Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Monday, February 9, 2009

Know your Black Musical History, Know Lula Reed

She was versatile, singing urban blues most of the time but switching to gospel for a 1954 session. Reed's strident 1954 waxing "Rock Love" was later revived by labelmate Little Willie John. She briefly moved to the Chess subsidiary Argo in 1958-1959 but returned to the fold in 1961 (as always, under Thompson's direction) on King's Federal imprint. While at Federal, she waxed a series of sassy duets with guitarist Freddy King in March of 1962. Another move -- to Ray Charles's Tangerine logo in 1962-1963 -- soon followed. After that, her whereabouts are unknown.
--Bill Dahl, All Music Guide

Listen up. In conjunction with Black History month, the daddy is posting on historical events and people who made a difference in the lives of African Americans and America itself: people who, as they say in gospel, "...brought us from a mighty long way." He is posting on musical, literary and political figures and events, focusing as much as possible on lesser-known figures who made a difference. Some posts will revisit historical figures about whom the daddy has already written. Other posts will be new altogether.

One of those lesser-known but great persons in African American's musical history is Lula Reed. Have you heard of her? It's alright if you have not. A lot of people never heard of her; and many of those who knew her distinctive, flexible voice-- a voice that was equally effective with blues-tinged ballads, hand-clapping gospel or uptempo R&B -- soon forgot her. Indeed, her signature song "Drown in my own tears" was recorded in 1951 and went to the top 5 on the billboard charts. But Ray Charles recorded it three years later; and now, when people here it, they think of Charles, and not Reed. But like Big Maybelle, Hadda Brooks and a number of other fine black women blues singers, Lula laid down a number of songs of high-quality singing. The reason history is not kind to Reed is that she was a victim of the insatiable itch of American music lovers for something new and, during the fifties and sixties: mostly new males like Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and new groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones-- all playing charged-up blues for lonely, lovestruck teenagers.

Yes, teenagers had a craving that just had to be satisfied. They had it bad-- and that ain't always good-- for Rock & Roll, a bouncy derivative of the blues with a snappy bea
t and an intoxicating, out-of-this-world, crazy feeling to it, a feeling evoking wild dancing, cheap alcohol, crazy hairdos, and a lowering of inhibitions.

For teeny boppers, rock & roll meant a high level of energy, craziness, fun, a music all their own and moments of independence that drove mom and dad nuts-- moments that illustrated with certainty that they would have their own driver's license, their own car, their own adulthood-- when they would one day let freedom ring by driving down gravel roads, listening to their own music as loud and as late into the night as they want.

Lula Reed, a great singer in the fifties and early sixties, was silenced by The Creator on June 21, 2008. But, truth be told, in another sense, she was silenced by an opportunistic music business that so
ught short-term profits off bored, harmone-crazed teenagers over long-term, artful substance, frenzied musical beats over musicality. Thus Lula's propensity for sweet ballads with a soulful voice that reminds you of smooth and sultry voice of Dinah Washington went the way of classic blues, folk and spirituals.

After moving from different labels and back again to the same ones, Lula, frustrated, went back to a place where it all started from, where her great voice would be better appreciated, where a good heart would never be out of style: the black church. And the record business never heard from her again.But on the road to quality music, Lula Reed left footsteps for music lovers to follow; and, fortunately, some of her music is coming back. "Boy, Girl, Boy," a sexy duet recorded with the up-and-coming guitarist Freddie King at the Federal Label in 1962, is being reissued. But the first reissue with be Lula Reed 1951-1954 on Classics. "Drown in My Own Tears" will be reissued; and it will feature 24 of her cuts from the Ace label. And of course there are the songs she recorded with collaborator and later husband Sonny Thompson that are a part of the Sonny Thompson collections.

For more on the life of Lula Reed, check out the wonderful piece that was written by Jeff Under on Big Road Blues. Also, see the piece about her obituary on the blog Juke Joint Soul. And purchase Lula Reed's CD with Freddie King or one of the other reissues. Play a tune or two and hear a voice that helped set the standard for quality singing in the fifties and early sixties.

Know your Black musical history. Know Lula Reed.


Anonymous said...

Never heard of her. What about Aretha or that Gladys Knight?

Anonymous said...

Lula's down, MacDaddy. I can't imagine how many talented black women and men were ignored by history. Wait a minute, I *can* imagine, because as a white woman, my talent and contributions were discounted and tossed aside by almost every white male I ever worked with professionally.
I'm totally down with Lula. Thanks.

MacDaddy said...

Anon1: Gladys Knight is fantastic. Aretha Franklin is perhaps the greatest R&B singer of all. But, for this series, I'm focusing on a number of lesser-known people who, nonetheless, made a difference.

Anon2: Is this your first time at this blog? Welcome. And I hear you. Perhaps you'll sign up on as a follower at the top of my sidebar and come back and share what happened to you...One of the posts I'm going to write is about how very good women get denied the attention they deserve, even though they may be as good as men. I'm very familiar about this situation in the blues genre. Maybe you could share about this happens in others.

Maybe at some point you might want to share your point of view with readers. Next month-- after Black History Month-- would be a good time.Thanks for sharing. Come back anytime.

Anonymous said...

I heard of Lula Reed’s songs but I didn’t remember her name. Fantastic. Thanks


rainywalker said...

Your right I believe it was about greed that sent her back to the church. A little information for your readers: Lula Marietta [McClelland] Reed born 21 March, 1921 Minjo Junction, Ohio died Detroit, Michigan.

Great post!

CurvyGurl ♥ said...

Hey MacDaddy. Her name sounds really familiar. I'm looking forward to the upcoming posts, you always teach us something new :-).

Please drop by when you have a chance, I have a little something on my blog for ya :-).

MacDaddy said...

Thanks,CG: Unfortunately, I can't get into some blogs now; and yours is one. Send me your email to

Christopher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher said...

Lula Reed: "Walk on By Me"

Lula Reed: Puddentang

And the perfectly brilliant, Bettye LaVette. Unknown to many which is a regular shame because Bettye is stunning. If you don't feel her, then you're dead from the neck down. (here's a current clip)


MacDaddy said...

Christopher: Thanks for the clips. Both were very good. I'm going out to this broken down record shop this afternoon to see if I can find an album from that period with Betty Lavette and Lula Reed on it. If not, i'll get something by each of them separately. Thanks.

Christopher said...


Also check out Joyce Bryant.

Her cover of 'Love for Sale' is something to behold.

Jay said...

Dr. King Deserves Better in Charlotte, NC!

Jay said...

Dr. King Deserves Better in Charlotte, NC!

Anonymous said...

I love Lula and her "Rock Love". Was wondering why she didn't transition into 50's R&B/R&R like Ruth Brown and Laverne Baker. I would say she was as talented, but maybe didn't rock as much. What a beautiful woman and voice!

Here's to remembering her!


Corey said...

Hello! I just discovered your blog by accident but when I saw that you'd done a post on Lula Reed, I had to stop and read for awhile. Kudos! I grew up very near Newport KY, so I heard the stories about the entertainment/red-light/gangsta era of vice and nightclubs with stories about Reed and her husband Sonny Thompson and the likes of Charles Brown & Big Maybelle. I also grew up listening to an album of Reed's on King Records called Blue & Moody. This is music well before my own era, but because the LP was still played when I was coming along, I loved it and today I own it. We have a tendency to put our musical pioneers on the back shelf and forget them, passing them over for the hit of the week from the latest chirping chipmunk. I had no idea Reed died only last year until I read your blog. Thanks again for remembering Reed, and mentioning the likes of the great Little Willie John - keeping them alive and turning on the younger generations to their musical heritage. I recently found an old album by Lurlean Hunter and the COVER turned me on so much, I had to go scrambling for info just so I could do a post about her. I do these type of retro diva posts on my own blog, and while most of the material may not appeal to the majority of your readers, they deserve to be checked out. PeaceLoveAndLight!

MacDaddy said...

Corey: Thanks for checking out my blog. I'll check and link yours. Hey, sign up as a follower at the top of my sidebar and come back again (Others will see your blog too). And thanks for the bit of history about Reed, Lurlean Hunter and Little Willie John. I've already posted on Little Willie John and will post on Hunter, Big Maybelle and others in the future. Hope to hear from you again soon.