Christine Kittrell ©1999JCMarion
During the summer of 1952, a little independent label based in Nashville called Tennessee Records released a blues recording called "Sittin' Here Drinkin'" / "I Ain't Nothing But A Fool" on #128. The singer's name was Christine Kittrell. The local record distributor claimed sales in excess of ten thousand in the first week which made a lot of people sit up and take notice. One of the first was touring band leader Paul Williams known throughout the country as "Hucklebuck" because of his huge success with a recording of that song. He signed up Kittrell for a series of one nighters across the south, but as he saw the great reaction to her and her songs, he signed her to an exclusive deal with the band. Tennessee records released a further side (*) on #133 - You Ain't Nothing But Trouble" / "Heartache Blues", but soon after she soon signed a recording contract with Republic Records which was also located in Nashville. In early 1953 Republic releases "Gotta Stop Loving You" as a duet with singer Gay Crosse. The flip is a solo by Christine called "Slave To Love". Sales are minimal but the next Republic outing in mid June, "I'll Help You Baby" with an instrumental on the flip called "The L & N Special" racks up impressive numbers in a hurry (twenty thousand in the first eight days), but it is still her first record that most fans want to hear. In October the final Republic side of the year is out. It is "Every Night In The Week" / " Evil Eyed Woman"
In February of 1954 Christine Kittrell tours the west coast for the first time doing a number of dates with Joe Houston and his combo (fresh from a TV appearance with Spike Jones !). Christine also appears at a big show presented by dj Gene Norman at the Embassy Ballroom which featured the Robins, Flairs, and Earl Bostic. In April Republic issues "Snake In The Grass" / "The Price You Pay For Love". That spring in Denver Christine does a number of shows with the Johnny Otis band with vocalist Mel Walker. In June, back in Los Angeles, Christine Kittrell is part of the big 10th annual Rhythm & Blues Cavalcade with Ruth Brown, the Lamplighters, Flairs, and Count Basie and his orchestra. Christine also is there to appear at the opening of the new Savoy Ballroom in L.A.
It was at this time that Christine Kittrell made a decision to abandon her career in Rhythm & Blues music and return to her original roots in gospel. She cancels all of her advance bookings and returns east and becomes a member of the Simmons-Akens Singers, a traveling gospel music choir. Republic issued "Have Mercy" / "Sittin' And Drinking Again" a sequel to her biggest record. One last R & B record surfaces in April of 1955. Republic has one last side in the can and decides to release it - "Call His Name" / "Leave My Man Alone". Strangely enough, in the early sixties period when Vee-Jay Records was changing over their sound from the R & B of the Midwest to a more pop music format with The Four Seasons (and soon that new group from England, The Beatles), and Wade Flemmons and Jerry Butler were tailoring their songs to the world at large, two Vee-Jay sides by Christine Kittrell see the light of day. Thay are #399 - "Mister Big Wheel", and #444 - "I'm A Woman" and "It's Nobody's Fault". They pass by unnoticed and she never returned to the front line of Rhythm & Blues music, and today almost no one remembers the name or the music of Christine Kittrell. Almost no one.
(*) - Thanx to George Gimarc for the info on this record.
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