Yet another in the seemingly endless procession of tributes is in order for this week's edition of The '50s R&B Show.
The great New Orleans soulstress Tami Lynn, born Gloria Brown in the Gert Town section of the city in 1942, passed away on June 26th.
Lynn began singing in church in her youth, and by the late '50s she was being featured on Dr. Daddy-O's local gospel radio program. Her R&B career began by happenstance in the early '60s at the Joy Tavern in Gert Town when singer Elsie "Baby Face" Kenley didn't show up one night for her regular gig with saxophonist Alvin "Red" Tyler's band. George Clark, the club's owner, suggested that Red take a listen to a young singer down the block whose mother had bragged about her daughter's singing abilities. Tyler convinced the shy 20-year-old to sit in that night. She impressed him enough that he introduced her to Harold Battiste of the newly formed A.F.O. Records. Lynn made her debut recordings in 1963 with backing by Battiste, Tyler and the rest of the A.F.O. staff band: Peter "Chuck" Badie, John Boudreaux, and Melvin Lastie -- and likely James Booker on organ and Alvin Battiste on flute on some tracks.
Just a few months after her first sessions with Battiste, Tami migrated to Los Angeles with the rest of the A.F.O. crew, but very soon found her way to New York. While there, she worked some gigs at Birdland, opening for John Coltrane and other jazz greats. In late '64, while singing at a DJ convention, she was spotted by Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records. He signed her to the label, where she cut a handful of tracks, including the Bert Burns penned and produced "I'm Gonna Run Away From You." She also laid down some duets with Wilson Pickett at Atlantic before returning to Los Angeles in the late '60s.
Between 1967 and the mid '70s, she performed with Dr. John and provided backup vocals on six of his most definitive albums. She also recorded on King Floyd's debut album and was one of the backup vocalists (along with Dr. John and Shirley Goodman) on "Let It Loose" from the Rolling Stones' 1972 album Exile On Main St. Her biggest success as a solo recording artist also came during this period. Oddly, her 1964 Atlantic recording "I'm Gonna Run Away From You" was leased in 1971 by the UK's Mojo Records, who put it out on a single that year. The nearly 7-year-old recording became a hit in Europe and has since become a soul classic. This prompted Atlantic Records to re-release the tune as a single on their Cotillion subsidiary and also to record an entire Tami Lynn album titled Love Is Here and Now You're Gone. Tami continued to record and perform throughout the world in the subsequent decades.
I had the privilege of meeting Tami at the 2003 Ponderosa Stomp in New Orleans. There, she performed with three original members of the A.F.O. band that she'd first recorded with in the early '60s -- Harold Battiste, John Boudreaux and Chuck Badie, along with Charlie Miller sitting in for the late A.F.O. trumpeter Melvin Lastie. I was 19 at the time. I introduced myself and asked if she'd mind signing my copy of "Baby" -- her debut single from 1963. She seemed very surprised to see it. After signing it, she took me by the hand, led me through the crowd and brought me around to meet Battiste, Boudreaux and Badie, saying "you've got to show them this record!" That night I learned what a genuinely sweet person Tami Lynn was and it's a memory that I deeply cherish.
This week's show airs Tuesday, July 14th at 7:00 p.m. central on WWOZ 90.7 FM and wwoz.org. It will feature several tracks by the wonderful Tami Lynn sprinkled throughout.
Here is an interesting news item (with video) about Tami from late last year. https://www.abcactionnews.com/…/neighbors-concerned-after-n…
And here is an article from October 2011 that features an interview with Tami. https://brooklynrail.org/20…/…/music/in-exile-on-main-street