Sunday, April 03, 2011

Fontella & Tina

In 1963, Fontella Bass was still 24 months away from her great breakthrough that came with »Don't Mess Up A Good Thing« (Checker, with Bobby McClure, r&b # 05) in spring 1965, followed by the mega-hit »Rescue Me« (Checker, r&b # 01) in autumn. Ike & Tina Turner on the other hand were rather past their prime success in 1963 ... »A Fool In Love«, »I Idolize You«, »Tra La La La«, all on Sue Records, had charted but there were no new hits on the horizon.

However, in 1963 Ike Turner arranged some recordings with Fontella Bass as the lead-singer. Bass who hailed from St. Louis had met the Turners in her home town because they frequently appeared there on stage. The first of these recordings is Fontella's song »My Good Loving«, recorded right at St. Louis. It was released on Prann # 5005, and The Ikettes provided the backing vocals (uncredited on the single). And although the single was officially produced by »Ike and Tina Turner«, on its label we read only »Fontella Bass with Oliver Sain Orchestra«:

Fontella Bass (feat. The Ikettes): »My Good Loving« (Prann # 5005A):

In the same year another single was released, this time for the Vesuvius label which was a subsidiary of Pompeii Records from Dallas. (I've always loved this name! I wonder if they were ever thinking of establishing other subsidiaries and calling them »Pliny Jr. Records« or »Volca-No« ... possibly releasing songs like »Ashes To Ashes« by »Craterman & The Lava Flowers« ...) And it was again Ike Turner who was behind that because he not only figures as producer but also played guitar on the recording. Fontella this time was not only accompanied by The Ikettes, but by Tina Turner herself. However, Tina only sings on the A-side »Poor Little Fool« which is why the billing on the label says »Fontella Bass and Tina Turner«. On the B-side, »This Would Make Me Happy«, there is only the voice of Fontella. In any case, Tina's contribution to »Poor Little Fool« is limited to the melodical main part of the song: »Poor little fool, why can't you see / This romance will never be«. In this part she accompanies Fontella in what is basically a close-harmony-duet. Yet the song is remarkable not only for being a fine, bluesy r&b-ballad, but also for being the only recording from the 1960s, as far as I know, where you can hear Tina Turner together with another female singer (apart from the Ikettes, of course). And yes, in general Tina was not used to playing the second fiddle ...

Fontella Bass (feat. Tina Turner*);
»Poor Little Fool*« / »This Would Make Me Happy« from Vesuvius # 1002 (1963):

Some discographies list Vesuvius # 1002 as a recording (and, consequently, as a release) from 1964. According to most of the information I have this is not correct, but on the other hand, information is scarce regarding this 45. So maybe 1964 it is. We gonna find out some day.

POSTSCRIPT  Oct. 17, 2011
There is now an enthusiastic review of »Poor Little Fool« over at Voyager's World. Check it out!


  1. I always loved "Poor little Fool" because it sound so perfectly bluesy and well,black of course. In Etta James autobiography she mentions that Ike used to arrange duet-concerts where both Etta and Tina competed on stage (hence Tina recording "Something's Got A Hold On Me" and few other Etta James songs later) but as I understand they never sang together.
    Back to "Poor little fool' - it has Ike's signature all over it and I actually really like his particular simple way with music, I also really like his solo instrumental albums like "Black Man's soul". You can read my review here

  2. Thank you for putting in a good word for Ike here, I'm doing it rarely myself! And thanks for mentioning Etta James in this regard, I hadn't thought of her connection with Tina & Ike (I have to check that out in Etta's autobiography).

  3. Etta's book is titled "Rage to survive" and believe me it would be perfect for you as she is not only funny,brave and honest about herself but also she was around at the time: she saw dead body of Sam Cooke beaten beyond recognition and claims she don't believe in official report of his death. She also have something to say about her meetings with Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Esther Phillips and many more. As for ITT, she was attracted to dark-skinned guys so Ike was naturally her dish of the day,believe it or not.
    Thanks to you I was inspired to write review of ITT gospel album today on my blog (and also thanks to you I learned how to use hyperlink!)

  4. I got Etta's autobiography on my shelf but it's a while since I read it. Actually I didn't remember the passages about her appearing on the same stage with Tina Turner. You are right, among all the available singers' biographies Etta's surely stands out for being so outspoken and straightforward. It also lacks the tedious attitudes of self-justification or "let-my-life-be-a-lesson-to-you" we find in several other autobiographies ...