b. 11 August 1929, Nashville, Tennessee, USA, d. 19 December 2001. Kittrell made a number of attractive and moderately successful records for local labels during the 50s. A choir member as a child, her voice lacked the distinctive nuance that might have brought her more durable success. Her first record, ‘Old Man You’re Slipping’ (Tennessee 117), was backed by tenor saxophonist Louis Brooks and his band, with whom she had made her professional debut six years earlier in 1945. Fats Domino sidemen Buddy Hagans and Wendell Duconge played on her first and biggest hit, ‘Sittin’ Here Drinking’ (Tennessee 128), which brought her a six-week engagement at the Pelican Club in New Orleans. Kittrell had toured with the Joe Turner band in 1951 but she preferred to work around Nashville, at clubs such as the New Era and the Elks. Engaged as singer with Paul ‘Hucklebuck’ Williams’ band in December 1952, Billboard noted that the ‘five-foot-six chirp’ was the ‘blues find of the decade’. She made her west coast debut in 1954 with Earl Bostic and later Johnny Otis. Several releases on the Republic label at this time led to only regional success. One session, which included ‘Lord Have Mercy’ (Republic 7096), is reputed to feature Little Richard on piano. In August 1954, Billboard announced her departure from the R&B field to sing with the Simmons Akers spiritual singers. In the early 60s she recorded for Vee Jay but her original version of ‘I’m A Woman’ was covered by Peggy Lee. She re-recorded an old Republic song, ‘Call His Name’ (Federal 12540), in 1965, and spent the next few years touring army bases in south-east Asia entertaining US troops. Subsequently, she semi-retired to her Ohio home, playing the occasional local blues festivals and small clubs in the 90s. She died of emphysema.
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