Sunday, November 15, 2015
Etta James found her voice and a dream to speak to in this thrilling synthesis of blues, jazz, and soul. Jamesetta Hawkins had been singing in church from the age of five and then as a young teen in local dives where she was discovered by Johnny Otis. He took her and her group the Creolettes under his wing, changing their name to Etta James and the Peaches and producing hit singles for Modern Records like the R&B chart topper "Dance With Me Henry" aka "The Wallflower" and the top five hit "Good Rockin' Daddy". It was several years before she was able to record her debut album 'At Last!' with producers Phil and Leonard Chess and The Riley Hampton Orchestra, after moving to Chess Records.
James would recall: "I'd spent the four or five years after Modern touring down south to those funky little joints. I was part of a kinda black entourage that included Harvey Fuqua and the Moonglows and they included Marvin Gaye and one of the current Dells at the time. We used to get into Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alabama and all around there but we ended up in Chicago one day and we were flat broke…couldn't even afford to pay the hotel bill, we couldn't. We were doing super, super bad Now Harvey had a gig with Chess Records at the time and thought he was fixing to split from them, he figured he d give them one last favour — and I was that favour! So, they paid the hotel bill and a few other little things and I joined Chess. They paid over good money to Modern, too, because I was really under contract to them at the time. And I've been with Chess ever since — fifteen years almost Leonard Chess was like a father to me; he took care of all my problems and bought me a new Cadillac. And he'd give me a little money every now and then. That was the way it was in those days — as long as you got a little money and a Cadillac, everything was alright. It didn't matter about all the other monies that were due you, so long as you had your Cadillac and enough money to keep you going. And I guess they were right cause if they'd given me a stack of money, I'd have only gone out and bought me a bunch of lollipops! But I'll never forget my first royalty statement from Chess Records — it showed that I owed them $14,000 but I didn't mind because I had me a Cadillac, didn't I! But we were really lucky because the first record was a hit. The song was called "All I Could Do Was Cry'' and it was written by some unknown folk in Detroit called Berry Gordy, Gwen Gordy and Billy Davis. That was before Motown really got going and the record became my first No. 1 back in the summer of '60."
'At Last!' was the highest charting album of her entire career, going to number sixty-eight on the US Billboard album chart.
"At Last" became her signature song, going to number forty-seven on the pop chart and number two on the R&B singles chart. The song has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
At last my love has come along
My lonely days are over and life is like a song, oh yeah
At last the skies above are blue
My heart was wrapped up clover the night I looked at you
I found a dream that I can speak to
A dream that I could call my own
I found a thrill to press my cheek to
A thrill I've never known, oh yeah
You smiled, you smiled oh and then the spell was cast
And here we are in Heaven
For you are mine at last
"I Just Want to Make Love to You"
"All I Could Do Was Cry"
"Anything to Say You're Mine" (Sonny Thompson) - 2:37
"My Dearest Darling" (Eddie Bocage, Paul Gayten) - 3:05
"Trust in Me" (Milton Ager, Jean Schwartz, Ned Weaver) - 3:01
"A Sunday Kind of Love" (Louis Prima, Barbara Belle, Anita Leonard, Stan Rhodes) - 3:18
"Tough Mary" (Lorenzo Manley) - 2:27
"I Just Want to Make Love to You" (Willie Dixon) - 3:08
"At Last" (Mack Gordon, Harry Warren) - 3:02
"All I Could Do Was Cry" (Billy Davis, Gwen Fuqua, Berry Gordy) - 2:58
"Stormy Weather" (Harold Arlen, Ted Koehler) - 3:10
"Girl of My Dreams" (Sunny Clapp) - 2:25
(duets with Harvey Fuqua)
"My Heart Cries" (Fuqua, Etta James) - 2:36
"Spoonful" (Dixon) - 2:50
"It's a Crying Shame" (Fuqua, James) - 2:54
"If I Can't Have You" (Fuqua, James) - 2:50