Ruth Brown (January 12, 1928–November 17, 2006.) Born Ruth Alston Weston in Portsmouth, Virginia, she was probably the second most popular female R&B singer of the early and mid 1950s (right behind Dinah Washington). Her magnificent voice could "sell" a song (sometimes in spite of the song itself), and, with the greatest number of singles issued by a female singer on the Atlantic label, she made trip after trip to the R&B charts. In fact, Atlantic Records was sometimes referred to as "The House That Ruth Built."
(Please note one or two sources give her birth date as January 30th)
Ruth Brown's father was a dockhand who directed the local church choir, but the young Ruth showed more of an interest in singing at USO shows and nightclubs. In 1945, Brown ran away from her home in Portsmouth along with a trumpeter, Jimmy Brown, whom she soon married, to sing in bars and clubs. She then spent a month with Lucky Millinder's orchestra, but was fired after she brought drinks to the band for free, and was left stranded in Washington, D.C.
Blanche Calloway, Cab Calloway's sister, also a bandleader, arranged a gig for Brown at a Washington nightclub called Crystal Caverns and soon became her manager. Willis Conover, a Voice of America disc jockey, caught her act and recommended her to Atlantic Records bosses, Ahmet Ertegün and Herb Abramson. Brown was unable to audition as planned though, because of a serious car accident that resulted in a nine-month hospital stay. In 1948, however, Ertegün and Abramson drove to Washington from New York City to hear her sing in the club. Although her repertoire was mostly popular ballads, Ertegün convinced her to switch to rhythm and blues. His productions for her, however, retained her "pop" style, with clean, fresh arrangements and the singing spot on the beat with little of the usual blues singer's embroidery.
In her first audition, in 1949, she sang "So Long", which ended up becoming a hit. This was followed by Teardrops from My Eyes in 1950. Written by Rudy Toombs, it was the first upbeat major hit for Ruth Brown, establishing her as an important figure in R&B. Recorded for Atlantic Records in New York City in September 1950, and released in October, it was on Billboard's List of number-one R&B hits (United States) for 11 weeks. The huge hit earned her the nickname "Miss Rhythm" and within a few months Ruth Brown became the acknowledged queen of R&B.
She followed up this hit with "I'll Wait for You" (1951), "I Know" (1951), "5-10-15 Hours" (1953), "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean" (1953), "Oh What a Dream" (1954), "Mambo Baby" (1954) and "Don't Deceive Me" (1960). She also became known as Little Miss Rhythm and the girl with the teardrop in her voice. In all, she was on the R&B charts for 149 weeks from 1949 to 1955, with 16 top 10 blues records including 5 number ones, and became Atlantic's most popular artist, earning Atlantic records the proper name of "The House that Ruth Built."
During the 1960s, Brown faded from public view to become a housewife and mother, and only returned to music in 1975 at the urging of Redd Foxx, followed by a series of comedic acting gigs, including a role in the sitcom Hello, Larry and the John Waters film Hairspray as local DJ Motormouth Maybelle, as well as Broadway appearances in Amen Corner and Black and Blue, which earned her a Tony Award for her performance and a Grammy award for her album Blues on Broadway, featuring hits from the show.
Brown's fight for musicians' rights and royalties in 1987 led to the founding of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. She was inducted as a Pioneer Award recipient in its first year, 1989. In 1993, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as The Queen Mother of the Blues. Ruth passed away on November 17, 2006 in a Las Vegas area hospital from complications following a stroke and heart attack. (info mainly edited from Wikipedia)