Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Chess Years in the 60s

In 1960, Etta signed a recording contract with Chess Records. Little did she know that she would have the biggest success of her career from this recording label, recording her biggest and most memorable hits. This recording company went into high gear with James, releasing many duets with her then boyfriend Harvey Fuqua, who was then the lead singer of the Moonglows. One of her duets with Fuqua, called "I Can't Have You", became a hit on the R&B charts in 1960. As a solo artist however, she had more enduring success. One of her first singles released by Chess in 1960 was called "All I Could Do Was Cry". This Blues number became a big hit for James on the R&B charts in 1960. James' sassy vibe added a significant touch of personality to the song. Leonard Chess, one of the founders of Chess Records helped James along the way. He saw the potential for James to go into a more Pop-oriented direction. Therefore, James started recording more Pop tunes for the label.

The year 1961 became a year of great change for James. In 1961 came the release of one of her first Pop-oriented tunes called "At Last". The song became a big hit in 1961, reaching #2 on the R&B charts. The song even went as far as #22 on the Pop charts that year, proving that the Pop crossover direction was becoming successful for her. Although it may have turned out to be less of a hit than expected on the Pop charts, it still made the Top 30. The song became her signature song and the song most people remember her by.[3] Her career had not ended yet though. More success came, following the success of "At Last". Other songs such as "Trust In Me" became hits for her, following the success of her signature tune. The 1962 tune "Something's Got a Hold On Me", showed more of James' Gospel side, a genre she had sung since childhood.

Her 1963 album Etta James Rocks the House, which was cut at Nashville's "New Era" club also gave her career a boost. She had other big hits in the 1960s, but mainly on the R&B charts. The song "Pushover" was a hit for her in 1963. Other hits followed, like "Stop the Wedding", "Fool That I Am" and "Don't Cry Baby", which were all hits for her between 1961 and 1963. From this, James became one of the most successful R&B artists of the 1960s, having many more Top Ten and Top Twenty hit singles on the charts. She has been classified as one of the pioneers of the Blues, being acclaimed to the ranks of artists like B.B. King. Performing in Memphis, Tennessee, the city where Blues started didn't hurt James into making her into a blues icon. Between 1965 and 1967, not much other success had followed, in terms of chart success. However, this wasn't to last for very long, in 1967, she would release another single that would become a big hit again, giving her comeback into music once more.