Big Maybelle Biography
Mabel Louise Smith, better known by her stage name Big Maybelle, was an R&B singer from the United States. In 1999, her smash track “Candy” from 1956 was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Her deep, gravelly voice was as distinctive as her recorded output for Okeh and Savoy, which included everything from down-in-the-alley blues to pop-slanted ballads.
Big Maybelle was born on May 1, 1924, in Jackson, Tennessee. At the tender age of eight, she won first place in an amateur competition in Memphis. Maybelle’s strong vocal style included gospel music, but the chapel was too small to accommodate her talent. Maybelle met Memphis bandleader Dave Clark in 1936, and toured with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm a few years later. She made her Decca debut in 1944 with pianist Christine Chatman’s group, before signing with Cincinnati’s King Records in 1947 for three singles with trumpeter Hot Lips Page’s band.
She was found in the Queen City by producer Fred Mendelsohn, who renamed her Big Maybelle and signed her to Columbia’s OKeh R&B subsidiary in 1952. The odd “Gabbin’ Blues” (written by tunesmith Rose Marie McCoy and arranger Leroy Kirkland) from her first Okeh album was an instant hit, rising to the top of the R&B charts.
Maybelle and OKeh scored a hat trick in 1953 with “Way Back Home” and “My Country Man.” She recorded a version of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” in 1955, two years before Louisiana piano pumper Jerry Lee Lewis got his hands on it. Her gentle interpretation of the pop staple “Candy” was another great R&B smash in 1956, thanks to Mendelsohn’s quick transfer to Herman Lubinsky’s Savoy diskery. Maybelle’s “Ring Dang Dilly,”That’s a Pretty Good Love,” and “Tell Me Who” all benefited from scorching support from New York’s premier sessions at Savoy.
Howard Biggs’ majestic arrangements for her penultimate Savoy date in 1959 mirrored shifting R&B trends; Howard Biggs’ stately arrangements included four violins. In his color documentary Jazz on a Summer’s Day, filmed at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, director Bert Stern captured her bright blues-belting picture. Maybelle continued to record for Brunswick, Scepter (her “Yesterday’s Kisses” showed her mastering the uptown soul sound), Chess, Rojac (the source of “96 Tears”), and other labels throughout the 1960s.
She recorded for a number of labels after 1959, but the hits were few and far between. She kept performing until the early 1960s. In 1967, she had a smash single with a rendition of Question Mark & the Mysterians’ “96 Tears.” Maybelle’s drug addiction began to have a negative impact on her career in the 1960s.
Smith died on January 23, 1972, in Cleveland, Ohio, of a diabetic coma. For the preceding 18 months, she had been sick frequently. Last of Big Maybelle, her final album, was released after her death in 1973. The Epic label’s album The Okeh Sessions earned the W.C. Handy Award for “Vintage or Reissue Album of the Year (US)” in 1983. She was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2011. Her cover of “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” was featured on the Diamond City Radio playlist in Fallout 4’s soundtrack.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Songs Big Maybelle Was Singing?
Big Maybelle was a prolific singer, recording more than 600 songs over the course of her career. So it’s tough to say how many songs she was actually singing at any given time. But we do know that she could belt out a mean tune, and her voice was always full of emotion. Whether she was belting out a ballad or a up-tempo number, Big Maybelle always brought her signature style to every song she sang.
Which Song Is Famous Of Big Maybelle?
One of Big Maybelle’s most famous songs is “Candy.” The song was originally released in 1956 and has been covered by a number of artists over the years. Big Maybelle’s version of the song remains one of the most popular and well-known versions.
Is Big Maybelle Wrote Song?
Yes, Big Maybelle wrote many songs including the classic “Candy” which was later covered by Madonna. Other well-known songs written by Big Maybelle include “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” and “All I Could Do Was Cry”. Big Maybelle was a talented singer and songwriter who made a significant contribution to the world of music.