Ruth Brown - Honey Boy (Atlantic 2075)
Please join me in saying goodbye to one of the true cornerstones of this music... the woman who 'put the rhythm in the blues', Ruth Brown. A woman who paved the way for everything that was to follow.
Let's do the math - She was signed to Atlantic Records by founder Herb Abramson in 1949. Within a year, she had broken the 'race record' market wide open with her smash hit Teardrops From My Eyes, which would spend an unprecedented 25 weeks on the R&B charts (including 11 weeks at number one!), and give the fledgling label it's first taste of national success. Ruth would go on to become Atlantic's top-selling artist of the 1950s (selling more records than even Ray Charles). 18 of her 21 chart singles released that decade would reach the top ten, including 4 more number one records (like the positively magnificent Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean). All told, her music would spend a total of 208 weeks (a cool four years) on the R&B charts for Atlantic, while selling over 5 million copies.
It is definitely safe to say that without her there would have been no Atlantic Records (known in those days as 'The House That Ruth Built'), and without Atlantic... well, you get the idea.
This rockin' little number we've got here today (the flip of Taking Care Of Business) was released in 1960, and shows her still at the top of her game, even though her charting days had already gone by the wayside. She would leave Atlantic the following year, and the label - which had already lost Brother Ray to ABC by then - was on the verge of going out of business... at least until Solomon Burke came along.
I have been fortunate enough to see 'Miss Rhythm' a number of times, both as part of big productions like The Atlantic Records Fortieth Anniversary show, and the Manhattan club date I've spoken of before (where she shared the bill with Solomon Burke and Charles Brown, and pulled Maxine Brown up out of the audience!), and she was always just marvelous. A consummate performer, she 'owned the room', no matter what the size.
Ruth Brown's tireless efforts to gain recognition (and long overdue royalty payments) for her fellow R&B artists led to the formation of The Rhythm & Blues Foundation in 1987.
A truly great lady.
"...and it's raining teardrops from my eyes."