I’m back again whether you like it or not, gotta spread my music you know 😉 Anyway today’s artist is definetely not the first name you think of when it comes to slick music actually her music wasn’t slick at all! So why write about someone whose music isn’t slick at all makes no sense what so ever yes i’m all with you but as the saying goes no rules without exception. Today’s song is actually quite slick for it’s time at least according to me and my blog my rules lol!
Etta was a mostly r&b singer but she also did jazz and blues, rock & roll, gospel. Was you say? Yes was cause she left us January the 20th 2012 after a life with lots of ups and downs but now she’s free. The legendary producer Jerry Wexler caller her “the greatest of all modern blues singers”. However her life started January the 25th 1938 as Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles to Dorothy Hawkins who was just a teenager at the age of 14. The father was unknown thou Etta had her own speculations recarding her father, a pool player but it never got confirmed. Her mother was often away from their Watts apparment due to chasing new guys to have a relationship with.
Due to the often absent mother she lived with a series of foster parents, most notably “Sarge” and “Mama” Lu. James referred to her mother as “the mystery lady”. To say she had a rough childhood is an big time understatement. Would you be surprised if i told you she got her first professional vocal training in the church, you wouldnt?! Guess what me neither! She became a popular attraction in the church and Sarge tried to make the church pay him for her singing there thou they refused. Sarge often woke her up in the middle of the night when he was drunk for her to sing for him and his poker playing friends.
As she was a bed-wetter, and often soaked with her own urine on these occasions, the trauma of being forced to sing meant she had a lifelong reluctance to sing on demand. Who can blame her for that. Sounds like the worst kind of cliché but she most definetely lived “the blues” so to speak. In 1950 Mama Lu died and her biological mother took her to the Fillmore district in San Fransisco. After a couple of years in Frisco Etta began listening to doo-wop and was inspired to form girl group called The Creolettes (due to the members’ light-skinned complexions). When she was 14 she met musician Johnny Otis due the stories how the actually met vary. Otis version was she came to his hotel room after a show in the city and persuaded him to audition her.
Picture shows a young Etta James and Johnny Otis.
I mentioned different stories about how Etta and Johnny met and another one is that Johnny had spotted The Creolettes performing at a night club in L.A. and sought them to record his “answer song” to Hank Ballard’s “Work with me, Annie”. Despite which version that is true Johnny Otis did take the group under his wings, helping them signing to Modern Records and changing their name to The Peaches and gave the singer her stage name reversing Jamesetta to Etta James.
Picture shows Etta and the Peaches/The Creolettes.
In 1960 her contract with Modern Records ended and she decided to sign for Chess Records started by Leonard Chess. Soon after she got involved with a relationship with singer Harvey Fuqua, founder of doo-wop group The Moonglows. Bobby Murray, aka “Taters”, toured with Etta James for 20 years. He wrote that James had her first hit single when she was 15 years of age and went steady with B.B. King when she was 16. Etta James believed the hit single “Sweet Sixteen” by King was about her. Late 1960 her first album At Last! was released, picture below. In 1961 she released what was to become her signature song and perhaps most known song “At last”.
Etta continued recording throughout the 60:s and got some smaller hits like “Tell Mama”, “I’d Rather Go Blind”, “Something’s Gotta A Hold On Me”. The last one later covered by Christina Aquilera in the movie “Burlesque”. Her life could be described as a typical soap opera with bad desicions, bad relationships, drug and alcohol abuse, legal issues. This went on during a long time in her life. On her albums, mostly in the 70:s, she started to mix different styles adding elements of rock, gospel, funk in her songs. Etta appears in the movie “Caddilac Records”, picture below from 2008 about Chess Records. She doesn’t appear as cameo or so but as a caracter played by Beyoncé. I gotta say that the make-up/styling team did a great job making Beyoncé look like a young Etta or what do you think?!
This woman as i mentioned earlier certainly lived “the blues” and you can feel her pain in today’s song called “Only Women Bleed”. Written and first recorded by Vincent Damon Furnier, Vincent who?? Ok, much more famous under his stage name Alice Cooper! The song’s lyrics is perfect for someone like Etta who certainly had lived a life of pain in so many different ways. It’s a song i can’t get enough of and the reason i’ve choosed it is oofcourse i find it slick enough for this blog and for your information the album is produced by Jerry Wexler and has some bad cats playing…
Picture shows the album “Deep In The Night” from which today’s song is taken from.
Enjoy your listening!!
Tags: #worldofslickmusic #ettajames #jerrywexler #losangeles #california #dorothyhawkins #sanfransisco #thecreonettes #thepeaches #johnnyotis #modernrecords #chessrecords #leonardchess #harveyfuqua #themoonglows #bbking #bobbymurray #christinaaquilera #beyonce #vincentdamonfurnier #alicecooper