I hope everyone is all well and managed to enjoy the short break in the weather we had over the weekend?
I had a great weekend, squeezing in some quality time with friends as well as heading across town to The Elbow Room in Shoreditch, East London, where I joined The Bump & Hustle gang as a guest DJ at their monthly night. Good tunes and some all-round nice people made it a really enjoyable night. I urge you to head down there on the second Saturday of each month if you can!
Now let me divulge, normally the commute back to ‘The Coal Face’ on a Monday morning (especially after a good weekend) fills me full to spilling point with a feeling of cold dread, as I contemplate what troubles and trauma the day ahead will bring me. This I’ve learnt over time, can be subdued with some careful musical programming on the journey into work.
So as we burst out of the traps into a new working week, I wanted to share another 45 from the batch I recently picked up, which certainly aided me this morning in making it in with some of my sanity left!
Big Maybelle will hopefully be an artist some of you will be familiar with, having been featured round these parts previously. Her version of ? & The Mysterians, 1965 hit, ‘96 Tears’, in my humble opinion, supersedes the original version due to her powerful and emotional delivery vocally. She flits between sweet and soulful and gravelly aggression with ease.
I also prefer the musical arrangement which adds to, and also elevates her performance.
It also seems to my humble ears to have much more substance due to the great horn rises. Not, I add, that this detracts from the original, which is a fantastic record in its own right, and one that we should be thankful for spawning today’s 45!
Big Maybelle started her musical journey singing Gospel in her local church in Tennessee before making the step across to secular music. She performed with several outfits including Dave Clark’s Memphis Band, The International Sweethearts Of Rhythm and two different Orchestras led by Christine Chapman and Tiny Bradshaw respectively. Aside from an amazing singing voice, Big Maybelle was also an accomplished pianist to boot!
It wasn’t until 1947 that she cut the first of three singles for Syd Nathan’s King Records under her birth name, Mabel (Louise) Smith. These saw limited success. Fred Mendelsohn, founder of a number of labels including Herald, picked her up and bought her across to Okeh. After changing her stage name to Big Maybelle, she went onto cut ten singles for the Okeh label between 1952 and 1956, as well as several for Savoy Records, a label which Mendelsohn was also involved in.
Several hits followed, most notably ‘Candy’ which made #11 on the Billboard R&B chart and ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On’, which was produced by a then wet behind the ears Quincy Jones in 1955. It also notably went on to be a major hit for ’The Killer’ AKA Jerry Lee Lewis!
Big Maybelle had several more successful minor hits across many labels including Chess, Scepter, and Rojac, but the glory years of her career had passed and she eventually moved to Cleveland, Ohio to settle.
Eventually years of battling with health issues and an alleged drug addiction saw her tragically leave us after dying from the effects of a diabetic coma in 1972, aged only 47.
Several of her recordings have been picked up by the Northern scene and are getting plays, which is nice to see. It’s doubtless that Big Maybelle, aside from being an amazing talent, was in amongst one of the most overlooked performers of her era!
I hope if you enjoy today’s 45 as much as I do, you’ll take the time to delve into her back catalogue. Stay safe and I’ll be back soon with some more of the ‘Good Stuff’ for you.
Big Maybelle – 96 Tears – Rojac