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Baby Huey

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Biography

A locally beloved figure on the Chicago soul scene, Baby Huey never achieved quite the same renown outside of his hometown, despite an exciting live act and a record on Curtis Mayfield's Curtom label. Born James Ramey in Richmond, IN, in 1944, Baby Huey was literally an enormous stage presence: a glandular problem kept his weight around 350-400 pounds and beyond. He began performing in Chicago clubs in 1963 with his backing band the Babysitters and soon became a popular concert draw. As the '60s wore on, Baby Huey's sound moved from energetic R&B into a more psychedelic brand of soul, with a vocal style that drew comparisons to Otis Redding. He signed with Curtom and recorded a debut album, The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend, that featured several Curtis Mayfield songs (most notably the oft-sampled "Hard Times" and "Mighty Mighty Children"), plus a cover of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come." Sadly, Baby Huey didn't live to see it released; his weight and substance-abuse problems were exacting a steep toll on his body, and on October 28, 1970, he suffered a drug-related heart attack in a hotel room in Chicago. The album was released early the next year, and the Babysitters attempted to carry on for a while with a new lead singer, the still-teenaged Chaka Khan (she would, of course, go on to fame as the frontwoman of funk band Rufus shortly thereafter). In the years since, Baby Huey's lone LP has become a sought-after collectible among soul fanatics.