Might as well show you, right away, what drew me to today’s album as I went crate digging over the weekend.
That got my attention. Now that I have yours …
There is some fairly remarkable music under that remarkable cover.
Texas native Percy Mayfield got his start as a mellow blues singer on the Los Angeles scene in the late 1940s. He had a No. 1 R&B hit with “Please Send Me Someone To Love” in 1950.
In September 1952, on his way home to L.A. from a gig in Las Vegas, he was badly injured in a car accident and was left with a disfigured face. That curtailed his public performances, but didn’t keep him from becoming one of the top R&B and blues songwriters. His most well-known is “Hit the Road, Jack,” a hit for Ray Charles.
Throughout the ’50s, Mayfield — no relation to Curtis Mayfield — kept cutting singles for the Specialty, Chess, Atco and Imperial labels and playing occasional gigs. After writing “Hit the Road, Jack,” Charles signed Mayfield to his Tangerine label in 1961.
In the late ’60s, Mayfield moved on to RCA Victor, and that’s where we come in. Today’s album, “Blues … And Then Some,” was released in 1971. It’s out of print today.
It was recorded at RCA’s Studio C in New York, with what today seems like an all-star lineup of musicians steeped in R&B and jazz. Among the 15 session men: guitarist Billy Butler (co-wrote and soloed on the R&B crossover hit “Honky Tonk” in 1956, then became a top soul amd jazz player), bassist Chuck Rainey (the King Curtis All-Stars, Quincy Jones and Steely Dan), saxophonist Seldon Powell (Louis Bellson, Neal Hefti and Buddy Rich), trombonist Garnett Brown (Lionel Hampton, the Crusaders, Herbie Hancock) and trumpeters Snooky Young (Count Basie, Hampton and the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Band) and Marvin Stamm (Jones/Lewis). Unfortunately, the liner notes on the back cover don’t say who plays on each tune.
Mayfield wrote nine of the 10 cuts on “Blues .. And Then Some.” His distinctive vocals, backed by all that talent, make for a terrific album. There’s a laid-back vibe throughout, counterbalanced by a big horn sound.
From this album, RCA Victor released “Right On Young Americans” as a single. Laid over a shuffling guitar track and a horn chart — both of them cook — Mayfield is the voice of experience: “You better listen, what I’m tellin’ you is right/You’ll wake up one mornin’, be a has-been overnight.” and “I’m not kiddin’, everything I’m tellin’ you is right/We keep killin’ one another, won’t be nobody left to fight.”
The B side is “The Devil Made Me Do It,” a light-hearted, if fairly traditional, blues tune. Mayfield speaks the story, sings the chorus and steps aside during the big horn interludes.
“Blues … And Then Some” was among Mayfield’s last hurrahs. It appears to have been his last album, the last of three cut for RCA Victor. He cut another single on Atlantic in 1974, then faded from the scene. He died on Aug. 11, 1984, on the eve of his 64th birthday.
Most of the collections issued since Mayfield’s death have been drawn from his ’50s catalog. Guess I’ll just have to keep an eye out for his other two RCA Victor albums: “Percy Mayfield Sings Percy Mayfield” and “Weakness is a Thing Called Man.”
Until then, hope you enjoy the music as much as the album cover. (Sorry, the liner notes on the back cover don’t identify that lovely young lady.)
“Sign On the Dotted Line,” Percy Mayfield, from “Blues … And Then Some,” 1971.
“Right On Young Americans,” Percy Mayfield, from “Blues … And Then Some,” 1971.
“Contact Me (When You Find Her),” Percy Mayfield, from “Blues … And Then Some,” 1971.