Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Jane Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917 – June 15, 1996) was an American jazz singer, sometimes referred to as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz, and Lady Ella. She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing, timing, intonation, and a "horn-like" improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing.












Fitzgerald made her most important debut at age 17 on November 21, 1934, in one of the earliest Amateur Nights at the Apollo Theater in New York. Performing in the style of Connee Boswell, she sang "Judy" and "The Object of My Affection" and won first prize. In January 1935, Fitzgerald won the chance to perform for a week with the Tiny Bradshaw band at the Harlem Opera House. She was introduced to drummer and bandleader Chick Webb, who had asked his recently signed singer Charlie Linton to help find him a female singer. Met with approval by both audiences and her fellow musicians, Fitzgerald was asked to join Webb's orchestra and gained acclaim as part of the group's performances at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom.[16] Fitzgerald recorded several hit songs, including "Love and Kisses" and "(If You Can't Sing It) You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)". But it was her 1938 version of the nursery rhyme, "A-Tisket, A-Tasket", a song she co-wrote, that brought her public acclaim. "A-Tisket, A-Tasket" became a major hit on the radio and was also one of the biggest-selling records of the decade. Webb died of spinal tuberculosis on June 16, 1939, and his band was renamed Ella and Her Famous Orchestra with Fitzgerald taking on the role of bandleader. She recorded nearly 150 songs with Webb's orchestra between 1935 and 1942. In addition to her work with Webb, Fitzgerald performed and recorded with the Benny Goodman Orchestra. She had her own side project, too, known as Ella Fitzgerald and Her Savoy Eight.







While working for Decca Records, she had hits with Bill Kenny & the Ink Spots, Louis Jordan, and the Delta Rhythm Boys. The advent of bebop led to new developments in Fitzgerald's vocal style, influenced by her work with Dizzy Gillespie's big band. It was in this period that Fitzgerald started including scat singing as a major part of her performance repertoire. Her 1945 scat recording of "Flying Home" arranged by Vic Schoen would later be described by The New York Times as "one of the most influential vocal jazz records of the decade". Her bebop recording of "Oh, Lady Be Good!" (1947) was similarly popular and increased her reputation as one of the leading jazz vocalists.

Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book, released in 1956, was the first of eight Song Book sets Fitzgerald would record for Verve at irregular intervals from 1956 to 1964. The composers and lyricists spotlighted on each set, taken together, represent the greatest part of the cultural canon known as the Great American Songbook. Her song selections ranged from standards to rarities and represented an attempt by Fitzgerald to cross over into a non-jazz audience. The sets are the most well-known items in her discography. Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Song Book was the only Song Book on which the composer she interpreted played with her.

While Fitzgerald appeared in movies and as a guest on popular television shows in the second half of the twentieth century, her musical collaborations with Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and The Ink Spots were some of her most notable acts outside of her solo career. These partnerships produced some of her best-known songs such as "Dream a Little Dream of Me", "Cheek to Cheek", "Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall", and "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)".

In 1993, after a career of nearly 60 years, she gave her last public performance. Three years later, she died at the age of 79 after years of declining health. Her accolades included fourteen Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Monday, 18 January 2021

Barbara Pittman

Barbara Pittman (April 6, 1938 – October 29, 2005) was an American singer, one of the few female singers to record at Sun Studio. As a young teenager, she recorded some demos of songs for others.











Barbara Pittman was born and grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, United States. As a child, she was friends and neighbors with Elvis Presley. Pittman spent time working in Lash LaRue's western shows in 1955–1956. When she returned, she began recording at Sun Records. Between 1956 and 1960, she would cut four different singles there as well as a host of material that was never released, including demo records. Her most popular recordings include "I Need A Man" on the Sun label (1956) and "Two Young Fools in Love", released on Sam Phillips' International label (1957). Her records did not achieve much commercial success; Pittman stated in interviews that this was due to a lack of promotion on the part of the label.







After her time at Sun, she moved to California in the 1960s, and she sang on the soundtracks of several motorcycle films, including Wild Angels, Wild on Wheels, and Hells Angels. This was under the name of Barbara and the Visitors. Pittman also recorded for Del-Fi Records, although no material was released by them.

Pittman died at her home in Memphis on October 29, 2005 of heart failure. She was 67.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Margie Hendrix - The Raelettes

Marjorie "Margie" Hendrix (March 13, 1935 – July 14, 1973) was an American rhythm and blues singer best known for her performances as a founder member and leader of the Raelettes, backing Ray Charles. The spelling "Hendricks" is sometimes used.







Margie Hendrix was born on March 13, 1935 in Register, Georgia. She sang, played piano and directed her local church choir while in her teens. In the early 1950s she moved to New York City, and made her first solo recording, "Everything", on the Lamp label in 1954, but it did not hit the charts. In 1956, she replaced Beulah Robertson in the Cookies, joining existing members Dorothy Jones and Darlene McCrea. The group signed to Atlantic Records, and had a #9 hit on the R&B chart with "In Paradise". They also started working as session singers at Atlantic, where they were introduced to Ray Charles. The Cookies auditioned for Charles on the song "Leave My Woman Alone". In 1958, Margie and McCrea left the Cookies (who later went on to greater success with a different line-up), and later formed the Raelettes as Ray's backing singers. 






The Raelettes were officially established in 1958. The first lineup consisted of Darlene McCrea, Margie Hendricks, Patricia Lyles, and Gwendolyn Berry. In October 1958, Ray Charles recorded his first song with the Raelettes, "Night Time Is the Right Time", which reached #5 on the R&B chart the following year. The song features Margie's barely controlled voice to Ray to "tease me, squeeze me, please me, oh don't leave me..." Margie and the Raelettes sung on several of Ray's other recordings of the time, including "Tell the Truth", "What'd I Say", "Sticks And Stones", "Hit the Road Jack", "Unchain My Heart", "My Baby!", "I Can't Stop Loving You", "Bye Bye Love, and "You Are My Sunshine." The second known line-up was Margie Hendrix, Patricia Lyles, Gwen Berry, and Darlene McCrea. In the early years, Margie Hendrix was the Raelette's foremost member.

After leaving the Raelettes in 1964, Margie signed a record deal with Mercury Records, and released five singles on the label, mostly produced by Gene "Bowlegs" Miller. The first two singles were released in 1965 ("Now the Hurt's On You" and "Baby"), and three followed in 1967 ("Restless", "Nothin' But a Tramp" and "One Room Paradise"). Her final records were released on the Sound Stage 7 label from 1968 to 1969.

Margie died in New York on July 14, 1973, aged 38. The official cause of her death is unknown since no autopsy was performed on her, but many sources claim it was caused by a heroin overdose.

Monday, 11 January 2021

Patricia Paay - Heart

Patricia Anglaia Margareth Paaij (born 7 April 1949), best known as Patricia Paay, is a Dutch singer, radio host, glamour model and television personality. In the Netherlands, she is well known for her musical career, which spans over four decades. She is also regularly featured on Dutch television and in Dutch tabloid media. Singer Yvonne Keeley is her sister. 






Paaij started her career at a very young age as a backing vocalist in her father's jazz orchestra, together with her sister Yvonne Keeley and Anita Meyer. In 1967 she started recording and had much success in Holland as well in Germany. She founded the rock group Himalaya in 1971 which merged into Heart in 1973.  The band consisted of Patricia Paay (Vocals), Okkie Huysdens (Keyboards), Gerrit Visser (Bass guitar), Mac Sell (Guitar), Ton Op 't Hof (Drums).

They released 3 singles from 1973 to 1974: "Hang On" (1973), Stronger (1974) and "Lovemaker" (1974). When Patricia Paay left the band in 1975 to pursuit a solo-career, the group reformed themselves and became "Limousine". After the split of Heart Paay successfully started a solo career. With the Star Sisters she participated in the Stars On 45 project.

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Betty Willis

Betty Jane Willis (March 10, 1941 – January 1, 2018) was an American soul singer in the 1960s. Born on a farm in Mississippi, Willis moved with her family to Fresno, California, when she was two. 









In the early 1960s, Betty began singing at various clubs in Santa Ana, California and throughout Orange County. In 1962, she recorded a duet with Ray Lockhart as Betty & Ray on Rendezvous Records entitled Turn Your Love Lights On / You're Too Much and followed it up with a solo single entitled, Take Your Heart also in 1962. She also recorded two singles with the label as the lead vocalist of a studio group of singers credited as the The Instants.









She occasionally sang with Santa Ana neighbor, Bill Medley (who eventually became the lower voice of The Righteous Brothers) at various local clubs. While The Righteous Brothers were signed to Moonglow (2) records, Betty and Bill Medley recorded a duet with one of Bill's songs entitled, 'My Tears Will Go Away' which was never released. Betty eventually hooked up with Wrecking Crew pianist, Leon Russell who would produce her next record, a retooled rhythm and blues version of "Act Naturally",  on the Philles Records subsidiary, Phi-Dan Records.










Betty recorded one final single on the Mojo Records label in 1967 entitled, Ain't Gonna Do You No Good which had been also recorded in 1966 by Rita & The Tiaras on Dore records. The A-side of the disc was written and produced by Jackie Avery and John Farris.



According to her daughter, Willis enjoyed a singing career but did not want to be part of the music industry. She briefly worked in a factory before becoming a postal worker in the 1980s and retired after 37 years. She became homeless in retirement. Early on January 1, 2018, Willis was assaulted by a man who attempted to rape her. She was hit repeatedly on the head and strangled to death, before police arrived to apprehend her attacker. Willis was 76.

Monday, 4 January 2021

Marie Knight

Marie Knight (June 1, 1920 – August 30, 2009) was an American gospel and R&B singer. She was born Marie Roach in 1920, though she claimed to have been born in 1925. Sources differ as to her place of birth – either Attapulgus, Georgia, or Sanford, Florida – but she grew up in Newark, New Jersey.










She first toured as a singer in 1939 with Frances Robinson, an evangelist. In 1946, she made her first recordings, for Haven Records with the masters soon purchased by Signature Records, as a member of The Sunset Four (aka The Sunset Jubilee Singers). Shortly afterwards, Sister Rosetta Tharpe saw her singing at the Golden Gate Auditorium in Harlem, on a bill with Mahalia Jackson, and invited Knight to join her on tour. Tharpe recognized "something special" in Marie's contralto voice.






She continued to record and perform with Tharpe through the 1940s, sometimes acting out the parts of "the Saint and the Sinner", with Tharpe as the saint and Knight as the sinner. Among their successes were the songs "Beams of Heaven", "Didn't it Rain", and "Up Above My Head", recorded for Decca Records. "Up Above My Head", credited jointly to both singers, reached No. 6 on the US R&B chart at the end of 1948, and Knight's solo version of "Gospel Train" reached No. 9 on the R&B chart in 1949.

She left Tharpe to go solo around 1951, and put together a backing group, The Millionaires (Thomasina Stewart, Eleonore King and Roberta Jones), with whom she recorded the 1956 album Songs of the Gospel. She began recording secular R&B music in the late 1950s, for various labels including Decca, Mercury, and Okeh. Her duet with Rex Garvin, credited as Marie & Rex, "I Can't Sit Down" released on the Carlton label, reached No. 94 on the pop chart in 1959. In the late 1950s she also toured Britain as a guest of Humphrey Lyttelton.

In 1961 she recorded the single "Come Tomorrow", which was later a hit for Manfred Mann. Knight's version of "Cry Me a River" reached No. 35 on the U.S. Billboard R&B charts in 1965. She toured with Brook Benton, the Drifters, and Clyde McPhatter, and regularly reunited onstage with Tharpe. She remained friends with Tharpe, and helped arrange her funeral in 1973. In 1975, having given up performing secular music, she recorded another gospel album, Marie Knight: Today. In 2002, Knight made a comeback in the gospel world, recording for a tribute album to Tharpe. She released a full-length album, Let Us Get Together, on her manager's label in 2007.

Marie Knight died in Harlem of complications from pneumonia, on August 30, 2009, aged 89.

Friday, 1 January 2021

Baby Washington

Justine Washington (born November 13, 1940), usually credited as Baby Washington, but credited on some early records as Jeanette (Baby) Washington, is an American soul music vocalist, who had 16 rhythm and blues chart entries in 15 years, most of them during the 1960s.












Washington was born in Bamberg, South Carolina, and raised in Harlem, New York. In 1956, she joined the vocal group the Hearts, and also recorded for J & S Records as a member of the Jaynetts ("I Wanted To Be Free"/"Where Are You Tonight", J&S 1765/6). She first recorded solo, as Baby Washington, in 1957, on "Everyday" (J&S 1665). In 1958 she signed to Donald Shaw's Neptune Records as a solo performer, and established herself as a soul singer with two hits in 1959: "The Time" (U.S. R&B #22) and "The Bells" (U.S. R&B # 20). She followed up with the hit "Nobody Cares" (U.S. R&B # 17) in 1961. Several of her singles on the Neptune and ABC labels were credited to Jeanette (Baby) Washington.








She signed with ABC Paramount in 1961, but her two releases for the label were not hits, although the self-written "Let Love Go By" later became a notable Northern Soul single. Washington then moved to Juggy Murray's Sue Records in 1962, scoring her only entry on the U.S. Billboard Top 40 with "That's How Heartaches Are Made" in 1963. Two years later, she hit again on the U.S. R&B Top 10 with "Only Those In Love". Among her other Sue recordings were "I Can't Wait Until I See My Baby's Face", co-written by Chip Taylor and Jerry Ragovoy, and "Careless Hands", penned by Billy Myles.

Washington revived her career in the early 1970s covering the Marvelettes' "Forever" (# 30 R&B) as a duet with Don Gardner. Her solo release, "I've Got To Break Away", made number 73 on the R&B charts, after which the advent of disco led to a decline in her popularity. She has never experienced great crossover recognition, although Dusty Springfield once cited Washington as her all-time favorite singer and recorded "That's How Heartaches Are Made" and "I Can't Wait Until I See My Baby's Face".

Washington is still active as a live performer, appearing several times a year on the East Coast and performing on cruise ships. She also performed at the Prestatyn Soul Weekender festival in Wales in 2004. She performed with the Enchanters at a Philadelphia-area show in March 2008, and in Baltimore in June 2008. Washington was among the 2008 honorees in Community Works' Ladies Singing the Blues music series.