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Specialty Profiles: Percy Mayfield

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Album Review

Percy Mayfield was blessed with an emotive Louisiana baritone and a poet's sensibility to sadness and pain, and few songwriters in the history of pop or R&B have written a body of work so drenched in beautiful suffering. This set features Mayfield's major hits for Art Rupe's Specialty Records, a label that Mayfield recorded for from 1950 until 1954 before leaving for Chess Records (the bonus disc included here is simply a sampler for other artists who recorded for Specialty). Given depth and atmosphere by Maxwell Davis' saxophone textures, songs like "Cry Baby" and "Please Send Me Someone to Love" were carefully written R&B symphonies to the harsh realities and downside of romance, and at times that downside morphed into relentless darkness, as is the case with the excessively maudlin "The River's Invitation," which is just this side of a melodic suicide note. Also here is the wonderful (and relatively upbeat) "Louisiana" as well as Mayfield's original version of his signature song, "Hit the Road Jack," which Ray Charles would cover and turn into a huge hit. In all, this makes a nice introduction to Mayfield's early work and spotlights his considerable skill as a songwriter. He fell in love with sadness, Mayfield said, because there was more truth in it.

Biography

Born: August 12, 1920 in Minden, LA

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s

A masterful songwriter whose touching blues ballad "Please Send Me Someone to Love," a multi-layered universal lament, was a number one R&B hit in 1950, Percy Mayfield had the world by the tail until a horrific 1952 auto wreck left him facially disfigured. That didn't stop the poet laureate of the blues from writing in a prolific fashion, though. As...
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Specialty Profiles: Percy Mayfield, Percy Mayfield
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