Who was/is Betty James ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more
Female blues singers weren't in the same plentiful supply that they had been in decades past. More commercial forms of R&B were seducing most of them. Betty James was a thoroughly delightful exception.
Laced with rural riffs, the twangy electric blues guitar that wraps itself around James' expressive, strutting vocal gives her 1961 debut offering I'm A Little Mixed Up a throwback sound closer in tone to '51. It originally hit the streets on Clarence Johnson and Joe Evans' Cee-Jay label out of New York, which also pressed up 45s by local blues artists Jay Dee Bryant, Lee Roy Little, and Jimmy Spruill. Johnson and Evans were credited as producers when Mixed Up was snapped up by Chess for national consumption, Help Me To Find My Love gracing the flip
After that, Betty (one report has her hailing from Baltimore) was officially a Chess artist, though her 1962 encore I'm Not Mixed Up Anymore (a sequel to her previous release that sounded virtually nothing like its predecessor) b/w the chopping Henry Lee and a saucy I Like The Way You Walk b/w the grinding Salt In Your Coffee cut four long years later but still retaining her distinctive guitar backing (her husband may have been her accompanist) sank without trace. Five more titles from the two dates were banished to the Chess vaults.
Sadly, that was the last anyone heard of Betty James. But I'm A Little Mixed Up lived on. Willie Dixon knew a good song when he heard one and handed it to his protégé Koko Taylor at a 1965 Chess date. It ended up on Koko's first album.
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