Little Mary Staten
The West Coast is a goldmine of R & B and tough soul which has never really had the recognition it deserves – but until it does I’ll continue to highlight a few gems. Like this peach from the obscure Little Mary Staten. Of course “Steppin’ Stone” has received all the dancer’s attention and it has a nice funky/jazzy beat to but it really isn’t anywhere near the same quality as Helpless Girl. The slower tempo allows Mary to really stretch out her vocals – just check out her pain and misery. A really fine interpretation, especially the way she injects a gritty and hoarse tone when the feeling really kicks in. Great.
UPDATE ~ Pete Nickols has kindly sent me some extra info reating to this 45. He writes - "He was the Hawaiian father of well-known back-up singer Lani Groves - she was raised with her parents in San Diego. He was a pianist and composer and, back in the fifties, had his own small combo with whom he cut some beaty quasi-novelty 'speak over' R&B records almost ala John R's much later efforts. His best-known as Ervin 'Big Boy' Groves was "You Can't Beat The Horses" from 1956 on Vita 120. He also had a similar item called "Bucket Of Blood" (the name of some infamous night club) but I haven't been able to trace the label for that. However in the 70's I believe, Groves cut an LP called "Composer In Paradise", also on GME, containing some LA cuts (including Staten's "Steppin' Stone") and a track or so by Viola Wills + some tracks cut in Hawaii including several faturing his daughter Lani." Pete also sent the lovely pic of the album cover.
Helpless girl / Steppin’ stone ~ GME 1279 (late 60s)
Thanks as always to Pete Nickols for his excellent research.