Saturday, 20 June 2009

Tiny Topsy

There’s nothing in rhythm and blues quite like a big, fat mama bringing the house down with a set of lungs that match her physique, telling the tale of her little old man banging her like a drummer. And if you though that Big Maybelle and Big Mama Thornton had the monopoly on the genre, you obviously haven’t heard Tiny Topsy.

Born Otha Lee Moore in 1929 or 1930 depending on what you read, Tiny Topsy began performing with Al Smith’s band in Chicago in 1945. This group split in 1952, with Smith becoming an in-house band leader for the likes of Chance, Parrot and Vee-Jay.

It was five years before Tiny's first recording session, for Federal Records in Cincinnati. On July 9th, 1957 she cut the wonderful "Aw! Shucks Baby" and "Miss You So". It was released as Federal 12302 as by Tiny Topsy With The Five Chances.

Although she never became a big name star and frequent occupier of the charts, her records were always great and even a couple even got released in the UK on Parlophone. Singles like "Come On, Come On, Come On" (Federal 12309) and "You Shocked Me" (Federal 12315) were hot rockers that are the equal of the two Big M’s mentioned above. The fourth single, "Western Rock 'n' Roll" incorporated snippets of hit singles like At The Hop and Get a Job. her fifth and last single for Federal was the original of "Just A Little Bit" which picked up numerous covers, most notably for me by first Rosco Gordon and then Jerry Lee Lewis.

Her next single, "Working On Me Baby" came out on Argo, and in 1963 King Records released an alternate take of "Aw! Shucks Baby". She died tragically in August ’64 in Chicago, Illinois at the age of 34, unaware that her music would still have an appeal half a century later.

Recommended purchase: Tiny Topsy & Friends (Rock 'n' Rhythm Records)

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