Tag Archives: Quincy Jones

“Je Finirai Par L’oublier” b/w “Milisse Mou” by Nana Mouskouri. Fontana 6010 066. Recorded in France, 1972.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Born in Crete to a projectionist father and usher mother in 1934, Iōánna Moúschouri (Nana to her friends) had shown a clear gift for music at a young age. So did her sister, however. Her family could only afford music lessons for one of the girls, so they asked their tutor which one should have them. They were told that Jenny was more skilled, but Nana had the passion and the need to sing.

Nana got the lessons. They must have been a bright spot in a childhood marred by the Nazi occupation of Greece. Her father fought in the Communist resistance.

Nana spent eight years studying opera at the Athens Conservatoire, but was barred from taking her final exams because of her moonlighting in a jazz club. As a child in Athens (her family had re-located when she was three years old) Nana had listened to Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra on her radio, and the temptation to apply her skills to that work had been too great to resist. So opera proved to be unwelcoming, but exposure in the clubs lead to recordings—this is one of her first, 1958’s “Ilissos.”

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78: “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” b/w “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” by Big Maybelle. Okeh 7060. Recorded 3/21/55 in New York City.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Mabel Louise Smith was born in Jackson, Tennessee in 1924. She started singing and playing piano professionally as a teenager, working with Dave Clark’s Memphis Band, the all female International Sweethearts of Rhythm, and Tiny Bradshaw’s Orchestra. Her solo career began in 1947, when she recorded a few sides for King Records with Oran “Hot Lips” Page, but it didn’t really take off until she signed with Okeh in 1952. Producer Fred Mendehlson convinced Mabel to take the stage name of Big Maybelle.

Maybelle’s debut single featured the B side “Gabbin’ Blues,” co-written and co-performed by Rose Marie McCoy. Radio play for that song pushed it up to #3 on Billboard’s R&B chart.

1954’s “My Country Man” extolled the virtues of the simple pleasures offered by country life with the right man—especially when

He’s strong as a Hick’ry tree

And he’s the right kind of man for me.

Because I need a man

With a whole lot of energy.

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78: “Ooh” b/w “The Kentuckian Song” by Brook Benton. Okeh 7058. Recorded in New York City, 5/26/55 and 6/2/55.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Image courtesy of The Rodgers & Hammerstein Archive of Recorded Sound.

Brook Benton was born in rural South Carolina in 1931. His father was a respected chorale director, and Brook—or rather, at this point in his life, Benjamin Franklin Peay—got his start sing Gospel music. His first excursion to New York City, in 1948, saw him working with groups like The Jerusalem Stars and The Golden Gate Quartet, but to little success. He returned to South Carolina, where he joined a secular singing group called The Sandmen, a group which included former Ink Spot Adriel McDonald. The group gave New York City another shot, and they were signed to Epic Records, though they were soon transferred to Okeh. Both labels were owned by Columbia Records, and the switch to Okeh—which was best known for R&B and Country records—indicates a lack of faith in the group’s pop appeal. Still, In 1955, when the Sandmen’s first records were recorded, a lack of pop appeal should have been taken as a compliment.

What we have here is the last song The Sandmen would ever record. Clue #1 is the simple fact that they are only listed as backing vocalists. Brook Benton is the name in big capitals on the label, and it was his name on the other side of the disc as well, though in that case, The Sandmen weren’t mentioned at all. One week after the session in which “Ooh” was recorded, Okeh’s management had Brook return to the studio to record the theme song to Burt Lancaster’s upcoming film, “The Kentuckian.”

The film song is a touch maudlin to my ears, but “Ooh” is a smooth shot of mid-tempo fun. Brook’s voice is front and center in the mix, and the arrangement of the song is steady and deceptively simple, thanks to a 23 year-old Quincy Jones, who had arranged Big Maybelle’s original version of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” just three months before.

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