Mabel Louise Smith (May 1, 1924 – January 23, 1972), known professionally as Big Maybelle, was an American R&B singer and pianist. Her 1956 hit single "Candy" received the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999.
Maybelle sang gospel as a child and by her teens had switched to rhythm and
blues. She began her professional career with Dave Clark's Memphis Band in
1936, and also toured with the all female International Sweethearts of Rhythm.
She then joined Christine Chatman's Orchestra as pianist, and made her first
recordings with Chatman in 1944, and with the Tiny Bradshaw's Orchestra from
1947 to 1950. Jackson, Tennessee,
Her debut solo recordings, as Mabel Smith, came for King Records in 1947, backed by
"Hot Lips" Page, but she had little initial success. However, in 1952
she was signed by Okeh Records, whose record producer Fred Mendelsohn gave her
the stage name Big Maybelle. Her first recording for Okeh, "Gabbin'
Blues", was a number 3 hit on the Billboard R&B chart, and was
followed up by both "Way Back Home" and "My Country Man" in
1953. In 1955 she recorded "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On", produced by
Quincy Jones, two years before Jerry Lee Lewis's version. More hits followed
throughout the 1950s, mainly for Savoy Records, including "Candy"
(1956), one of her biggest sellers.
She made the stage of the Apollo Theater in New York City; the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival; and she appeared in Jazz on a Summer's Day (1960), filmed at the Newport Jazz Festival, along with Mahalia Jackson and Dinah Washington. After 1959 she recorded for a variety of labels but the hits largely dried up. She continued to perform in person into the early 1960s, when drug addiction and health problems took their toll on her. Her last hit single was in 1967 with a cover of "96 Tears" by Question Mark & the Mysterians.
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