01. Looking For A Man - Little Esther
02. The Deacon Moves In - Little Esther with The Dominoes
03. I'm A Bad, Bad Girl - Little Esther with Mel Walker
04. Ring-A-Ding Doo - Little Esther with Mel Walker
05. Aged And Mellow - Little Esther
06. Ramblin' Blues - Little Esther
07. The Storm - Little Esther
08. Hollerin' And Screamin' - Little Esther
01. Mainliner - Little Esther with The Robins
02. Saturday Night Daddy - Little Esther with Bobby Nunn
03. You Took My Love Too Fast - Little Esther with Bobby Nunn
04. Last Laugh Blues - Little Esther with Little Willie Littlefield
05. Flesh, Blood And Bones - Little Esther
06. Turn The Lamps Down Low - Little Esther with Little Willie Littlefield
07. Cherry Wine - Little Esther
08. Hound Dog - Little Esther
Little Esther - Bad Baad Girl! (Zippy)
Our previous post on Little Esther's big selling Savoy sides ended with the teenage chanteuse leaving that label for the newly founded Federal label, a Ralph Bass run subsidiary of King Records. Her first recording session for Federal took place in January 1951. In the meantime the Johnny Otis band continued to record for Savoy until March 19th 1951 but his anticipated transfer to Federal didn't happen. Instead he signed for Mercury and the band recorded for that label from December 1951 to July 1952.
Thereafter Johnny went to Don Robey's Houston based Peacock Records for whom he worked in both Houston and Los Angeles as A&R man, producer and band leader on tracks recorded by artists like Big Mama Thornton, Johnny Ace and Little Richard.
However one look at the personnel on these Federal recordings by Little Esther (which you can find on the back cover of this LP) shows that the backing band on her 1951 and 1952 tracks is indeed the Johnny Otis Orchestra doing a spot of moonlighting.
As you can see in the original release information below, backing on Little Esther discs was at first credited to the "Earle Warren Orchestra," ex-Basie man Earle being the alto sax player in Johnny's band at that time. Then there was the not-at-all obvious pseudonym of the "J. and O. Orchestra," and by the time of the 1952 releases there was no mention of the accompanying band.
When Preston Love (Johnny's band mate back in the Omaha days and then in the early days of Johnny's big band) replaced Earle Warren on alto sax in 1952, some discs credited to the Preston Love Orchestra were released on Federal, again disguising the fact that they were by the Johnny Otis Orchestra.
During 1951 and at least the first half of 1952 Little Esther continued to tour with the Johnny Otis group. Other Otis-connected artists appearing on these sides are Mel Walker and Bobby Nunn, so this collection fits in nicely with our series of Johnny Otis related posts.
The very informative sleeve notes by Norbert Hess tell the tale of Little Esther's estrangement from Johnny Otis involving Esther's mother and a heap of cash. The Otis band backed Esther for the last time in August 1952. In a final session for Federal in March 1953, Little Esther was backed by King studio musicians including Rufus Gore and Hank Marr.
In July and September 1953 Little Esther recorded for Decca. These sides went nowhere and the recent spell of stardom already seemed to have faded fast away as what may euphemistically be called "health problems" began to take their toll. For the rest of her sadly all too short life Little Esther or Esther Phillips as she was now known would be plagued by addiction problems although there were periods when she recorded strong material and made dents in both the pop and R&B charts.
In 1975 her version of the Dinah Washington hit "What A Difference A Day Makes" was an international success, reaching number 20 in the US pop chart and number 6 in the UK chart. For the cognoscenti her 1971 recording of Gil Scott Heron's "Home Is Where The Hatred Is" is a harrowing classic. Esther Phillips died aged 48 in August of 1984.
But here on Be Bop Wino we rarely move beyond the 1950's so enjoy Little Esther, Johnny Otis and the band, Bobby Nunn, Mel Walker, The Dominoes and Little Willie Littlefield on these blasters from back in the day.
|Atlanta, April 1951|
Here are the original release details of the tracks:
Federal 12016 - "The Deacon Moves In" by Little Esther with the Earle Warren Orchestra, b/w "Other Lips, Other Arms" - Little Esther with the Earle Warren Orchestra. February 1951.
Federal 12023 - "I'm A Bad, Bad Girl" by Little Esther with the Earle Warren Orchestra, B-Side of "Don't Make A Fool Out Of Me" - Little Esther with the Earle Warren Orchestra. April 1951.
Federal 12036 - "Looking For A Man (To Satisfy My Soul)" by Little Esther with the Earle Warren Orchestra, b/w "Heart To Heart" - Little Esther and The Dominoes with the Earle Warren Orchestra. July 1951.
Federal 12055 - "Ring-A-Ding-Doo" by Little Esther and Mel with the J. and O. Orchestra, b/w "The Crying Blues" by Little Esther with the J. and O. Orchestra. November 1951.
Federal 12063 - "The Storm" by Little Esther, B-Side of "Summertime" - Little Esther. March 1952.
Federal 12078 - "Aged And Mellow" by Little Esther, B-Side of "Bring My Lovin' Back To Me" - Little Esther. May 1952.
Federal 12090 - "Ramblin' Blues" by Little Esther, b/w "Somebody New" by Little Esther. August 1952.
Federal 12100 - "Saturday Night Daddy" by Little Esther & Bobby Nunn, b/w "Mainliner" by Little Esther. October 1952.
Federal 12108 - "Last Laugh Blues" by Little Esther and Little Willie, b/w "Flesh, Blood And Bones by Little Esther. November 1952.
Federal 12115 - "Turn The Lamps Down Low" by Little Esther and Little Willie, b/w "Hollerin' And Screamin'" by Little Esther. February 1953.
Federal 12122 - "You Took My Love Too Fast" by Little Esther and Bobby Nunn, b/w "Street Lights" by Little Esther. April 1953.
Federal 12126 - "Hound Dog" by Little Esther, b/w "Sweet Lips" by Little Esther. April 1953.
Federal 12142 - "Cherry Wine" by Little Esther, b/w "Love Oh Love" by Little Esther. September 1953.