Saturday, November 18, 2006

Ruth Brown - Honey Boy (Atlantic 2075)

Honey Boy

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."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear friends, this is a very sad day for me. I just learned that my long time friend Ruth Brown has passed away. She was like a second mother to me back in the mid 1970's. We met in a small jazz club in New York. She was still working as a domestic woman but wanted to get her singing career back on track. We all moved to Los Angeles and worked local jazz joints and did some concerts also around the Los Angeles area. Ruth was a very strong woman and had a lot of connections in the business. She later moved back to N.Y. and stared on Broadway in the show Black and Blue. She was awarded a Tony award for her performance. She fought for royalty rights and won her back owed royalties from Atlantic Records. She came back and won a Grammy Award for the album Blues on Broadway. She then moved to Las Vegas. She had health problems but kept on going until now.
I am proud of the fact that she let me work with her on stage. If I was out of a gig she would say “Get out the tux your working with me tonight”. She will be missed. I loved her very much.

Stanley Behrens

10:48 PM  
Blogger Red Kelly said...

Thank you for sharing those beutiful memories with us, Stanley, a sad day indeed.

(Mr. Behrens is a Canned Heat veteran)

7:44 AM  
Blogger soulbrotha said...

Thank you red kelly and Mr. Behrans for posting such wonderful tributes to a truly great lady.
I came to know about her music very late in the game. I saw her in Black & Blue, and she (along with Linda Hopkins and Carrie Smith) blew me away! I backtracked and bought her earlier music. After that I tried never to miss her shows when she came to NYC.
I first met her after one of her gigs and she instantly became a second mom to me too. She was the most warm and gracious entertainer that I had ever met.I told her that she didn't sing my favorite song "Have A Good Time" and she said "Oh baby, you should have told me!" LOL! She even offered to sing it in her second set just for me! But I had to leave. I wish I had stayed.
I just lost my mom to cancer a year ago and now I've lost my other "mom". I'm gonna miss her big time.
If anybody has any information about a memorial service or tribute in NYC, please let me know at Thanks.

11:51 PM  

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