Hadda Brooks ©1999JCMarion


Hadda Brooks came to the public eye as an entertainer in the mid 1940s. She played boogie woogie piano, but also developed a way with a ballad and blues songs. She was a transitional figure during the second half of the decade of the nineteen forties that was a link between the sound of the big bands and the rising tide of rhythm and blues. Brooks got a recording contract by a chance meeting with jukebox operator Jules Bihari, who along with his brother Joe,would become major movers in the new sounds of R&B via their Modern label which became one of the L.A. "big four" (along with Aladdin, Imperial, and Specialty) that would get in on the ground floor in the coming popularity of the music they presented to the public. Brooks actually preferred ballads to the uptempo tunes even though it was the boogie woogie that gave her the first sign of fame with the 1945 recording of "Swingin' The Boogie" for Modern Music (as the label was called in the early years). Brooks' first records were instrumental, but by 1946 she began to vocalize. She had success for Modern and was certainly the main force in bringing publicity and fame to the new label. In the late '40s Hadda Brooks reached the R&B best sellers charts with "Out of the Blue" and her most famous song, "That's My Desire" (which was covered for a big pop hit by Frankie Laine). Her success on record led to some roles in films, most notably in a scene from "In a Lonely Place", starring Humphrey Bogart.

In 1950 Modern Records announced that they would go to the 45 rpm format for the first time, and it was a two sided record by Hadda Brooks that was the first - "Polonaise Boogie" and "Humoresque Boogie" on Modern #738. As you can tell by the titles, they were a takeoff on classical themes in the context of modern music. After six years with the label, Brooks felt somewhat stifled as she thought that she was not allowed to express her creativity, but kept more to a formula in her recording. The result was that she changed labels and went to London Records in what was an ill fated attempt by the England based label to enter the American R & B market. She appears on stage in a unique double bill at the Royal Theater in Baltimore with the Artie Shaw Orchestra. London releases "I Hadn't Anyone Till You" (from the film "In A Lonely Place") and "Hadda's Boogie" on #684. In May and June of 1950 she has long engagements at LA's Surf Club and Studio Club. Modern Records has plenty of Brooks recordings on the shelf as they issue #766 - "Lazy Boogie" / "Can You Look Me In The Eye" in September. The following month Modern #769 features Brooks on "This Time We're Through" and "Linger Awhile". Modern also announces that they will shortly issue a line of LPs some featuring the music of Hadda Brooks. A seasonal offering from Modern is "White Christmas"/"Silent Night" on #787. At year's end Brooks has her own 15 minute TV show every week on KLAC television on Sunday evenings from 9 : 15 to 9 : 30 pm. London issues #796 - "Maggie's Boogie" / "A Rendezvous With The Blues".

Throughout the year of 1951 Brooks continues to make many personal appearances in small clubs mainly on the West Coast and her records are released at irregular intervals. Early in the year London releases #895 - "Vanity" and the cutesy pie title "It Hadda Be Brooks". Modern Records remains in the picture with release #804 during the year - "Keep Your Hand On Your Heart" and "Let's Be Sweethearts Again". In the middle of the year London again tries with a Brooks release, this time on #865 - "The Man With The Horn" and "All I Need Is You". In the following months it is obvious that London Records has realized what many of the other majors have seen, that the independent labels have the R & B field pretty much to themselves as the big labels have had very little success trying to break in. London then decides not to renew Brooks and soon she signs with Okeh Records, a subsidiary label of Columbia that will try and crack the R & B market. Even after all this time Modern still has music in the can by Brooks and they continue to release sides such as Modern #861 in March of 1952 - "Romance In The dark" and "Trust In Me" (a hit for The Orioles). Hadda's first outing for Okeh is in June on #6886 - "Remember" / "I'm Still In Love". Two months later Brooks does two covers on Okeh#6910 - "I Went To Your Wedding" (a pop hit for Patty Page) and "My Song" a hit for R & B newcomer Johnny Ace. Late in the year Okeh #6924 features Brooks on "Somewhere In That Direction" and "Jump Back Honey".

1953 finds Hadda Brooks still making music, and although her records do not sell very well, she has 'name' recognition and has been a top line in person performer for almost a decade. Okeh releases "Brooks Boogie" and "When I Leave This World Behind on #6939 in February. In May "You Let My Love Grow Cold" is coupled with "Dreaming And Crying" on Okeh #6962. Brooks proves that she can still draw her old fans by a week's appearance at New York's Apollo Theater with Gene Ammons & his combo. She finishes out the year in another top spot, Detroit's Flame Show Bar. As late as the summer of 1954 Hadda Brooks was still at it with the release of Okeh #7031 "He's Coming Home" and "I Don't Mind". For the next two years she was a mainstay on the Western European club circuit, especially well received in England.

For the latter part of the nineteen fifties, Brooks mainly appeared in clubs on the West coast and did very little recording. However she still had some of the old magic. She was a popular attraction at Kansas City's Orchid Room in early 1956, and at Chicago's Black Orchid Room. In November of 1956 Brooks was back with her old friends Modern Records of Los Angeles where she had been the inaugural recording artist for that label. Modern planned to record an LP album of the Hadda Brooks treatment of popular standards. However by this time Hadda realized that her time as a top R & B attraction had passed and the stage now belonged to the new young performers and their music aimed at the teenaged population. In 1957 Hadda had a long engagement at a nightspot called The Hula Hut in Tucson, Arizona. She also records a version of "Old Man River" for Modern Records. Modern releases an LP by Brooks called "Femme Fatale" on their Crown label. In 1959 Hadda Brooks is still on the scene recording for the new Arwin label with "The Careless Years" and "The Song Is Ended" on #1001.

For most of the following decade, Brooks was located in Australia where her musical personality had found a niche, and it was good enough for her to host her own television show there. She remained a pleasant memory for many and suddenly in the 1990s, all these years later, here was Hadda Brooks again. She was inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Foundation Hall Of Fame and her music was included on the soundtrack of the motion picture "The Crossing Guard". In late 1995, she was back in the recording studio for Point Blank records, and the result was the well received album "Time Was When". Hadda Brooks has remained a living testament to the enduring nature of the music she helped create and has been a part of for more than a half century. What a wonderful performer to discover, AND re-discover.

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