Mabel Scott


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Mabel Scott had a powerful voice and energy to spare. She could be disarmingly funny ("No More Cryin' Blues"), pleasantly rowdy ("Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train"), or downright overbearing in the manner of Betty Hutton or Cass Daley ("Catch 'Em Young, Treat 'Em Rough, Tell 'Em Nothin'"). Naturally, much of this hinged on the nature of her material. Most of these songs, including the ones she helped to write, come off neatly. "Yes!" is saturated with sexual energy. The singer sounds as though she's in bed with somebody, and her delivery is almost as over the top as Frankie "Half-Pint" Jaxon's X-rated performance on Tampa Red's smutty rendition of Leroy Carr's "How Long, How Long Blues." Leiber & Stoller's "Wailin' Daddy" seems at first to be about a rocking musician but ends up glorifying domestic violence. Bragging about her man's ability to "wail" on her, Scott actually boasts that "he's the only man alive knows how to beat a woman right." The instrumentalists on these recordings are exceptionally fine. The Coral sides recorded in New York on May 22, 1951, had her backed by jazz players, including trombonist Tyree Glenn and saxophonists Eddie Barefield and Budd Johnson. Four titles waxed in Los Angeles on March 17, 1952, are greatly enhanced by tenor saxophonist Maxwell Davis, pianist Milt Raskin, and an unidentified trumpeter. Four tunes recorded for the Parrot label in Chicago at some point during the year 1953 find the singer backed by a tough little band. The only positively identified player in this group is legendary trumpeter King Kolax. "Mr. Fine" is overtly theatrical, "Mabel Blues" packs several violent threats worthy of Bessie Smith, and "Fool Burro" is a sort of a Mexican slow-grind rhumba. Faced with sagging record sales and terminated contracts, Mabel Scott toured Australia and recorded four sides in Sydney for the Festival label in August of 1955. These included "Just the Way You Are," a feisty love song of unknown authorship, and remakes of two earlier hits, "Mabel Blues" and "Boogie Woogie Santa Claus." This was the end of Mabel Scott's recording career. Although she spent the rest of her life singing in church, it is likely -- and most unfortunate -- that she never appeared on records again. Mabel Scott passed away in Los Angeles on July 19, 2000.

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