LULA REED (By Dave Penny)
Born Lula Marietta McClelland, 21 March 1926, Mingo Junction, Ohio
An attractive singer in whom the seed of soul is particularly strong, Lula Reed belongs to that coterie of stylists who closely followed the lead of Dinah Washington in the early 1950s. Many sounded like little girls - many were little girls - but Lula, like Dinah, clearly wasn't. Unlike Dinah, her switch from praising the Lord to singing the Devil's music was more of a wrench for her and it ultimately resulted in Lula turning her back on the limelight and retreating to the welcoming bosom of Christianity.
She found her voice singing in her local church choir and was taken under the wing of Professor Harold Boggs, who nurtured the young talent. Himself a well-known gospel singer, Boggs began his recording career on King Records in Cincinnati in August 1952, about six months after Lula had made her well-starred debut for the label with Sonny Thompson's Orchestra. Her only national hits would prove to be those first two Henry Glover-penned songs recorded as vocalist with Thompson's band on 14th December 1951: "Let's Call It A Day" attained the #7 position of the Billboard Rhythm & Blues Chart, while "I'll Drown in My Tears" surpassed it to stall at #5. The former song was revived by Billy Gayles and Ike Turner in 1956, while the latter - retitled Drown in My Own Tears - was taken to the top of the Billboard R&B chart in early 1956 by Ray Charles on Atlantic, since which time it has been
>From early 1953, with two big R&B hits under her belt, Reed began enjoying releases under her own name, although the backing band was invariably still Thompson's. Sadly, despite the commercial promise of her first two releases and being voted the nation's #4 rhythm and blues singer by The Cash Box trade magazine in 1954, Reed spent six more years with King Records searching in vain for another elusive hit. She and her now husband, Sonny Thompson, took a break from the label from 1958 to 1960, with Reed spending two years with Chess' Argo subsidiary (during which time, King released her only solo LP "Blue and Moody"), but they returned briefly to the fold in 1961, recording on the Federal label. The following year Reed was teamed up with Freddy King for a handful of duets and the celebrated "Boy Girl Boy" LP on the King label, but by the end of 1962 she had left the company, left Cincinnati and left Thompson to spend a year with the label owned by her early admirer Ray Charles
By late 1963 it was all over: always one of those troubled artists in whom the secular constantly warred with a more dominant spiritual side, Lula Reed quit the world of R&B in the early 1960s to go back home and the church that had uncovered her talent. All efforts to contact her and interview her about her "wicked" recording career have since been rebuffed.
Ace CDCHD 984 - I'll Drown in My Tears: The King Anthology 1952-1955
24 track cherry-picking of Lula's King recordings with Sonny Thompson's band.
Classics 5136 - The Chronological Lula Reed 1951-1954
first of three CDs covering Lula's complete recording career, including her rare early gospel sides.
|These pages were originally published as "This Is My Story" in the
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