Percy Mayfield


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Born in Minden, LA, and raised in Houston, TX, Percy Mayfield came to Los Angeles in 1942 determined to succeed as a songwriter, and gradually developed into a nationally recognized recording artist. Four incredibly rare sides released on the GruVtone label in 1947 are presented here as a prologue to Mayfield's Supreme and Specialty recordings. "Jack, You Ain't Nowhere" is a swinging strut for unidentified sax and rhythm with vocal chorus and periodic bursts of gruff hollering. "Get Way Back" is particularly interesting, with Mayfield speaking (rather than singing) in an offhand manner slightly off-mike. This feels like a taproot of rap music. Also recorded in 1947, four sides issued on the Supreme label find Mayfield singing the blues backed by Monroe Tucker's orchestra. Jazz heads will thrill to hear Marshall Royal blowing his alto sax with this smoky little octet, alongside tough tenor Maxwell Davis, who followed the singer into the Specialty studios, participating in all of his 1950-1951 recordings. Other outstanding players who entered the picture were bassist Red Callender, tenor ace Jack McVea, baritone Charles Waller, and Lester Young's little brother, drummer Lee Young. It was on August 16, 1950, that Mayfield really established himself with "Please Send Me Someone to Love" b/w "Strange Things Happening." Also waxed at this fruitful session was the grimly titled "Life Is Suicide." Most of Mayfield's songs involve brooding and trying to shake off the blues. It is apparent just how these records -- in addition to Mayfield's subsequent collaborations with Ray Charles -- played an important role in the development of the modern blues sound of the late '50s and the 1960s. Particularly satisfying is Mayfield's "Lost Mind," originally issued as Specialty 460 and beautifully covered by Mose Allison on his 1957 Prestige LP Local Color.

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