In the mid- to late '40s, black popular music began to mutate from swing jazz and boogie-woogie into the sort of rhythm & blues that helped lay the foundation for rock & roll. Singer and pianist Hadda Brooks was one of the many figures who was significant in aiding that transition, although she's largely forgotten today. While her torch song delivery was rooted in the big band era, her boogie-woogie piano looked forward to jump blues and R&B. Ironically, the same qualities that made her briefly successful вЂ” her elegant vocals and jazzy arrangements вЂ” left her ill-equipped to compete when harder-driving forms of rhythm & blues, and then early rock & roll, began to dominate the marketplace in the early '50s.
This special lady, known alternately as Empress Of The Torch Blues and Queen Of The Boogie, was one of America's best-kept secrets for, although she was a prolific recording artist as both a singer and pianist, just three of her songs made an impact on the charts - in 1947/48 on what then passed for the R&B charts for the small Modern label. She would also record for Columbia's "race" label Okeh, but without any chart success for her singles releases.
Heading the Hadda Brooks Trio [with Basie Day on bass and Al Wichard on drums] her first hit was That's My Desire which went to # 4 in June 1947, a tune covered by Frankie Laine for HIS first hit on the much larger Mercury label [# 4 pop]. The flipside [not included here] was Humoresque Boogie.
In 1957 she became the first black woman to host her own weekly television show in L.A., The Hadda Brooks Show, which featured That's My Desire as her theme song. Towards the end of her life she appeared in the 1995 Jack Nicholson film The Crossing Guard, directed by Sean Penn, a situation brought about by the fact she was a long-time favourite of both star and director. Another who adored her is Johnny Depp, who had a special 80th birthday party for her at his L.A. club The Viper Room in October 1996. Three years later she made her final film appearance in The Thirteenth Floor.
An amazingly talented woman whose early music [and her later material] deserved a better fate in terms of singles sales and chart recognition, a situation all too common back then for black recording artists unable to hook up with a major distributor.
1. Variety Bounce (Variety Boogie) 2. That's My Desire 3. Romance in the Dark 4. Bully Wully Boogie 5. Out of the Blue 6. Honey, Honey, Honey 7. Keep Your Hand on Your Heart 8. Bewildered 9. Jukebox Boogie 10. Trust in Me 11. Don't Take Your Love from Me 12. Schubert's Serenade in Boogie 13. Tough on My Heart 14. When a Woman Cries 15. Say It With a Kiss 16. I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm 17. I Feel So Good 18. It All Depends on You 19. Don't Call It Love 20. Honky Tonk Boogie 21. Don't You Think I Ought to Know 22. You Won't Let Me Go 23. Tootsie Timesie