Benny Spellman (December 11, 1931 – June 3, 2011) was an American R&B singer, best known for his 1961 hits "LipstickTraces (On A Cigarette)," and the original version of "Fortune Teller", written by Allen Toussaint (as Naomi Neville).
Mr. Spellman was born in Pensacola, Fla. He attended Southern University in Baton Rouge on a football scholarship; at Southern, he also began singing.
Back in Pensacola in 1959, Mr. Spellman encountered New Orleans R&B band Huey Smith & the Clowns. The band’s vehicle had broken down; Mr. Spellman offered to drive them back to New Orleans. He elected to remain there after falling in with the burgeoning rhythm & blues community cantered around the Dew Drop Inn.
He became one of the many artists to give voice to producer/songwriter Allen Toussaint’s voluminous 1960s output. In 1962, Minit Records released a 45 rpm single with Mr. Spellman singing “Lipstick Traces” on the A-side and “Fortune Teller” on the B-side. Both songs were written by Toussaint under the pseudonym “Naomi Neville.” “Lipstick Traces,” with Irma Thomas on backing vocals, proved to be Mr. Spellman’s most significant national hit, reaching No. 28 on Billboard’s R&B chart. He also contributed backing vocals to Ernie K-Doe’s smash recording of another Toussaint song, “Mother-in-Law.”
Given his limited national exposure, Mr. Spellman worked the Gulf Coast and local circuit, performing at parties, dances and whatever gigs came up. “I wasn’t making that big money like K-Doe,” Mr. Spellman once said. “I’d play three gigs (in one night) to make more money.” Indicative of the enduring nature of his recordings, many artists would later cover songs originally recorded by Mr. Spellman. The O’Jays, Ringo Starr and Alex Chilton all later did “Lipstick Traces.”
The Rolling Stones and The Who each did versions of “Fortune Teller.” “Raising Sand,” the Grammy-winning, million-selling 2007 collaboration between Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, contained a spooky version of “Fortune Teller.” After the market for New Orleans rhythm & blues dried up in the late 1960s, Mr. Spellman largely retired from the music business. He worked for many years at a beer distributorship.
He suffered a stroke some years ago and was unable to attend an August 2009 ceremony at Ernie K-Doe’s Mother-in-Law Lounge inducting him into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. At the time, he resided in an assisted living facility in Pensacola. Spellman died of respiratory failure in June 2011, at the age of 79. (Info mainly edited from an article by Keith Spira @ nola.com)