Sunday, 30 March 2014

Out Like a Lioness: Heroines of Soul Music, Part 2

Women's History Month ends today ... here are more somewhat lesser known legends of soul music, this time from the later 1960s.

Tami Lynn

New Orleans gave us many great soul singers, most famously Irma Thomas and the Dixie Cups. Tami Lynn was signed to the New Orleans based AFO (All For One) label in the early 1960s. It was there that she recorded her version of "Mojo Hannah" under the name Tammy Lynn, already recorded by Henry Lumpkin at Motown in 1962. She was signed to Atlantic in 1965 and released "I'm Gonna Run Away From You" on their ATCO label. Later still she released material on Atlantic's Cotillion label including an updated version of "Mojo Hannah" in 1971. She still performs today.

Betty Harris

Another New Orleans artist who started recording for the Jubilee label in 1963. Her deep soul cover of "Cry To Me" (written by Bert Berns and originally sung by Solomon Burke) nearly made the Billboard Top 20 that year. Between 1964 and 1968, Harris recorded a string of singles for Sansu, including "I'm Evil Tonight", "I Don't Want To Hear It" and another deep soul collectible "Nearer To You" (1967). Harris spent years out of the music business before coming back to it in 2004 and has been performing ever since.

Maxine Thomas

Truly obscure. I learned about her only from a track on the 1964 Folkways release Roots: The Rock and Roll Sound of Louisiana and Mississippi, recorded at Cosimo's Studio in New Orleans. The track is a cover of "Rome Wasn't Built In a Day" sung previously by Sam Cooke and Johnnie Taylor.

Helene Smith

As of 1967, Helene Smith was a fast rising star at Miami's Deep City label. She had begun recording in 1963 and now had an album's worth of material. In short, then came Betty Wright and it was all over. But Smith's music captures a moment in soul music when very small labels carried the day and beautiful music was being made in studios based in warehouses, basements or the backs of restaurants and TV/radio repair shops. Below are her 1963 debut "The Pot Can't Talk About the Kettle" and 1967's "I'm Controlled By Your Love".


Born Joan Carol Pulliam, she adopted the stage name Jaibi following her marriage to soul singer-songwriter Larry Banks (who had been previously married to singer Bessie Banks). She began recording with a vocal group called the Pleasures and then, solo for Kapp Records. However, commercial success eluded her and she left music in 1968 to become a computer programmer. She died of leukemia in 1984.

Ruby Andrews

Hailing from Hollandale, Mississippi, Andrews recorded for the Chicago based Zodiac label. She is best known for her 1967 single "Casanova (You're Playing Days Are Over)". She followed up that single with several others, but seems to have stopped recording in the 1970s. She currently runs her own label Genuine Ruby Records.

Patty Stokes

Another rare artist who I found on YouTube. No photos, no bio, no whereabouts. She was apparently from Philadelphia and recorded one single for the Ohio based Mir-A-Don label in 1967 which also apparently featured the musicians who soon make Sigma Sound Studios famous. The two sides of that single are "Good Girl" and "Is It True".

Dori Grayson

From Shreveport, Louisiana where she also recorded for indie label Murco in 1967-68. In the brief time that it was operating, Murco put out some of the finest southern soul around and Grayson was one of the label's star artists. However, her success was only regional although she has had a cult following for some time now.

The Charmels

Over at Stax, this vocal group recorded a handful of singles between 1966 and 1968, the best of which is their late-1967 release "As Long As I've Got You." Their last single was for Volt a year later, a cover of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" re-titled "Lovin' Feelin'".

Patti Drew

Hailing from South Carolina, but later recording in Chicago, Patti Drew cut a single in late-1963 with her vocal group The Drew-Vels called "Tell Him". She later rerecorded as a solo artist it for Capitol in 1968 and followed that up with great covers of Barbara Lewis' "Workin' On a Groovy Thing" (in turn covered by 5th Dimension in 1969) and Otis Redding's "Hard To Handle". She left the music business and only recorded and performed sporadically afterwards.

Lezli Valentine

Originally a session vocalist with The Hearts (Baby Washington's original group) and The Jaynettes ("Sally Go 'Round The Roses"), Valentine was signed to Sylvia Robinson's new label All Platinum in 1968. There she recorded "I Won't Do Anything" and "Love On a Two-Way Street" both of which were passed on to label mates The Moments who had a massive hit with the latter song in 1970. Valentine later became a gospel singer.

Barbara Brown

Memphis-based Barbara and The Browns recorded for Stax and XL Records, although their 1963 debut was for the Chip Moman-owned indie label Wilmo. Many of the group and her own solo recording were leased out to other labels, but were later gathered together on a compilation called Can't Find Happiness. Brown died in 2010.

Doris Duke

Born Doris Curry, she initially recorded under her married name Doris Willingham in the mid-1960s. She recorded her now legendary (among collectors) sessions with Jerry "Swamp Dogg" Williams in 1969. These sessions became the album I'm a Loser which contained deep soul gems such as "To The Other Woman", "Feet Start Walking" and the album's title track. Duke continued to record into the 1970s before retiring from music for good.

Candi Staton

Known for her 1970s disco hits and her gospel material, her recordings for Fame Studios are legendary. Between 1969 and 1973, Staton, produced by Clarence Carter and singing songs written by southern soul songwriter George Jackson, brought eh full power of southern gospel into her secular work. Songs from these sessions included "I'd Rather Be An Old Man's Sweetheart (Than a Young Man's Fool)", "I'm Just a Prisoner (Of Your Good Lovin')" and "Evidence". Three albums worth of material resulted. Staton left Fame Studios for Warner Brothers in 1974, had great pop success and then went back to gospel music. Within the last several years, Staton has recorded more secular material as well.

Bettye LaVette

A recording artist since her 1962 debut for Atlantic, LaVette recorded throughout the 1960s and early-1970s with virtually no commercial success. After recording for labels as diverse as LuPine, Calla, Karen, and Silver Fix/SSS International, she returned to Atlantic to record and album in 1972 which was subsequently shelved. Called Child of the Seventies, the album had a second life through a European release in the 2000s. After that interest in LaVette's work grew. She began to record with the Anti label in 2006 and has finally found the success she has so richly deserved all of these years.

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