his cousin Moody Jones and Baby Face Leroy Foster and playing local clubs on a regular basis. Floyd was right there when the postwar "Chicago blues" movement first took flight, recording with harpist Snooky Pryor for Marvel in 1947; pianist Sunnyland Slim for Tempo Tone the next year, JOB and Chess in 1952-53, and Vee-Jay in 1955.Jones remained active on the Chicago scene until shortly before his 1989 death.

John Lee Henley recorded as John Lee, and should not be confused with the John Lee who recorded for Federal. He worked for a time in Big Boy Spires' band, the Rocket Four. He cut two sides for the label: "Rythm Rockin' Boogie" and "Knockin' on Lula Mae's Door" in 1952 for J.O.B. Henley recorded on three unissued sessions with guitarist Honeyboy Edwards during 1965 and 1966, so the JOB release is the full extent of his issued discography.

Down Home ChildMississippi born John T. Brown was a member of the Rabbit Foot Minstrels down south before arriving in the Windy City. By 1945, Brown was recording behind pianist Roosevelt Sykes and singer St. Louis Jimmy Oden, later backing Eddie Boyd and Washboard Sam for RCA Victor. He debuted on wax as a bandleader in 1950 on the Harlem label, subsequently cutting sessions in 1951 and 1952 for Chicago's United logo as well as JOB. Brown backed Elmore James on records for Meteor and Flair in 1952 and 1953 and Meteor issued a couple of singles under Brown's own name. After a final 1956 date for United that laid unissued at the time, Brown's studio activities were limited to sideman roles. In January of 1969, he was part of Fleetwood Mac's Blues Jam at Chess album, even singing a tune for the project, but he died before the close of that year.

Sunnyland Slim cut a handful of sides under his own name for the label in 1951 and 1954 and many artists on the label including Floyd Jones, Robert Lockwood, Leroy Foster, John Brim J.B. Lenoir, Snooky Pryor.

St. Louis Cyclone

St. Louis Cyclone Blues (MP3)

In our ongoing look at the blues ads that appeared in the Chicago Defender we examine two topical numbers about the St. Louis Cyclone of 1927. The St. Louis Cyclone hit five months after the flooding of the Mississippi river. The 1927 flood provoked an outpouring of songs by both whites and African-Americans. Many blues songs were written directly about the flood itself while others dealt with related matters like levee work, refugee camps and other natural disasters. Among those who wrote flood themed songs was Lonnie Johnson who recorded "South Bound Water" four days after the disaster, a cover of Bessie Smith's "Back Water Blues" and "Broken Levee Blues." Johnson's "St. Louis Cyclone Blues" was recorded in New York City just four days after the catastrophe. On September 29 a cyclone struck St. Louis, killing 84 people in five minutes and causing one million dollars in damage. The impact of this disaster was minimal in relation to the Mississippi flood and this is reflected in the fact that only four songs were released about the subject. In addition to Johnson there was a sermon by Rev. J.M. Gates titled "God's Wrath In The St. Louis Cyclone", Elzadie Robinson's "St. Louis Cyclone Blues" (a shorter version of Johnson's song) and "Tornado Groan" by Luella Miller.

Johnson was at the height of his popularity during this period, cutting some 130 sides between 1925 and 1932. Accordingly his recordings were advertised regularly in the Chicago Defender with some forty ads appearing in the paper between 1926 and 1931. In addition to being a gifted singer and guitarist he was also an imaginative songwriter as "St. Louis Cyclone Blues" amply demonstrates:

I was sitting in my kitchen, lookin’ ‘way out cross the sky (2x)
I thought the world was ending, I started in to cry.

The wind was howlin’, the buildings beginnin’ to fall (2x)
I seen that mean old twister comin’, just like a cannonball

The world was black as midnight, I never heard such a noise before (2x)
Sound like a million lions, when they turn loose their roar

Oh, people was screamin’, and runnin’ every which away (2x)
[spoken ] Lord have mercy on our poor people!
I fell down on my knees, I started in to pray

The shack where we were living, she reeled and rocked but never fell (2x)
[spoken ] Lord, Have mercy!
How the cyclone spared us, nobody but the Lord can tell

God's Wrath In The St. Louis Cyclone (MP3)

Recorded sermons were among the most popular and best selling of the race records in the 1920's and 1930's. Rev. J.M. Gates waxed some two hundred titles between 1926 and 1941, which accounted for a staggering quarter of all sermons recorded during this period. These records provide a fascinating look into the views and concerns of black America at a time when very few outlets existed for black expression. Gates' sermons were advertised in the Chicago Defender close to thirty times between 1926 and 1930. Gates tackled a wide variety of topical concerns exemplified in titles like "The California Kidnapping", "The Flood Of Alabama",  "President Roosevelt Is Everybody's Friend", "Joe Louis' Wrist And Hist Fist", "Hitler And Hell" among others. "God's Wrath In The St. Louis Cyclone" was recorded a week after the disaster and actually relates a litany of natural disasters, the St. Louis Cyclone being just one of them. Just as many songs viewed the sinking of the titanic as divine intervention so too did gospel singers and preachers view natural disasters as God's retribution.



Show Notes:

Today's program is the first in a series of harmonica shows I have in the pipeline. A couple of listeners have wondered why I haven't done any harmonica features. As I looked backed I realized they were right although it certainly wasn't intentional. Today's program is a loosely themed tribute to a batch of great downhome harmonica blowers from the late 1940's through the 1960's. On deck today we spin rocking and raw sides by Papa Lightfoot, Coy "Hot Shot" Love, George "Harmonica" Smith,  Forest City Joe, Jerry McCain, Schoolboy Cleve, Lazy Lester, Kid Thomas and several others.

Goin' Back To The Natchez TraceThanks to a handful of terrific 1950's sides, the name of Papa Lightfoot was revered by 1960's blues enthusiasts. Producer Steve LaVere tracked him down in Natchez, MS cutting an album for Vault in 1969. His comeback was short-lived and he died in 1971. He cut sessions for Peacock in 1949 (unissued), Sultan in 1950, and Aladdin in 1952 preceded an amazing 1954 date for Imperial in New Orleans that produced Lightfoot's "Mean Old Train," "Wine Women Whiskey" and a wild "When the Saints Go Marching In."  His final pre-rediscovery sides were cut for Savoy in 1955. We also play a cut by Ole Sonny Boy who was once though to be a pseudonym for Papa Lightfoot but is now thought to be J.D. Horton who cut two sides under that name in 1952 for Bullet and two sides as Ole Sonny Boy for Excello in 1956.

Schoolboy Cleve passed away earlier this year and this set is a belated tribute to him. Cleve cut a handful of sides between 1954-1963 for a series of small labels, backed Lightnin' Slim on some mid-50's sides, issued some 45's on his own Cherrie label and in 2006 released the full length CD South to West: Iron and Gold.

Coy "Hot Shot" Love lived on Gayoso Street in Memphis, an itinerant musician and sometime sign-painter who got his one moment of glory in the recording studio on January 8, 1954, when he entered Sam Phillips' Sun Studios to record "Wolf Call Boogie" b/w "Harmonica Jam," backed by Mose Vinson at the piano, Pat Hare on guitar, Kenneth Banks on bass, and Houston Stokes on the drums. Love survived for decades after his one claim to recorded music Strange Letter Blueslegend, and died in a car accident in Interstate 55.

In his early teens, George Smith started hoboing around the the South and later joined Early Woods, a country band and also worked with a gospel group in Mississippi called the Jackson Jubilee Singers. He was supposedly one of the first to amplify his harp. He played in a number of bands including one with a young Otis Rush and later went on the road with the Muddy Waters Band. In 1954, he was offered a permanent job at the Orchid Room in Kansas City where, early in 1955, Joe Bihari of Modern Records (on a scouting trip), heard Smith, and signed him to Modern. These recording sessions were released under the name Little George Smith, and included "Telephone Blues" and "Blues in the Dark." In the late '50s he recorded for J&M, Lapel, Melker, and Caddy under the names Harmonica King or Little Walter Junior. He also worked with Big Mama Thornton on many shows. In 1960, Smith met producer Nat McCoy who owned the Sotoplay and Carolyn labels, with whom he recorded ten singles under the name of George Allen. In 1966, while Muddy Waters was on West Coast, he asked Smith to join him and they worked together for a while, recording for Spivey Records. Smith's first album on World Pacific was A Tribute to Little Walter released in 1968. In 1969 he an album for Bluesway, and later made use of Smith as a sideman for his Blues Times label, including sets with T-Bone Walker, and Harmonica Slim. Smith met Rod Piazza and they formed the Southside Blues Band, later known as Bacon Fat. In 1969, Smith signed with U.K. producer Mike Vernon and did the "No Time for Jive album." Smith was less active in the 1970's appearing with Eddie Taylor and Big Mama Thornton. Around 1977, Smith became friends with William Clarke and they began working together. Their working relationship and friendship continued until Smith died on October 2, 1983.

George "Harmonica" Smith

William Clarke, Smith's protege, writes "He had a technique on the chromatic harp where he would play two notes at once, but one octave apart. He would get an organ-type sound by doing this. George really knew how to make his notes count by not playing too much and taking his time by letting the music unfold easily. He could also swing like crazy and was a first-class entertainer. I have heard from a friend that they had seen George Smith in the 1950s playing a club in Chicago, tap dancing around everybody's drinks on top of the bar while playing his harp.He played a huge role in advancing blues harmonica and should never be forgotten. You can hear the influence of George Smith in most everyone playing blues harmonica today, whether directly or indirectly."

As a youngster, Little Walter was Jerry McCain's main man on harp, an instrument McCain began playing at age five. In 1953 McCain made his debut for the Trumpet label in Jackson, MS, with "East of the Sun" b/w "Wine-O-Wine." McCain's 1954 Trumpet encore was "Stay Out of Automobiles" b/w "Love to Make Up." McCain signed with Excello in 1955 cutting some terrific sides through 1957. One of his best-known records is his two-sided 1960 gem for Rex Records, "She's Tough" b/w "Steady." The Fabulous Thunderbirds later covered the A-side. McCain waxed three 45's for OKeh in Nashville in 1962 and a series of sides between 1965-1968 for Stan Lewis' Shreveport-based Jewel label. After too many years spent in obscurity, McCain rejuvenated his fortunes in 1989 by signing with Ichiban Records. More recently he has cut several records for the Music Maker label.

Kid Thomas was born in 1934, in Sturgis, Mississippi and moved to Chicago at a young age and by the late '40s and early '50s he was blowing harp at Cadillac Baby's and a dozen other clubs. According to all accounts, he appears to have sat in with everybody at one time or another during the early to mid-'50s; Muddy Waters, Elmore James, and Bo Diddley among others. He made his debut for Federal in 1957. Two years later he move to L.A. where he cut for several small labels with little success. In 1970 he was shot by a man whose son he had killed in a car accident.

Forest City Joe was heavily influenced by John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson. He was born in Hughes, AR, on July 10, 1926 and played the local juke joints in the area as a youngster. He hoboed his way through the state working road houses and juke joints during the 1940s, and late in the decade hooked up with Big Joe Williams, playing with him around St. Louis, MO. Beginning in 1947, he also began working the Chicago area, and a year later had his one and only session for the Chess brothers' Aristocrat label. He also appeared with Howlin' Wolf and Sonny Boy II on radio shows in the West Memphis area. When he returned to Chicago in 1949, he began working with the Otis Spann Combo, appearing at the Tick Tock Lounge and other clubs in the city until the mid-'50s. He returned to Arkansas and gave up music, except for occasional weekend shows with Willie Cobbs, playing in poolrooms and on street corners. He recorded for Atlantic Records in 1959, and was still performing until his death in 1960, in a truck accident while returning home from a dance.

Lula Reed, Jet Magazine, 1953

I recently got word that the fine R&B singer Lula Reed passed away on June 21st. I imagine that if blues fans know her at all it's the same way I discovered her which is on the half-dozen sides she cut with Freddy King in 1962. In fact I still have that original record, Boy-Girl-Boy on King, the title referring to Lula Reed, Freddy King and Reed's long time accompanist, pianist Sonny Thompson who later became Reed's husband.  These well regarded recordings were at the end of an admirable recording career that began in 1951 and after these sides there would be just two more session for Ray Charles' Tangerine label before Reed left the secular world behind.

Reed had a style that, like many of that period, bore the influence of Dinah Washington. At the time of her debut Reed was fully formed; she had a nasal, but not shrill voice, at once girlish and worldly that was instantly recognizable whether she was singing mellow blues ballads, gospel or tough edged R&B. Whatever she sang she made it sound so effortless and easy. Although her career ended just prior to the rise of soul music, she was one of a coterie of singers who's style anticipated that music and it's no stretch to imagine she would have made a fine soul singer had she stuck it out.

Sonny Thompson, Lula Reed

Reed made her debut with Sonny Thompson's combo in December 1951 taking the vocals on two numbers, her only national hits: "Let's Call It A Day" hit the #7 slot of the Billboard Rhythm & Blues Chart, while "I'll Drown in My Tears" surpassed it at #5. The former song was revived by Billy Gayles and Ike Turner in 1956, while the latter, retitled "Drown in My Own Tears",  was taken to the top of the Billboard R&B charts in early 1956 by Ray Charles for Atlantic. Before going out on her own she cut the sultry "Last Night"and "Waiting to Be Loved by You" with Thompson's group in June 1952. Her own King debut came in October 1952 with a pair of gospel numbers (she cut one other gospel session in 1954) with her secular debut coming in April 1953. Reed recorded steadily for the label through 1956 backed all the while by Thompson's band, notable for his terrific piano work, and some first rate material. Sadly, despite the commercial promise of her first two releases and being voted the nation's #4 rhythm and blues singer by The Cash Box trade magazine in 1954, she never managed to equal her early success. She came close to a chart hit a few times with "Watch Dog", "Bump On A Log" and "Rock Love" (later revived by labelmate Little Willie John). She briefly moved to the Chess subsidiary Argo in 1958-1959 (during which time King released her only solo LP Blue and Moody) but returned to the fold in 1961 on King's Federal imprint. It was at Federal, were she waxed the above mentioned sides with Freddy King in 1962. Her final move was to Ray Charles's Tangerine logo in 1962-1963, soon after leaving the R&B world for the church. All subsequent efforts to talk about her show business career were rebuffed.

Lula Reed is well served on reissues: Lula Reed 1951-1954 on Classics is the first of a projected three that will issue Reed's complete output while I'll Drown In My Own Tears on Ace collects 24 of her King numbers and finally there's Blues And Moody, a straight reissue of her lone King LP. Sides by Reed also appear on Blue Moon's Sonny Thompson collections: The Complete Recordings Vol. 3 1951-52, The Complete Recordings Vol. 4 1952-1954 and The Complete Recordings Vol. 5 1954-1955.

Last Night (MP3)

I'll Drown in My Tears (MP3)

I'll Upset You Baby (MP3)

Rock Love (MP3)

Troubles On Your Mind (MP3)

Just Whisper (MP3)

(Let Your Love) Watch Over Me [w/ Freddie King] (MP3)

It's Easy Child [w/ Freddie King] (MP3)


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