Friday, 6 April 2018

Barbara Pittman born 6 April 1938

Barbara Pittman (April 6, 1938 – October 29, 2005). Her claim to fame is that she was the only female artist signed to Sam Phillips' Sun Records -- other women recorded for the label, but only Pittman was one of the few female singers to record at Sun Studio given a contract. That alone would secure her place as a footnote in music history, but Pittman also cut one exalted rockabilly classic during her Sun years: "I Need a Man." 

Pittman was one of 12 children born to a family in Memphis, TN, in 1943. Her mother was acquainted with Gladys Presley, and Pittman attended the same school as Elvis. Pittman began thinking of a singing career when she won a high school talent contest, As a child, Pittman spent time at her uncle's pawn shop on Beale Street, where she listened to jam sessions with B.B. King. When she was 10 or 11, she auditioned for Sun Records but she was turned away because of her age. The dauntless Pittman found work with a local band (thanks to a recommendation by Elvis, Pittman says) before touring with western star Lash Larou in 1955.  

Returning to Memphis in 1956, Pittman began singing with Clyde Leoppard's Snearly Ranch Boys and found work as a demo singer for Stan Kesler, who hoped that her acquaintance with Presley would give a boost to a song he had earmarked for the popular rock & roller. The resulting demo of "Playing for Keeps" convinced Presley to record the song and brought Pittman to the attention of Sam Phillips. She cut the classic "I Need a Man" backed by members of Leoppard's band. The record was unsuccessful, but Pittman appeared on Sun package tours.

Other singles followed, including "No Matter Who's to Blame," "Two Young Fools in Love" and "I'm Getting Better all the Time." John Singleton, president of Sun Entertainment in Nashville, said Phillips used mostly male singers but liked Pittman, who continued to make recordings for Sun, many of which were not released. Pittman stated in interviews that this was due to a lack of promotion on the part of the label.
When other labels expressed an interest in Pittman in 1957, Phillips retaliated by offering her a contract, making her the only female artist to be honoured thusly. Phillips let her choose whether she wanted to record for Sun or his new Phillips International subsidiary, and Pittman selected the latter because she thought it had a more attractive label design.
She recorded several sessions with Sun players like Billy Lee Riley and Bill Justis, but her recordings ranged from teen-oriented pop to bluesy balladry, with little of the rockabilly and rock & roll for which she later would be celebrated. A one-off single with the vocal group the Sunrays also failed, and Pittman released her final Phillips single in 1960. Several radio stations deemed the flip-side, "Eleventh Commandment," blasphemous and banned it from airplay, further crippling an already doomed record.

Pittman left Phillips International for Del-Fi, but no recordings were issued. Throughout the '60s she performed on cruise ships and military bases, and sang on the soundtracks of motorcycle movies such as Wild Wheels and Wild Angels.

In the '70s she married, and with the rockabilly revival her reputation grew as her Sun recordings were reissued on compilation albums. In 1983 she formed a band in Houston, TX, and played at European rockabilly festivals.
From 2000 onwards Barbara did several shows for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in Memphis and one in Las Vegas during the past 5 years. Sadly, she was often overlooked when the Memphis area Sun Tribute Shows were put together. She especially enjoyed joining Ace Cannon's band on stage for a song or two.

After a trip to England in March of 2005, Barbara’s health declined, She died at her Memphis home Oct. 29, 2005 of heart failure. She was 67.

Pittman's legacy is built upon three or four essential tracks, but the squandered opportunities surrounding this husky-voiced singer are nearly as fascinating as the records she made. 

(Compiled and edited from an AllMusic bio by Greg Adams & Wikipedia)

Here's Barbara Pittman & The Six Guns. Houston at Rockefellers - benefit for KPFT in1984.

1 comment:

boppinbob said...

For “Barbara Pittman ‎– Getting Better All The Time” go here:

1 I Need A Man
2 No Matter Who's To Blame
3 Sentimental Fool
4 Voice Of A Fool
5 Two Young Fools In Love
6 I'm Getting Better All The Time
7 Take My Sympathy
8 Cold, Cold, Heart
9 Everlasting Love
10 Eleventh Commandment
11 Handsome Man
12 Just One Day
13 Love Is A Stranger
14 The Lonely Hours
15 Sentimental Fool
16 Cold, Cold, Heart
17 Everlasting Love
18 No Matter Who's To Blame
19 I'm Getting Better All The Time
20 Take My Sympathy
21 Two Young Fools In Love
22 I'm Getting Better All The Time
23 No Matter Who's To Blame
24 I'm Getting Better All The Time
25 Sentimental Fool
26 I Forgot To Remember To Forget
27 I'm Getting Better All The Time

A stupendous thank you to Jake for the active link.