(Big Maybelle - plucked from obscurity by, of all things, a sitcom)
My introduction to Big Maybelle actually came by way of listening to Moms Mabley records. Every so often she would use Big Maybelle as a punchline and for a twelve year old, that got me curious. I was also lucky to be living in a pretty racially mixed neighborhood at the time and Big Maybelle (as well as Billy Eckstine) were huge with the family across the street. Needless to say, Big Maybelle was part of my youth and it was a tragic day when I heard the news in 1972 that she had died.
I don't think she ever got the credit or the wide acclaim many of her contemporaries got. I'm sure some of it had to do with her various addiction problems. But why she's very rarely ever mentioned in the same breath as Dinah Washington or Sarah Vaughan is something of a mystery to me. She had an amazing voice, with great power and a huge range and wonderful phrasing. At the time of her death she was already largely forgotten and it wasn't until something as seemingly innocuous as the Cosby Show in the 1980's, with an episode featuring the song I'm posting today, Candy, that cultivated a whole new generation of fans and admirers.
Big Maybelle was truly one of a kind. Thankfully, with her renewed popularity, her recorded legacy is living on. But if you're one of those people who haven't heard her, here's your chance to pick up on something real and unique and completely wonderful.
Big Maybelle was just like that.