Song Of The Week: “The Wallflower” by Etta James

etta james wallflowerHere’s everything that parents in the 1950s hated about rock ‘n’ roll wrapped up in one raucous record — too raw, too tuneless, and too full of s-e-x.

Supposedly, this is a song about dancing the night away.

Yeah, right. Pants dancing!

You guys aren’t fooling anyone.

etta-james-2011Etta James recorded her first single, titled “Roll With Me, Henry,” at the age of 16. The title was subsequently changed to “The Wallflower” upon its release due to fears of censorship and it shot up to #1 on the R&B chart in early 1955. It was the only #1 James would ever have on any chart.

James had good company on the track. It was co-written and produced by Johnny Otis (father of Shuggie, and legendary in the R&B world not only for the hits he wrote, but also for discovering such stars as Big Mama Thornton and Jackie Wilson), and she traded teasing vocals with Richard Berry (who wrote and recorded the original “Louie, Louie” shortly after working on this song).

After striking gold immediately with “The Wallflower,” James had another Top 10 R&B hit a few months later before enduring a four year dry spell of failed singles. Her perseverance paid off, however, and the 1960s saw her greatest artistic and commercial successes, including her signature song, the gorgeous and classy ballad “At Last” (which inexplicably missed the Top 40 pop chart altogether). But it all began with a raunchy little record about getting down.

On the dance floor.

Supposedly.

2 thoughts on “Song Of The Week: “The Wallflower” by Etta James

  1. “I’m Hurt” by Timi Yuro. Have you ever heard that or discussed her in your blogs? Not related to this post, but every time I listen to it, I think of it being something belonging in the Houston Archives.

    To God be the Glory, Sharon

    >

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