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Big Maybelle

Her mountainous stature matching the sheer soulful power of her massive vocal talent, Big Maybelle was one of the premier R&B chanteuses of the 1950s. Her deep, gravelly voice was as singular as her recorded output for Okeh and Savoy, which ranged from down-in-the-alley blues to pop-slanted ballads. In 1967, she even covered ? & the Mysterians' "96 Tears" (it was her final chart appearance). Alleged drug addiction leveled the mighty belter at the premature age of 47, but Maybelle packed a lot of living into her shortened lifespan.

Born Mabel Louise Smith, the singer strolled off with top honors at a Memphis amateur contest at the precocious age of eight. Gospel music was an important element in Maybelle's intense vocal style, but the church wasn't big enough to hold her talent. In 1936, she hooked up with Memphis bandleader Dave Clark; a few years later, Maybelle toured with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm. She debuted on wax with pianist Christine Chatman's combo on Decca in 1944, before signing with Cincinnati's King Records in 1947 for three singles of her own backed by trumpeter Hot Lips Page's band.

Producer Fred Mendelsohn discovered Smith in the Queen City, re-christened her Big Maybelle, and signed her to Columbia's OKeh R&B subsidiary in 1952. Her first Okeh platter, the unusual "Gabbin' Blues" (written by tunesmith Rose Marie McCoy and arranger Leroy Kirkland) swiftly hit, climbing to the upper reaches of the R&B charts. "Way Back Home" and "My Country Man" made it a 1953 hat trick for Maybelle and OKeh. In 1955, she cut a rendition of "Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On" a full two years before Louisiana piano pumper Jerry Lee Lewis got his hands and feet on it. Mendelsohn soon brought her over to Herman Lubinsky's Savoy diskery, where her tender rendition of the pop chestnut "Candy" proved another solid R&B hit in 1956. Maybelle rocked harder than ever at Savoy, her "Ring Dang Dilly," "That's a Pretty Good Love," and "Tell Me Who" benefiting from blistering backing by New York's top sessioneers. Her last Savoy date in 1959 reflected the changing trends in R&B; Howard Biggs' stately arrangements encompassed four violins. Director Bert Stern immortalized her vivid blues-belting image in his documentary Jazz on a Summer's Day, filmed in color at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.

Maybelle persevered throughout the '60s, recording for Brunswick, Scepter (her "Yesterday's Kisses" found her coping admirably with the uptown soul sound), Chess, Rojac (source of "96 Tears"), and other labels. But the good years were long gone when she slipped into a diabetic coma and passed away in a Cleveland hospital in 1972. ~ Bill Dahl
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: The Best Of Blues, Candy & Big Maybelle

1. Candy

2. That's A Pretty Good Love

3. A Good Man Is Hard To Find

4. Ramblin' Blues

5. Blues Early, Early, Pts. 1 & 2

6. I Ain't Got Nobody

7. Rock House

8. I Don't Want To Cry

9. So Long

10. Until The Real Thing Comes Along

11. Goodnight Wherever You Are

12. I Got It Bad

13. Silent Night

14. Some Of These Days

15. Ring Dang Dilly

16. Goin' Home, Baby

17. How It Lies, How It Lies

x

Track List: The Rojac Years

1. 96 Tears

2. Love Is A Hurtin' Thing

3. Turn The World Around The Other Way

4. Mama (He Treats Your Daughter Mean)

5. Keep That Man

6. Don't Pass Me By

7. Careless Love

8. It's Been Raining

9. I Can't Wait Any Longer

10. Quittin' Time

11. Heaven Will Welcome You Dr. King

12. Old Love Never Dies

13. No Better For You

14. Big Sweet Daddy

15. Blame It On Your Love

16. Why Was I Born

17. The Masquerade Is Over

18. Maybelle Sings The Blues

19. It's A Man's Man's World

20. That's Life

21. How It Lies

22. Cold Heart

23. I Am Lost

x

Track List: The Soul Of Big Maybelle

1. Oh, Lord What Are You Doing To Me

2. Put Yourself In My Place

3. I Will Never Turn My Back On You

4. I Cried For You (Now It's Your Turn To Cry For Me

5. Only You

6. I Won't Cry Anymore

7. Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying

8. I Know Love

9. I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself

10. In The Still Of The Night

11. That's All

12. Same Old Story

x

Track List: Candy!

Disc 1

1. Candy

2. That's A Pretty Good Love

3. Ring Dang Dilly

4. Pitiful

5. Mean To Me

6. There I've Said It Again

7. I Don't Want To Cry

8. Tell Me Who

9. If I Could Be With You

10. Jim

11. It's A Sin To Tell A Lie

12. I Could Make You Care

13. All Of Me

14. Stay As Sweet As You Are

15. Baby, Won't You Please Come Home

16. Say It Isn't' So

17. So Long

18. A Little Bird Told Me

19. Rock House

20. Silent Night

21. White Christmas

Disc 2

1. Blues Early, Early, Pts. 1 & 2

2. Goodnight Wherever You Are

3. Ramblin' Blues

4. True, True Feeling

5. Ain'tcha Glad That I Want You

6. Goin' Home, Baby

7. A Good Man Is Hard To Find

8. How It Lies, How It Lies

9. I Ain't Got Nobody

10. I Understand

11. I Got It Bad

12. Some Of These Days

13. Until The Real Thing Comes Along

14. St. Louis Blues

15. The Hesitating Blues

16. Ole Miss Blues

17. Beale Street Blues

18. Careless Love

19. Friendless Blues

20. Yellow Dog Blues

21. Memphis Blues

22. Joe Turner Blues

23. The Basement Blues

24. Way Down South Where The Blues Began

25. Harlem Blues

x

Track List: Savoy Jazz Super (EP)

1. Candy

2. Rock House

3. So Long

4. Silent Night

5. Goin' Home Baby

x

Track List: The Best Of Big Maybelle

1. Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying

2. I Cried For You

3. I Will Never Turn My Back On You

4. I Won't Cry Anymore

5. Oh Lord, What Are You Doing To Me

6. Only You

7. Put Yourself In My Place

8. The Same Old Story

9. That's All

x

Track List: The Complete Okeh Sessions 1952-1955

1. Just Want Your Love

2. So Good To My Baby

3. Gabbin' Blues (Don't Run My Business)

4. My Country Man

5. Rain Down Rain

6. Way Back Home

7. Please Stay Away From My Sam

8. Jinny Mule

9. Send For Me

10. Maybelle's Blues

11. I've Got A Feelin'

12. You'll Never Know

13. No More Trouble Out Of Me

14. My Big Mistake

15. Ain't No Use

16. I'm Getting 'Long Alright

17. You'll Be Sorry

18. Hair Dressin' Women

19. One Monkey Don't Stop No Show

20. Don't Leave Poor Me

21. Ain't To Be Played With

22. New Kind Of Mambo

23. Ocean Of Tears

24. Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

25. The Other Night

26. Such A Cutie

x

Track List: "America's Queen Mother Of Soul" Got A Brand New Bag

1. 96 Tears

2. Mellow Yellow

3. That's Life

4. There Must Be A Word

5. Ellenor Rigby

6. Love Is A Hurtin' Thing

7. I Can't Control Myself

8. Cabaret

9. Black Is Black

10. Coming On Strong

11. Egg Plant That Ate Chicago

12. Turn The World Around The Other Way

x

Track List: Blues, Candy & Big Maybelle

1. Candy

2. Ring Dang Dilly

3. Blues Early, Early

4. A Little Bird Told Me

5. So Long

6. That's A Pretty Good Love

7. Tell Me Who

8. Ramblin' Blues

9. Rockhouse

10. I Don't Want To Cry

11. Pitiful

12. A Good Man Is Hard To Find

13. How It Lies

14. Goin' Home Baby

15. So Long

16. Say It Isn't So

17. If I Could Be With You

18. Goodnight Wherever You Are

19. That's A Pretty Good Love

22. How It Lies

23. Goin' Home Baby

24. I Ain't Got Nobody

25. I Understand

26. I Got It Bad

27. Some Of These Days

28. Until The Real Thing Comes Along

Comments

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Loved her Albert is his name in the mid 50's
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At her 67 concert in Berkeley, I found myself standing on the back of the chair in front of me at the end of one of her songs and didn't realize that I was doing so until the music stopped! The whole audience was transported by her.
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Wish I could hear Maybelle sing CANDY!
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pixiegrrrl
Mmmmm...so good!
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us.male.ws
Forget Doris Day! Big Maybelle's is the first and best version of 'How it Lies.' But of course no credit is given.
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smooth
Report as inappropriate
She is great, what a talent!
Report as inappropriate
Very earthy and warm!

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