Mostly Forgotten : The Women's Story©2008JCMarion


Many (or perhaps) most of these names will not be familiar to fans, historians, and collectors of the foundation of the rock 'n roll music that dominates the world today. These artists had their time during the great transition period of the late forties-early fifties, when mainstream America first discovered the music of the Black theaters, clubs, and radio programs of the inner cities and the roadhouses of the rural South. On the strength of the desire of White teenagers to find music to dance to, the music called Rhythm & Blues (formally race music) caught their ear. Most of the early practitioners of this sound lost out on the fame and fortune that came to a small number of pioneers, and their contributions and influence is today all but forgotten except to a small number of interested observers. The performers listed are the women of the R & B sound of those early years who performed and recorded their music for the enjoyment of listeners and dancers during those changing times. In the hope of presenting these names even for just a momentary second or two, we hope to say that they are not totally lost to the passage of time.

Melba Allen was a piano player and brother of Blinky Allen who led a combo in L.A. during the late nineteen forties.

Margie Anderson recorded with the Milton Hayes Combo for Columbia Records. "Hurry Hurry Margie" / "You'll Always Be The One I Love" # 30218; "It's Time That You Cried" / "I've Always Loved Him" on # 30226. Also a LP album with Pearl Bailey called "Singing And Swinging".

Tina Davis was the leader of an all women combo known as The Hell Divers. Tina played trumpet along with Margaret Baikstrom on tenor sax, Bert Etta Davis on alto sax, Maurine Smith on piano, Ruby Lewis on bass, and Helen Cole on drums.

June Barton was signed to the Modern label in late 1950. In 1951 the label released her version of "Lovesick Blues" and "Hullabaloo" on # 792.

Big Sheba signed with Derby Records as a fifteen year old, and recorded backed by Freddie Mitchell and his band for the Derby label. "Alphabet Blues" and "Soft Soapin Mama" were released on Derby # 745. "The Man In My Life" and "This Is The End" were also recorded.

Beryl Booker was a piano player with the famous transition combo The Cats & The Fiddle.

Vi Burnside also led an all female combo. Vi played tenor sax along with Flo Dryer on trumpet, Shirley Moore piano and vocals, Edna Smith on bass, and Pauline Braddy on drums.

Risa Branson was a bassist with the group Three Cats & A Kitten.

Edna Broughton recorded for Modern Records in 1950. "Two Years Of Torture" and "Too Many Women" was released on # 773, and "Ooh Wee Baby" and "Trouble Trouble" followed on # 786.

Baby Davis was a vocalist with the Buddy Banks band in 1949-1950. She recorded "Happy Home Blues" and "The Night Is Fading Too Soon". After leaving Banks she went out as a solo artist.

Joyce Bryant is an interesting individual in the history of the R & B years. She was referred to as the "Bronze Blonde Bombshell", and because of her dyed blonde locks and sultry persona, might have influenced young Etta James at the time. In the late forties she was part of The Sepianaires group but left in 1949 to go out as a solo performer. Her first record "Drunk With Love" for London # 600 was immediately banned on radio as too suggestive for airplay. A follow for London "You Don't Know" and "A Little Too Much Champagne" on # 687 was next and she soon signed on to record for the Okeh label. By 1951 her looks and emotional stage presence made her one of the top names among Black entertainers especially on the West Coast. Her first for Okeh "Love For Sale" ( with "A Shoulder To Weep On") on Okeh # 6927 was also banned from radio airplay. Other Okeh records (all with the Joe Reisman orchestra) were "Farewell To Arms" / "Go Where You Go" on # 6943, "It's Only Human" / "After You've Gone" on # 6988, and "Along Came You" and "Hello Heartaches, Goodbye Love" on # 7237. In 1954 with religious conflicts with her Seventh Day Adventist faith and dislike of the music business after a number of years, Bryant said goodbye to all that and left the music field. Many years later she returned as a more sedate and mature performer quite different from the flamboyant singer of the early fifties. Music historians that know about her career have referred to her as the Lost Diva.

Thelma Carpenter recorded for Columbia with the Luther Henderson band on "Pie In The Basket" and "Melody" on # 30212. The hit tune "Pie" was another song that was banned from radio airplay. Carpenter began singing at age five, and by eleven has her own fifteen minute radio program. In the early forties she was vocalist with Teddy Wilson, and then Count Basie before becoming a network radio regular with Eddie Cantor. By 1970 she concentrated on acting with her most famous roles in The Wiz and televisions Cosby Show. But in that moment, she was an R & B star.

Eva Carter recorded for Coral with "I'm, Looking For Love" and "Any Time At All" on # 65031.

Ruth Crowder was a vocalist with the combo led by Robert "Little Sax" Crowder known as "The Greatest Little Band In The World" that played many dates in the Chicago area.

Irma Curry was an aspiring blues and jazz singer from Baltimore who landed the vocalist spot with Lionel Hampton and his orchestra in 1950.

Mae Daniels, also a Baltimore singer toured often with Piney Brown and his combo.

Sarah Deane signed on with Derby Records in 1949. She sang "Long Lean Daddy" with the Freddie Mitchell band on Derby # 752.

Tina Dixon ( known as "Bombshell Of The Blues") did the vocals on "Parrot Bar Boogie" and "Walk That Walk Daddy-O" on King # 4257, and "Blow Mister Be-Bop" with the Gene Nero Sextet on King # 4332.

Estelle Edson was a vocalist with the Marl Young Combo in Los Angeles in the early fifties.

Burnetta Evans did the vocals on "At Last" and "Idle Tears" on Melford # 260, and "Oh babe" and "Stop That, Baby" with Jimmy Preston and his band on Derby # 748.

Florence Farrell recorded with the Kelly Owens band on "If I Could Stop Loving You" and "New Man Blues" for Jubilee Records.

Bettye Washington was a vocalist for Dick Sanford & His Rug Cutters Combo in L.A.

Cass Franklin recorded for Jubilee Records.

June Nelson recorded a mixture of R & B with Caribbean overtones with her group The Virgin Islanders. "Gumbo Lay Lay" on Jubilee # 5019 was followed by "No Clothes On" and "Why I Run" on # 5029.

Muriel Gaines presented her vocal style at many New York area clubs in the late forties.

Mary Lou Green was a featured vocalist with the Tiny Bradshaw Orchestra on "If You Don't Love Me Tell Me So" on King # 4417. In january of 1951 she signed with Regal Records of New Jersey. She records a duet with Larry Darnell on the song "Do You Love Me Baby?" on Regal # 3328.

Violet Hall records for Dootsie Williams Blue label with the song "You Better Come Home".

Dolores Hawkins records "Sing You Sinners" for the Signature label.

Iona Wade records "Come On In Drink Some Gin" and "Take My Number" for Peacock # 1526.

Lynne Howard on National # 9108 sings "Cry Cry Cry".

Joyce Jackson is a featured vocalist with the Earl Bostic band and then moves on to the Paul Williams Orchestra.

Ida James records with The Daytonaires (who also back Manhattan Paul) for ASA Records with "Sleepless Nights" and "Don't Cha Know" on # 1007.

Arlene Talley vocalizes with the band of Frank (Floor Show) Culley on "Little Miss Blues" on Atlantic # 922.

Jeri Lee is a vocalist with The Sepianaires group.

Roberta Lee records "Singing The Blues" and "Back In Your Own Backyard" for Tempo # 430.

Ann Lewis (called the "new" Bessie Smith) one time vocalist with Errol Garner, signs with Savoy Records.

Ginger Smock (known as "Sweetheart Of The Strings") on violin, leads the Magic Notes Quartet that features Herman Mitchell on guitar, Harvey Brooks on piano, and Wesley Prince on bass. The group plays many clubs in and around the Los Angeles area.

Helen Marina from New Orleans records with Otis Ducker on Columbia # 48159 with "Leaving On The Midnight Train" and "You're Gonna Break Your Baby's Heart", a best seller on the R & B charts in New Orleans during the summer of 1950, and for Decca on # 48176 with "Talkative Baby" and "Do Me A Favor". She then becomes vocalist for a band led by New Orleans sax player Charles Fairley (who in the sixties played with Otis Redding).

Kitty Stevenson is a vocalist with the band of Todd Rhodes. She records "It Ain't Right" and "It Couldn't Be True" with Rhodes & His Toddlers on Sensation # 32. That is followed by "Make It Good" and "That's The Guy For Me" with the Rhodes band on Sensation # 37. She goes on a national tour with the Rhodes band late in 1950. She does the vocals on "I Shouldn't Love You But I Do" with Todd Rhodes on Sensation # 4469. She soon gets out of music and enters the business world and is replaced in the Todd Rhodes band by LaVern Baker.

Madonna Martin, pianist-singer from Indiana (known as the "Sepia Sophie Tucker") , recorded for the Selective label with "Madonna's Boogie" and "We've Come A Long Way Together" on # 115.

Peggy Thomas records with the combo of Buddy Tate for the Ivory Records label. "Hanging Out" and "Longing For You" is released on # 757, and is followed by "Mama Teach Me How" and "It's The River For Me" on # 759.

Janie Mickins records for Columbia with "Ain't No Flies On Me" and "Miss Larceny Blues" on # 30204.

Rose Mitchell was known as Baltimore's own "Queen Of The Blues".

Alma Mondy recorded "Dr. Daddy-O" and "Backtrackin" for Regal on # 3230, and two interesting tunes for Mercury - "Street Walking Daddy" and "Miss Lollipop's Confession" on # 8190. Both sessions were backed up by George Miller & His Mid-Riffs. Beside Miller on bass, the combo included two future R & B stalwarts on the New Orleans music scene - Dave Bartholomew on trumpet, and Lee Allen on tenor sax. Also in the band were Leroy Rankin on tenor sax, Duke Burrell on piano, Jack Scott on guitar, Boots Alexander on drums, and Theard Johnson on backing vocals. Mondy was known as the "Lollipop Mama".

Imogene Myers a L.A. based singer recorded for John Dolphin's Hollywood label. She had a strong resemblance to Dinah Washington and recorded "So Help Me" and How Come Baby" which were never released. Hollywood did release "Tonight Of All Nights" and "How Come Baby" on # 142.

Ann Nichols recorded for the Sittin In With label with The Bluebirds on the songs "Lost In A Fog Over You" and "Let Me Know" on SIW # 552. This side was followed with "I Wonder What It Takes To make Me Happy" and "Those Magic Words" on # 361. The sound produced by Ann and the group is very similar to that popularized by The Orioles.

Hattie Noel recorded "Evil Daddy Blues" and "Grandma's Boogie" on MGM # 10752. She followed producer Dootsie Williams to his own Blue label. True to the name she recorded a number of risque "party" records for the label such as "Chattanooga" / "Hot Nuts" on Blue # 104, and "My Military Man" / "Mama Likes To Take Her Time" on # 109.

Florence Parham recorded with the Doc Dawson Combo for Red Jay with "Not Now I'll Tell You When" on # 1006.

Rosetta Perry recorded for Decca Records on "Worry Worry Worry" and "I Tried So Hard" on # 48149.

LaVern Ray recorded "Yes He Did" and an early song called "Rock And Roll" with Arlene Talley for Jubilee on # 5022.

Candy Rivers was a vocalist with Joe Liggins & The Honeydrippers, and recorded "Daddy's On My Mind" for Specialty on # 379.

Vanita Smythe, a blues vocalist from Detroit signs with Regal Records.

Arlene Talley recorded "Little Miss Blues" with the band of Frank "Floor Show" Culley on Atlantic # 922.

Janet Thurlow was a vocalist with the band of future producer of Little Richard, Bumps Blackwell.

Gwen Tynes recorded for Jubilee Records on the songs "One Woman Man" and "Whippa Whippa Whoo" on # 5039.

Viola Watkins also recorded for Jubilee - "Laughing At Life" and "Red Riding Hood" on # 5023.

Alice Young was a piano player with the Sherman Williams Combo who had a long standing gig at the Barrelhouse in Watts.

Marion Abernathy vocalized with Buddy Banks and his band for Juke Box and Federal Records.

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