Rheta Hughes with Tennyson Stephens – Introducing an Electrifying New Star (1965/2015) [AcousticSounds FLAC 24/96]

Rheta Hughes with Tennyson Stephens – Introducing an Electrifying New Star (1965/2015)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz  | Time – 37:49 minutes | 836 MB | Genre: Pop/Rock
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: AcousticSounds | Front Cover | © Columbia/Legacy

During the ’60s, Columbia Records was putting out albums of relatively unknown female singers and announced the featured artists as “electrifying” to the buying public. They did it with Aretha Franklin when, in 1962, they released their second album, “The Electrifying”. And they did it again in October 1965 when they released another LP which, to my greatest dismay and utter surprise, didn’t succeed in bringing fame and glory to its protagonist. This LP went by the title “Introducing an Electrifying New Star”. The new star was Rheta Hughes, born as Henrietta Hughes in Dallas. Her first LP on Columbia (# CS-9185), presented her as the star she still had to become … but unfortunately never became. This album was to be her one and only LP for Columbia, and it didn’t suffice to earn her a place in Gary Marmorstein’s massive 600-page history of Columbia Records.

Singer and pianist Tennyson Stephens was born in the Bay Area but eventually moved to Hawaii, occasionally being tempted back to the American mainland for a number of live and recording appearances. Having recorded sporadically during the 1960s (for Chess and Aries Records as Tenison Stephens and for Columbia with Rheta Hughes) and been a member of Jerry Butler’s backing band, he joined Phil Upchurch’s band in 1973.

In the contemporary press, this LP was not only announced but also reviewed with much praise: “Rheta Hughes, in her first album, displays an impressive blues and jazz style, a first-rate voice and a flair for proper phrasing”. And in another review: “Rhetta (sic) is a golden and gutsy singer who mastered intonation and phrasing where a young singer should (in a church choir)”. But the LP did not prove a commercial success and only by hindsight can be judged an artistic success. Back then, she didn’t profit much from it. Around the same time, in the mid-’60s, she started appearing on stage as “Rhetta Hughes” what later became her regular artist name. After 1965 she toured through supper clubs and nightclub venues, together with Tennyson Stephens, but they didn’t hit it big. Once in a while her name appeared in the rainbow press, e.g. in May 1965 when she was said to have a romance with Tom Jones whom she had met in Las Vegas. In 1969, she recorded another album for the Tetragrammaton-label. This LP has remained rather obscure to this day, although the song “Light My Fire” became a favorite with soul-aficionados. During the ’70s, she was involved in several blaxploitation movies (particularly in “Sweet Sweetback’s Baad Asssss Song”, 1971), and during the ’80s she met with considerable success when she appeared in a number of musicals, including James Baldwin’s “Amen Corner”. Due to her checkered career, however, her name didn’t find the resonance it deserves and thus information about her life and art is hard to come by. Most of the standard Jazz- and Soul-dictionaries simply ignore her. This is hard to understand for everybody who has heard Rheta Hughes sing. And her Columbia-LP from 1965 was quite an outstanding debut. Sadly and unjustly, it went by largely unnoticed until the present day.

Tracklist:
01 – The Music That Makes Me Dance
02 – The Second Time Around
03 – Lost and Lookin’
04 – A Taste of Honey
05 – Back Street
06 – Come on Home
07 – When Sunny Gets Blue
08 – I Won’t Cry Anymore
09 – I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl
10 – I’m a Fool to Want You
11 – Like Young
12 – He’s My Man

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