The Dream Girl : Zilla Mays©2008JCMarion


Zilla Florine Mays was born in the Atlanta, Georgia area. During her early years, as so many other R & B singers, she got her start singing in her church. By her teens she moved into the secular music area and sang with a band led by her brother Roy called the Roy Mays All Stars. Later she would be the up front lead singer for another band led by her brother called the Willie Mays Blues Caravan. In December of 1950, Savoy Records of Newark, New Jersey, announces the signing of Atlanta blues singer Zilla Mays to a recording contract. In January of 1951 she did a session for Savoy with the combo of Fats Jackson. They recorded four songs - "Nightshift Blues", "Come Back To Me", "Right Now", and "You Just Don't Care". Unfortunately for Mays, none of these songs were ever released by Savoy.

In November of 1952 Coral Records released "I'll Keep Singing My Song" and "Pick-A-Dilly" on # 65102. In October of 1953 Zilla signs on with Mercury Records. The next month "If You Were On The Other Side" and "Thank You, Thank You " recorded with the John Peek Blues Caravan is released on Mercury # 70253. In February of 1954 Mercury releases "Seems Like You Just Don't Care" and "Take Your Time" on # 70313. She also records the song "Don't Take My Good Love Away" for Mercury Records. During the year Zilla had her own radio show on Atlanta's WAOK. She was known as "The Mystery Lady". By the early summer Zilla Mays has changed again - this time to the Brunswick Records label. She records an old Savoy number "Night Shift Blues" and "Why Do You Cry" on # 84031. The label lists her as Zilla Mays & Her Boy Friends with the John Peek Blues Caravan.

In July of 1955 Zilla Mays has been signed to RCA's Groove subsidiary. At this time she revealed her identity on her Mystery Lady radio show and became known as "The Dream Girl. She frequently joined Atlanta pianist Piano Red on the radio at station WAOK. In November Groove releases two tunes originally done at the 1951 Savoy sessions - "Right Now" and "Come Back To Me" on Groove # 0127. In October of 1956 Zilla Mays moves on again and is signed to Atlantic's pop oriented Atco label. Evidently nothing became of that signing and there is little information of any sessions recorded by Mays for that label.

In the late nineteen fifties Zilla Mays continued her radio career in Atlanta and moved back toward the music of her youth, that of the Black church. In 1961, Checker Records in Chicago released Zilla Mays two part recording of "Prayers For Jackie" on # 973. Also in that year Zilla Mays recorded an album for the NRC label called "The Men I Love And The Songs They Sing". Into the 1970's Zilla Mays continued to be an influence in the Atlanta area with her work with WAOK and the station's in person gospel music shows, and with a local Baptist Church in in that city. She also went forth with her sometimes musical partnership with Piano Red helping him put together an LP in the late sixties. At the end of the decade of the seventies WAOK radio felt it was time to change its format and presented the Atlanta area with a gospel music format. Zilla Mays continued on, once again in her musical element for a number of years. The public recognition of her life and work came with her Pioneer Award from the NAACP in 1986. She spent close to four decades on Atlanta radio with WAOK, and her voice and personality were stilled when she passed away in September of 1995.

Ziila Mays R & B music appears in compilation albums such as those from Ace (UK) and a four disc Mercury R & B retrospective from the late forties and early fifties.

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