Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

BROWN, Ruth

(b 30 January 1928, Portsmouth VA; d 17 November 2006) R&B/jazz singer. Sang in church; won amateur night at the Apollo singing ballad 'It Could Happen To You' (she'd heard Bing Crosby sing it); landed a job with Lucky Millinder band '48; Blanche Calloway (Cab's sister) became her manager, got an audition at Atlantic Records. On the way a car crash hospitalized her for months, but the contract was signed: first record 'So Long' was no. 6 R&B chart '49, top ten hits '50-5 included no. 1 entries 'Teardrops From My Eyes' '50, '5-10-15 Hours' '52, '(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean' '53, 'Oh What A Dream' and 'Mambo Baby' '54, Her hits covered in the pop charts by Georgia Gibbs and Patti Page, she was billed as Miss Rhythm, always a star attraction at the Apollo, where she shared a bill late '50s with Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. Pop crossover began none too soon in '57 with 'Lucky Lips' (no. 25 pop, no. 12 R&B; song by Leiber and Stoller, covered in UK '60s by Cliff Richard); 'This Little Girl's Gone Rockin' ' '58 (no. 24 pop/23 R&B) featured King Curtis on sax; 'I Don't Know' '59 was no. 5 R&B, Hot 100 pop. The hits continued through '62 with seven Hot 100 entries, 18 R&B altogether. She lived on Long Island, still performed occasionally at jazz festivals, recorded '68 with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis band (CD on Capitol); then a comeback on Fantasy (Have A Good Time, Blues On Broadway, Fine And Mellow '87-91) and a superb album Live In London '94 with a quintet on Ronnie Scott's Jazz House label; obviously enjoying the audience, and it was mutual. A good profile by Chip Deffaa in his Blue Rhythms: Six Lives '96.