Artist: Big Maybelle
LP: The Amazing Big Maybelle
Song: "I Will Never Turn My Back On You"
[ listen ]
[ listen ]
Birmingham, Alabama is one of the neatest cities I visited on my Southern Road Trip back in April. Founded after the Civil War as a new center of industry, the city grew in leaps and bounds during its first few decades, earning the nickname "The Magic City" for its almost instant emergence as one of the biggest and most important cities of the South. Birmingham reached a peak population of 340,887 in 1960, but has been dropping in population since then as the steel industry declined and people moved to the suburbs. The city's population was just 212,237 in 2010, but efforts are underway to revitalize the downtown core in order to lure residents back so that the city will begin growing magically once again. You can read more about Birmingham, its history, economy, earthquakes (!), and the role the city played in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and '60s on Wikipedia here. Birmingham also features some neat old statues perched atop buildings and hillsides, like this one and this one, paying tribute to the city's glorious industrial past.
I visited two record stores in Birmingham, both located in the artsy 5 Points South neighborhood. The first, Renaissance Records, is a classy and slightly cluttery place with decent prices and a very friendly lady working there on the evening I stopped by. This terrific LP by Mabel Louise Smith (aka. Big Maybelle) is one of the things I found. I'm guessing "I Will Never Turn My Back On You" was likely recorded in the 1950s, since that's when Maybelle was at the peak of her popularity, but according to this online Big Maybelle biography and discography, this "Amazing Big Maybelle" LP was released in 1973. Born in Jackson, Tennessee in 1924, Maybelle made it to the big-time in the early 1950s with hits like "Gabbin' Blues," "Candy," and "My Country Man." The hits stopped flowing by the end of the '50s and Maybelle died in Cleveland, Ohio in January of 1972 after slipping into a diabetic coma. You can read more about this amazing woman's life and career here and here.
[ Big Maybelle: May 1, 1924 — January 23, 1972 ]
[ Renaissance Records — Birmingham, Alabama ]