Percy Mayfield

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Percy Mayfield
Percy Mayfield.jpg
Background information
Born (1920-08-12)August 12, 1920
Minden, Webster Parish, Louisiana, United States
Died August 11, 1984(1984-08-11) (aged 63)
Los Angeles, California, United States[1]
Genres Rhythm and blues
Occupation(s) Singer, songwriter
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1947–1960s
Labels Specialty, Chess, Imperial
Associated acts Ray Charles

Percy Mayfield (August 12, 1920 – August 11, 1984) was an American rhythm-and-blues singer with a smooth vocal style, and a songwriter known for the songs "Please Send Me Someone to Love" and "Hit the Road Jack".

Career[edit]

Mayfield was born in Minden, Louisiana, the seat of Webster Parish,[2] in the northwestern part of the state. As a youth, he had a talent for poetry, which led him to songwriting and singing. He began his performing career in Texas and then moved to Los Angeles in 1942, but without success as a singer until 1947, when a small record label, Swing Time Records, signed him to record his song "Two Years of Torture," with a band that included saxophonist Maxwell Davis, guitarist Chuck Norris, and pianist Willard McDaniel.[3] The record sold steadily over the next few years, prompting Art Rupe to sign Mayfield to his label, Specialty Records, in 1950.[4]

Mayfield's vocal style was influenced by such stylists as Charles Brown, but unlike many West Coast bluesmen, Mayfield did not focus on the white market. He sang blues ballads, mostly songs he wrote, in a gentle vocal style. His most famous song, "Please Send Me Someone to Love", a number one R&B hit single in late 1950 and described by reviewer Bill Dahl as "a multi-layered universal lament",[3] was widely influential and recorded by many other singers.[5] His career flourished, with R&B hits like "Lost Love" and "The Big Question" confirming his status as a leading blues ballad singer,[6] and "a true master at expressing his innermost feelings, laced with vulnerability and pathos".[3]

At the height of his popularity in 1952, Mayfield was severely injured in an automobile crash, when he was returning from a performance in Las Vegas to Los Angeles as the front-seat passenger in a chauffeur-driven car. The vehicle hit the back of an unseen stationary truck, and Mayfield was hit by the debris. Though pronounced dead at the scene, he eventually recovered but spent two years convalescing.[7] The accident left him with a facial disfigurement that ended his career as a performer but did not stop his prolific songwriting. He continued to write and record for Specialty, and after 1954 recorded for Chess Records and Imperial Records. In 1961, Mayfield's song "Hit the Road Jack" brought him to the attention of Ray Charles, who signed him to his Tangerine Records, primarily as a songwriter. Mayfield wrote "Hide nor Hair", "At the Club", "Danger Zone", and "On the Other Hand, Baby" for Tangerine,[4] with Ray Charles recording at least 15 of his songs.[2]

Following his RCA recordings in the early 1970s, Mayfield again slipped into obscurity and poverty, but there was a final chapter of his career. In the early 1980s, Bay Area keyboardist Mark Naftalin discovered that Mayfield was living in the East Bay area and was able to provide him with a band for live performances in several Marin County and East Bay clubs. The exposure led to a 1982 Timeless studio date with the Phillip Walker Blues Band, recording the album Hit the Road Again.

Death[edit]

Mayfield died of a heart attack on August 11, 1984, one day before his 64th birthday, having again fallen into obscurity.[8] He was interred at Inglewood Park Cemetery, in Inglewood.

Personal life[edit]

Mayfield married three times. The identity of his first wife is unknown. His second wife was Willie Mae Atlas Mayfield. His third wife was Tina Mayfield. With his second wife, he had one child, a daughter, Pamela, and three grandchildren.

Discography[edit]

Chart singles[edit]

Year Single Chart Positions
US Pop[9][10] US
R&B
[11]
1950 "Please Send Me Someone to Love" /
"Strange Things Happening"
26
-
1
7
1951 "Lost Love" - 2
"What A Fool I Was" - 8
"Prayin' For Your Return" - 9
1952 "Cry Baby" - 9
"The Big Question" - 6
1963 "River's Invitation" 99 25
1970 "To Live the Past" - 41
1974 "I Don't Want to Be the President" - 64

Albums[edit]

  • My Jug and I (1966)
  • Walking on a Tightrope (1969)
  • Weakness Is a Thing Called Man (1970)
  • Percy Mayfield Sings Percy Mayfield (1970)
  • Bought Blues (1970)
  • Blues... And Then Some (1971)
  • Hit The Road Again (with the Phillip Walker Blues Band, 1983)
  • Percy Mayfield Live (1992)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Talevski, Nick (7 April 2010). Rock Obituaries – Knocking on Heaven's Door. Omnibus Press. p. 403. ISBN 978-0-85712-117-2. 
  2. ^ a b Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 306. ISBN 978-0313344237. 
  3. ^ a b c Biography by Bill Dahl, Allmusic.com. Retrieved 3 November 2016
  4. ^ a b "Percy Mayfield". Home.earthlink/net. Retrieved 2006-11-06. 
  5. ^ Gillett, Charlie (1996). The Rise of Rock and Roll (2nd ed.). New York: Da Capo Press. pp. 144–146. ISBN 0-306-80683-5. 
  6. ^ "Percy Mayfield". History-of-rock.com. Retrieved 2006-11-06. 
  7. ^ Percy Mayfield, FindaGrave.com. Retrieved 3 November 2016
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1986). Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 301. ISBN 0-89820-083-0. 
  10. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 68. ISBN 0-89820-155-1. 
  11. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995. Record Research. p. 38. 

External links[edit]