martes, 17 de marzo de 2009

Varetta Dillard: Got You on My Mind - Complete Recordings Vol.1 (1956-1961)

Varetta Dillard was one of the great unknown blues shouters of the ‘50s, best known for several hits of poppish R&B in a style very reminiscent of Ruth Brown. As the result of a bone deficiency she spent most of her childhood years in a hospital, where she discovered singing as a therapy. Encouraged and inspired by Carl Feaster, lead singer with the Chords, Dillard began entering talent shows, which led to two consecutive wins at the Apollo's amateur show. Signed to Savoy Records in 1951, she made her own records and duetted with H-Bomb Ferguson, enjoying success with ‘Easy, Easy Baby’ (number 8 R&B) in 1952, ‘Mercy Mr. Percy’ (number 6 R&B) in 1953, and after Johnny Ace's untimely demise, ‘Johnny Has Gone’ (number 6 R&B) in 1955. In 1956 Dillard switched to the RCA subsidiary label Groove, where, much to her distaste, she was coerced into capitalizing on James Dean's death with ‘I Miss You Jimmy’. Later recordings for Triumph and MGM's Cub subsidiary failed to match her Savoy successes, and she ended her solo recording career in 1961, although she continued singing into the late 60s by joining her husband's group, the Tri-Odds, who were active in the Civil Rights movement, performing jazz, a cappella, and black-centric poetry. Bear Family issued a two-volume collection in 1989, the first of which features 29 of Varetta Dillard's songs, leading off with a curious novelty, ‘The Square Dance Rock.’ The other tunes are divided between earnest covers (‘See See Rider Blues’ and ‘Pennies from Heaven’), robust stompers (‘Mama Don't Want What Poppa Don't Want’) and soulful laments (‘That’s Why I Cry’ and ‘The Rules of Love’, with backing vocals by The Cookies). Dillard makes most of these songs entertaining, and sometimes turns in a triumph.

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