Friday, May 8, 2009

Oh Mama: Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean

Ruth Brown: Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean


For my last post on this theme, I wasn’t about to let this one get by. You see, back in Horns week, I presented a selection of Blues Horns. I mentioned that jump blues collided with post war electric blues, and early R&B began to take shape. The music of Ruth Brown shows what happened next.

Brown began her career in jump blues bands in the late 1940s. By 1949, she had come to the attention of Ahmet Ertegun, who was just starting Atlantic Records. Her first single for them, So Long, was also the first of her many hits for Atlantic. Her Importance to the label was such that it became known as “the house that Ruth built”. But she was cheated out of most of her royalties, as were so many artists at that time.

1953 saw the release of Brown’s most enduring song, Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean. Other songs of hers were as big hits at the time, but this is the one you still hear today. It is a quintessential example of jump blues turning into rhythm and blues.

During the 60s, Brown retired to have a family. When she made her comeback in the 70s, she struggled for nine years to recover her lost royalties, and eventually prevailed. This led to the founding of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, dedicated to helping other artists from the 50s get their due. Ruth Brown was a pioneer once again. For this work, as much as for her music, Brown was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

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