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Friday, 17 March 2017

Lorraine Ellison born 17 March 1931

Lorraine Ellison (17 March 1931 – 31 January 1983) was an American soul singer, best known for her recording of the song "Stay with Me" (sometimes known as "Stay With Me Baby") in 1966. With an incredible vocal power, range, and intensity that was perhaps too heavy for the record-buying masses, Lorraine Ellison never made it big, except of course in the hearts of committed soul fans-and the occasional rock and pop buyer. 

Ellison was born Marybelle Luraine Ellison in North Philadelphia and began singing gospel with her family at age six. She sang professionally with a local group named the Sylvania Singers & the Golden Chords before forming the family group The Ellison Singers in the late '50s/early '60s. The Ellison Singers recorded for the Sharp imprint, releasing 2 singles, namely 'In The Upper Room' b/w 'He’s Holding Me' (in 1962) and 'This Is The Day' b/w 'Open Up Your Heart' (in 1963).

 By 1964, she began recording R&B music, and her first hit was the 1965 R&B hit 'I Dig You Baby' (later made into a pop smash by Jerry Butler).  

She signed with Warner Bros. Records, and in 1966 recorded "Stay with Me" at a last minute booking, following a studio cancellation by Frank Sinatra. The story goes Lorraine Ellison was working with producer/composer Jerry Ragovoy at a major NY recording studio when someone popped in to say that the 46 piece orchestra lined up for the Frank Sinatra session was available next door as Sinatra had cancelled. Ragovoy up-scaled the arrangement, making lead sheets for the grumpy musicians who'd been expecting to schmooze Frank and now "demoted" to this obscure R&B canary. Then upon the first and ONLY take: standing ovation for Lorraine from the Big Band boys. 

"Stay with Me" reached number 11 in the U.S. Billboard R&B chart and number 64 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song was written and produced by Jerry Ragovoy. Later releases were on the subsidiary soul music record label, Loma. Her follow-up single was "Heart Be Still" a minor hit in 1967. Lorraine never charted again, however, she released 'Try Just A Little Bit Harder' in 1968, which rock singer Janis Joplin later remade with great success. 

Some of her other singles were 'Heart Be Still,' 'Don't Let It Go to Your Head,' and 'I've Got My Baby Back.' Songs that she wrote with her manager Sam Bell (of Garrett Mimms & the Enchanters) were recorded by Mimms and Howard Tate. Ellison's Warner LPs include Heart and Soul (1966), Stay With Me (1969), and Lorraine Ellison (1974) and the compilation The Best of Philadelphia's Queen (1976).  

Ellison composed many of her own songs (solo and with manager Sam Bell) and had her own compositions recorded by several other artists, including Jerry Butler, Garnet Mimms, Howard Tate and Dee Dee Warwick. 

Twice-married and using the surname Gonzalez-Keys, Lorraine Ellison gave up the music business in order to take care of her mother, before her death in January 1983 from ovarian cancer at the age of 51. (Info edited from numerous sources, especially Wikipedia)


boppinbob said...

For “Stay With Me: The Best Of Lorraine Ellison” go here:

1. Stay With Me
2. A Good Love
3. I've Got My Baby Back
4. I'm Over You
5. No Matter How It All Turns Out
6. I Want To Be Loved
7. Heart Be Still
8. Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)
9. In My Tomorrow
10. I'm Gonna Cry 'Til My Tears Run Dry
11. Only Your Love
12. You Don't Know Nothing About Love
13. Time Is On My Side
14. Doin' Me Dirty
15. Caravan
16. I'll Be Home
17. Many Rivers To Cross
18. The Road I Took To You
19. Walk Around Heaven
20. Stormy Weather
21. Do Better Than Your Doin'
22. I'll Fly Away
23. No Relief

The definitive compilation: 23 songs from 1966-1973, including three non-LP singles, three unreleased cuts from an aborted 1970 session at Muscle Shoals, her only two charting singles ("Stay with Me" and "Heart Be Still"), and even an Al Kooper song from an obscure 1970 soundtrack. These are among the foremost examples of the collision of soul, gospel, and pop, with the accent on the soul and gospel. The first half of the program, consisting of 1966-70 sides produced by Jerry Ragovoy (who also wrote most of those songs), have the edge over the early-'70s sessions. But Ellison's vocals are hard to fault anywhere. Includes the original version of "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)," covered by Janis Joplin. ~ Richie Unterberger

Mike Britcom said...

I've heard that story about the recording session before. The only thing I question is that Sinatra never recorded in New York between 1952 and the summer of 1967.

Days of Broken Arrows said...

Cool stuff -- thanks for the post. The Barbara McNair link is dead. Any chance of a re-up? Thanks again.

boppinbob said...

Thanks for the input Mike. I have often seen the questionable information regarding the Sinatra cancellation myself but as it was feasible considering the year in question was 1966 and according to Franks sessionography he did record in new York 10 Sep 1965 for the Soupy Sales Show. So if indeed the session in question was cancelled he therefore didn't record there at that year!

Still looking for more info on this matter, but needs someone with more time on their hands.
Regards, Bob

boppinbob said...

Hello DOBA, Your new link awaits you on Barbara McNair's page.(Active for 30 Days)
Regards Bob