Ruth Brown

Ruth Brown (1928-2006), was an American rhythm and blues actress and singer. She is best known for her popular music style and hit songs for Atlantic Records’ fledgling Atlantic Records, including “So Long”, Teardrops from My Eyes” and “(Mama] He Treats Your Daughter Mean”. Ruth Alston Weston was born in Portsmouth, Virginia on the 30th of January 1928. She attended I. C. Norcom high school, which is a historically black highschool. Brown’s father was a dockhand and directed the local church choir. However, Ruth took an interest in singing at USO shows as well as nightclubs. Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, and Sarah Vaughan inspired her. Brown fled her Portsmouth home with Jimmy Brown, a trumpeter she later married to sing in bars. After spending a month with Lucky Millinder, Brown was fired. She had brought alcohol to the band for free and was left alone in Washington, D.C. Blanche Calloway, Cab Calloway’s sister, was able to arrange a gig at Crystal Caverns nightclub for Brown and became her manager. Willis Conover was a Voice of America disc jockey and discovered her act and recommended it to Atlantic Records bosses Ahmet Ertegun, and Herb Abramson. Brown couldn’t audition due to a serious car accident, which resulted in a nine month hospital stay. Ertegun, Abramson and Brown drove from New York City to Washington in 1948 to see her perform in the club. Although her repertoire consisted mostly of popular ballads Ertegun persuaded her to move to rhythm and blues. However, his productions for her retained her pop style with clean, fresh arrangements. They also had the ability to keep the singer on the beat without much of the usual blues singer embroidery. She sang “So Long” in her 1949 audition. It was a huge hit. The song was followed in 1950 by “Teardrops from My Eyes”, written by Rudy Toombs. It was Ruth Brown’s first major hit.

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