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big maybelle

Big Maybelle

b. Mabel Louise Smith, 1st May 1924, Jackson, Tennessee, U.S.A.

d. 23rd January 1972, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.

Big Maybelle was born in Jackson, Tennessee.

She began singing gospel as a child, switching to a more secular musical environment, as she progressed into her teens.

Her first professional engagements were with the Dave Clark Memphis Band in 1936.

Mabel then toured with the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, who were an all female ensemble, featuring Mabel Louise Smith, Tiny Davis, Jackie Glenn and Mattie Watson.

Later joining Christine Chatman's Orchestra as a pianist, Mabel made her first recordings with the Chatman imprint in 1944.

She also recorded with the Tiny Bradshaw Orchestra from 1947 to 1950.

Mabels' first solo recordings were under the name of Mabel Smith, after signing to King Records in 1947.

By 1952 she had signed with Okeh Records.

Big Maybelle

The record producer at the label, Fred Mendelsohn, suggested the stage name Big Maybelle.

Her debut release for Okeh came in the form of 'Gabbin' Blues' b/w 'Rain Down Rain', which became an instant hit reaching number 3 on the Billboard R&B chart.

Subsequent releases included 'Way Back Home'b/w 'Just Want Your Love' and 'My Country Man' b/w 'Maybelle's Blues' in 1954 (recorded with the Leroy Kirkland Orchestra).

In 1955 she recorded 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On' b/w 'One Monkey Don't Stop No Show', ( a Quincy Jones production).

The song was recorded some two years before Jerry Lee Lewis's Sun Records take on the song.

Mabel recorded mainly for Savoy Records during the latter part of the fifties, which included 'Candy' b/w 'That's A Pretty Good Love' (in 1956).

During this era, she appeared at the Apollo Theater in New York City.

In 1958, she appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival; and featured in the film 'Jazz on a Summer's Day' (in 1960).

She shared billing with the likes of Mahalia Jackson and Dinah Washington.

Her success waned towards the end of the fifties, although she continued to record into the sixties.

Mabel's private life began to take a hold on her career, with Mabel dealing with drug addiction issues, along with other and health problems.

Her last hit single was released in 1967, which was a cover of '96 Tears' b/w 'That's Life' (originally recorded by Question Mark & the Mysterians).

Mabel passed away from a diabetic coma in 1972, in Cleveland, Ohio.

She was survived by her only child Barbara Smith, along with several grandchildren.

'Last of Big Maybelle', was released posthumously in 1973.

In 2011, Mabel was inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame.

Big Maybelle

Real Player


Big Maybelle (Epic Records 1954)

Big Maybelle Sings (Savoy Records 1958)

Blues, Candy And Big Maybelle (Savoy Records 1958)

Saga Of The Good Life And Hard Times (Rojac Records 60's)

What More Can A Woman Do? (Brunswick Records 1962)

The Gospel Soul Of Big Maybelle (Brunswick Records 1964)

The Soul Of Big Maybelle (Scepter Records 1964)

Gabbin' Blues (Scepter Records 1965)

Saga Of The Good Life and Hard Times (Rojac Records 1966)

Got A Brand New Bag (Rojac Records 1967)

The Gospel Soul Of Big Maybelle (Brunswick Records 1968)

The Last Of Big Maybelle (Paramount Records 1973)

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