I have included I don't know how many singers on this blog since I first started, but I am not sure if any of them brings a smile to my face quite like Big Maybelle can the minute she opens her mouth. And just in case I ever forget her, every so often Harvey Fierstein reminds me with a cute post on FaceBook. Big Maybelle started out singing Gospel as a child in Tennessee, but as she matured, she moved to sing Rhythm & Blues, and boy, could she sing. I will start with a clip of I Ain't Mad At You, live from 1958. This is the only live footage I have ever seen of Big Maybelle, and it slays me every freakin' time.
I think Big Maybelle can and did sing it all. She started singing in a band in 1936, at the age of 12, and was a professional singer until the day she died. She could have a sweet tone to her voice, almost angelic, or she could could be a woman of the earth, tellin' you like it is with a bit of gravel in her throat. No matter what, it felt and sounded honest when she delivered it. This is <"That's A Pretty Good Love".
When Big Maybelle sang the blues, they were sung properly. she could bring it every time, and spank you with it before it was done. This is her singing "I'm Getting 'Long Alright".
She sang throughout the 30s and 40s, often recording when she could. She recorded "Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On" a full two years before Jerry Lee Lewis got his hands on it. In fact, her producer in 1955 was a young and talented man named Quincy Jones. In the following clip, she sings the great "One Monkey Don't Stop The Show" the way it should be!
According to all reports, Big Maybelle did struggle with some health issues through the years. She was a big woman, and had to deal with the effects of diabetes. There were also rumors of other addictions, which certainly didn't help the diabetes. But whatever it was she went through, she turned it all into her music. Perhaps her most famous and memorable was "Candy", a huge hit for her in 1956.
Whatever her issues might have been, Big Maybelle left us in 1972. But her music certainly lives on. If you'd like to add Big Maybelle to your collection, a good place to start would be Blues, Candy & Big Maybellle, which you can find on Amazon.com for $9.49 HERE. It includes 28 songs, a great representation of her work. If you'd prefer iTunes, you can purchase Half Blues, Half Heartache, with is 24 songs for just $5.99 HERE, another great representation of her artistry.