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Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Ruby Johnson born 19 April 1936

Ruby Johnson (19 April 1936 – 4 July 1999) was an American soul singer, best known for her recordings on the Volt label in the late 1960s.

She was born in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and was raised in the Jewish faith. She sang, with her eight brothers and sisters, in the Temple Beth-El choir. After completing high school, she moved to Virginia Beach where she worked as a waitress and began singing rhythm and blues with local bands, before spending two years with Samuel Latham and the Rhythm Makers. She then moved to Washington DC in the late 1950s, and joined Ambrose and the Showstoppers, the house band at the Spa nightclub.

Amazed by her contralto vocal style, the local entrepreneur Never Duncan Jnr became Johnson's manager and hooked her up with Dicky Williams, a musician and producer she knew from her days at Virginia Beach. In 1960, Ruby Johnson cut her debut single, "Calling All Boys", for the Philadelphia-based V-Tone label. Subsequently, her manager launched NEBS Records and issued a succession of Johnson 45s ("Here I Go Again", "Worried Mind", "Nobody Cares") which the disc-jockey Al Bell turned into regional hits on the Washington DC station WLOK.
When her local supporter, disc jockey Al Bell, began working for Stax Records in Memphis in 1965, he won her a contract with the label. There, she recorded a handful of classic soul records with the writing and production team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter, and backing musicians including Steve Cropper, "Duck" Dunn and Al Jackson. These were issued on the Stax subsidiary label, Volt. They included "I’ll Run Your Hurt Away", which reached #31 on the Billboard R&B chart in 1966, and "If I Ever Needed Love", both tracks which became staples of subsequent soul compilations, such as those by Dave Godin.

 Porter said that Ruby had something very special, that all of the sadness and other emotions in her life came through in her voice and in her styling of a song. Hayes and Porter never quite wrote the hit song to match Johnson's supreme, tearful delivery and propel her into the limelight. Indeed, a lot of Johnson's Stax sessions remained in the vaults until 1993. Never Duncan Jnr organised a few more recordings ("I Can't Do It" was issued by the Capacity label in 1968) but, after a few more years singing in nightclubs, Ruby Johnson quit the music business in 1974. 

 She worked in government posts, and eventually became the director of Foster Grandparents, a federal programme helping handicapped children relate to older generations. She also returned to worship and sing at the Temple Beth-El near her home in Lanham, Maryland.
Her new-found cult status in the Nineties puzzled her slightly but she did admit to missing the old days at Stax and on stage. "Every time I see some of those big shows, I long for it sometimes, I really do. I enjoyed what I was doing."

A compilation CD, including many previously unissued tracks, was issued on CD by Ace Records in 1993. 

Ruby died in Lanham, Maryland 4 July 1999, aged 63. (Info various mainly Wikipedia)


boppinbob said...

For “Ruby Johnson "I'll Run Your Hurt Away" 1967-1968 (Stax Records)” go here:

01 I'll Run Your Hurt Away
02 What More Can a Woman Do
03 Won't Be Long
04 The Love of My Man
05 Why Not Give Me a Chance
06 It's Not That Easy
07 Don't Play That Song (You Lied)
08 Come to Me My Darling
09 It's Better to Give Than to Receive
10 Keep on Keeping On
11 How Strong Is My Love
12 Need Your Love So Bad
13 Come to Me My Darling
14 Left Over Love
15 I'd Better Check on Myself
16 I'd Rather Fight Than Switch
17 No No No
18 If I Ever Needed Love (I Sure Do Need It Now)
19 When My Love Comes Down
20 Weak Spot

All of Ruby’s wonderful Stax sessions, including alternate takes and unissued cuts were collected together on this Stax UK CD. Simply essential listening.

A big thank you to Twilightzone for link.

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