"Rescue Me" Performed by Fontella Bass (1965)

October 17, 2008


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This is one of my favorite classics that I happen to be connected to by “six degrees of separation.”  One of my step mothers (yes my Dad was married more than a few times lol) was the first cousin of trumpeter Lester Bowie who was married to Fontella Bass. I never met Miss Bass or her husband, but since this is the first time the “six degrees” ever applied to my life I decided to write about it (LOL)

Now back to “Rescue Me.” I was about 11 when this song was out and of course, like most of the great hits of that era, this one is a perfect sing-a-long song.  It was one of the biggest-selling records in Chess Records history receiving just as much airplay now as it did back in 1965 because it is just such a “feel good” song you have to like it!

Bass’ mother was in the Clara Ward Singers and her grandmother was a professional gospel singer as well, so naturally little Fontella was singing in the church choir by age 5.  But like most teenagers, she went through a rebellious period and went to R&B singing and Jazz piano playing: she played at a night club and on records for singer Little Milton.

WIKI on Bass’ Recording Career

Two years later she moved to Chicago after a dispute with Little Milton. She auditioned for Chess Records, who immediately signed her as a recording artist. Her first works with the label were several duets with blues singer Bobby McClure, also a newcomer to the label. Released early in 1965, “Don’t Mess Up a Good Thing” found immediate success, reaching the top five at R&B radio and peaking at #33 at pop. They followed their early success with “You’ll Miss Me (When I’m Gone)” that summer, a song that had mild success, reaching the top 30 at R&B, but barely charting at pop.

After a brief tour, Bass returned to the studio. The result was an original composition with an aggressive bass and drum work by Maurice White, of the future Earth, Wind, & Fire. The song, “Rescue Me,” shot up the charts in the fall and winter of 1965. After a month-long run at the top of the R&B charts, the song reached #4 at the pop charts [and #1 R&B]. She followed with “Recovery,” which did moderately well, peaking at #13 at R&B and #37 at pop in early 1966. The same year brought two more R&B hits, “I Can’t Rest” (backed with “I Surrender)” and “You’ll Never Know.” Her only album with Chess Records, The New Look, sold reasonably well, but Bass decided to leave the label after only two years, in 1967.

Fontella Bass’  Official Web Site contains biographical, musical and award information — although it appears not to have been update in a while.

TRIVIA: Fontella Bass is the older sister of R&B singer David Peaston, who was a former Showtime at the Apollo champion. Remember him?

Keep the oldies alive!

Musically Yours,

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Filed under:Chess/Argo,Fabulous Female Vocalists,Fontella Bass,One Hit Wonders,Pop/R&B,Raynard Miner and Carl Smith,Rescue Me,Sixties

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