Big Maybelle

Big Maybelle was a top selling performer from the Golden Age of R&B, who could interpret rousing carousing dance music, and bring it all back down with a tender haunting ballad.

Born Maybelle Louis Smith in Jackson, Tennessee, she grew up singing in the local Sanctified Church choir in Jackson. Full-figured and commanding, Big Maybelle sang the blues with controlled abandon and a flair for style. In 1932, she won first prize at the Cotton Carnival singing cabaret in Memphis, then toured with an all girl band called the Sweethearts of Rhythm. They played dances from Mississippi to Indiana.

From 1936 to 1940, she toured with the Christine Chatman Orchestra and in 1944 she recorded with Christine on the Decca Label. During the 1950s, Maybelle sang with The Quincy Jones Orchestra, the Kelly Owens Orchestra, and the Danny Mendelsohn Orchestra.

Her blues shouting style (a female counterpart to Big Joe Turner) brought an R&B hit in ‘53 with “Gabbin' Blues.” “Way Back Home” and “My Country Man” were also bestsellers. In 1955, she made the first recording of “Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On', which later became a major hit for Jerry Lee Lewis. Leaving OKeh for Savoy, her version of “Candy” (1956) brought more success and in 1959, she appeared in Jazz On A Summer's Day, the film of the Newport Jazz Festival. Despite her acknowledged influence on the soul styles of the 60s, later records for Brunswick Records, Scepter and Chess Records made little impact until she signed to the Rojac label in 1966.

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Discography

 

The Last Of Big...

Screwgun Records
1996

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The Complete Okeh Sessions: 1952-55

The Complete Okeh...

Epic Records
1994

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Blues, Candy & Big...

Screwgun Records
1986

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Big Maybelle

Screwgun Records
1984

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The Okeh Sessions

Screwgun Records
1983

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Got A Brand New Bag

Screwgun Records
1967

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