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Hickory Dickory Dock, CD (£7.43)
The title track of this Etta James album, HICKORY DICKORY DOCK, is currently playing alongside the images of British Telecom's latest TV advert. Etta needs no introduction - she is one of America's finest voices-.-a household name and one of a few classic R&B/rock'n'roll female vocalists with a powerful, confident singing style, renowned for its perfect sense of timing. This mid-price CD contains her early recordings and draws attention to the roots of her musical influences.
Etta James grew up in 40s and 50s west coast America-.-at a time when a sudden influx of immigrants looking for work at shipyards encouraged a rapid growth in the local entertainment industry, with a thriving music hub in Los Angeles. From an early age she was exposed to early, wild and gritty music which became rhythm & blues.
By the age of 15, Etta had formed a vocal trio with two friends and a chance performance caught by Johnny Otis, initiated her journey to success. Otis took the girls into Modern Records' studios to record Roll With Me Henry. Richard Berry was brought in mid-way through the session to re-arrange the song. The result was the retitled The Wallflower, a James-Berry duet, which subsequently scored a #2 position in the R&B charts. It was covered by Georgia Gibbs for the pop charts (the pop version was toned-down and entitled Dance With Me Henry). The song led Etta to touring with a host of R&R stars who included Little Richard, Nappy Brown and Bill Doggett.
She returned to the studio to record a raunchy follow-up, Hey Henry, and her second hit, Good Rockin' Daddy (which peaked at #12 in the R&B chart). In early 1956, the Bihari brothers brought Etta and Jimmy Beasley (Modern's answer to Fats Domino) together in a session in New Orleans. They wanted to mastermind a collaboration which would compete against Little Richard, rival label Specialty's hottest R&R act. The outstanding track was Tough Lover, featuring a blistering tenor solo from Lee Allen, reminiscent of his performance on Long Tall Sally.
Most of the sides contained here were recorded in New Orleans or Los Angeles during the late 50s, providing her entire Modern recordings. After her stint at Modern, Etta moved to the Chess labels, recording several polished, emotion-drenched ballads. She continued to be successful in the R&B charts well into the late 70s and is still active on the live performance circuit. In 1993, Etta James was inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall Of Fame taking her rightful place in R&R history.