Airdate – Nov 06, 2022
One of the greatest record companies, established in 1950, was actually founded by two Polish immigrants – Leonard and Phil Chess.
Chess Records was based on the south side of Chicago with 2120 South Michigan Avenue being recognized as its most iconic location, a building it inhabited from May 1957 through 1965.
Once described as “America’s greatest blues label,” Chess Records is responsible for introducing us to R&B artists Bo Diddley, Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Buddy Guy to name a few – all key talents whose artistry was integral in the evolution rock and roll.
However, Chess also introduced us to one of the greatest female artists of all time – a singer/songwriter who, in the 60’s, had a run of 28 nationally charted records that ranked her third, just behind Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick, as the most prolific female R&B vocalist of her era …
Our featured artist was a gospel prodigy whose driving force came primarily from the likes of Ray Charles. Born in Los Angeles, she met the great Johnny Otis who had her and her group, the Creolettes, record his “answer song” to Hank Ballard’s “Work With Me Annie,” Originally titled “Roll With Me Henry,” it was released in 1955 and retitled “The Wallflower” to avoid censorship due to the off-color title since “roll” at the time implied sexual activity. In February, the song reached No. 1 on the R&B chart and its success garnered an opening spot on Little Richard’s national tour.
In addition to this, our feature artist agreed to a group name change and a personal name change. Johnny Otis was responsible for both. The group became the Peaches and its lead singer, born Jamesetta Hawkins, became known as Etta James as a result of Otis transposing her first name.
Otis was also responsible for introducing her to Chess Records. That’s when her career took off. It was the beginning of her becoming a legend.
Despite her constant battle with drugs throughout her career, she was able to make her mark in the music industry.
She will always be remembered for her signature record “At Last.” However, there is another recording she did that sets her apart from the others in her era. This particular 1962 recording, composed in the key of G, highlights James’ vocal range as it spans nearly one and a half octaves.
She co-wrote this song and her delivery is somewhat possessed – as if, “Something’s Got A Hold On Me,” this week’s Tom Locke moment in time.
YouTube video of this song:
“Moments In Time” story is yet another example of a “golden oldie” or forgotten favorite that earned its place in the evolution of Rock & Roll.