Big Maybelle
Big Maybelle.jpg
Background information
Birth nameMabel Louise Smith
Born(1924-05-01)May 1, 1924
Jackson, Tennessee, U.S.
DiedJanuary 23, 1972(1972-01-23) (aged 47)
Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
GenresR&B, blues, gospel
Years active1936–1972
LabelsKing Records, Okeh, Savoy, Epic, Brunswick, Scepter, Chess, Port, Rojac, Encore

Mabel Louise Smith (May 1, 1924 – January 23, 1972),[1] known professionally as Big Maybelle, was an American R&B singer. Her 1956 hit single "Candy" received the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999.[2]

Childhood and musical background

Born in Jackson, Tennessee, on May 1, 1924, Big Maybelle sang gospel as a child; by her teens, she 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.[3] She then joined Christine Chatman's Orchestra, and made her first recordings with Chatman in 1944, before recording with the Tiny Bradshaw's Orchestra from 1947 to 1950.[4]

Her debut solo recordings, recorded as Mabel Smith, were for King Records in 1947.[5]

Okeh Records

In 1952, she was signed by Okeh Records, whose record producer Fred Mendelsohn gave her the stage name 'Big Maybelle' because of her loud yet well-toned voice.[6] 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.[5]

In 1955, she recorded the song "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On", produced by up-and-coming producer Quincy Jones,[7] a full two years before rockabilly then rock and roll singer Jerry Lee Lewis's version. Lewis credited Smith's version as being the inspiration to make his version much more louder, raunchy and raucous, with a driving beat and a spoken section with a come-on that was considered very risque for the time.

Savoy Records

More hits followed throughout the 1950s, particularly after signing with Savoy Records later in 1955, including "Candy" (1956), one of her biggest sellers.[5]

During this time, she also appeared on stage at the Apollo Theater in New York City in 1957, and at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival she sang "All Night Long/I Ain't Mad at You", as seen in Bert Stern's film of the festival, Jazz on a Summer's Day,[5] in which Mahalia Jackson and Dinah Washington also performed.[8]

Career decline

After 1959, she recorded for a variety of labels, but the hits largely dried up. She continued to perform into the early 1960s. Her last hit single was in 1967, a cover of "96 Tears" by Question Mark & the Mysterians.[9] By the 1960s, Maybelle's drug use began detrimentally impacting her career.[3][10]


Smith died of a diabetic coma on January 23, 1972, in Cleveland, Ohio.[1] She had been frequently ill for the previous 18 months.[11] She was survived by her only child, Barbara Smith, and five grandchildren.[1]

Her final album, Last of Big Maybelle, was released posthumously in 1973.


The album The Okeh Sessions, released on the Epic label, won the 1983 W.C. Handy Award for "Vintage or Reissue Album of the Year (U.S.)."[12] In 2011, she was inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame.[13]

Her version of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" was included in the soundtrack for Fallout 4 as part of the Diamond City Radio playlist.



Year Title Genre Label
2016 The Complete King, OKeh & Savoy Releases 1947-61 R&B Acrobat [UK] [2CD]
2007 I've Got a Feelin' (OKeh & Savoy Recordings 1952-56) R&B Rev-Ola Bandstand
2004 The Chronological Big Maybelle 1944-1953 R&B Classics 'Blues & Rhythm'
2001 Maybelle's Blues R&B Sony Music Special Products
2001 Candy! (Savoy Blues Legends) R&B Savoy Jazz [2CD]
2001 Half Heaven, Half Heartache (The Brunswick Recordings) R&B Westside [UK]
1998 The Very Best of Big Maybelle "That's All" R&B Collectables
1995 Blues, Candy and Big Maybelle R&B Savoy Jazz
1994 Maybelle Sings the Blues R&B Charly [UK]
1994 The Complete OKeh Sessions 1952-55 R&B Epic/Legacy EK-53417
1983 The OKeh Sessions R&B Epic EG-38456 [2LP]
1973 The Last of Big Maybelle R&B Paramount PAS-1011
1969 Saga of the Good Life and Hard Times R&B Rojac 123
1968 The Gospel Soul of Big Maybelle Gospel Brunswick BL-754142
1968 "Gabbin' Blues" and Other Big Hits R&B Encore EE-22012
1967 Got a Brand New Bag R&B Rojac 122
1965 The Soul of Big Maybelle R&B Scepter 522
1962 What More Can a Woman Do? R&B Brunswick BL-754107
1959 The Blues: Mamie Webster Sings W.C.Handy R&B Cub (MGM) 8002
1958 Blues, Candy and Big Maybelle R&B Savoy MG-14011
1958 Big Maybelle Sings R&B Savoy MG-14005
1954 Big Maybelle R&B Epic EG-7071


Year Single (A-side, B-side)
Both tracks from same album except where indicated
Chart Positions Album
US Pop[14] US
1948 "Sad and Disappointed Jill"
b/w "Bad Dream Blues"
- - Non-album tracks
"Indian Giver"
b/w "Too Tight Mama"
- -
The above two records as shown as by Mabel Smith
1953 "Gabbin' Blues"
b/w "Rain Down Rain"
- 3 "Gabbin' Blues" and Other Big Hits
"Way Back Home"
b/w "Just Want Your Love"
- 10
"Send for Me"
b/w "Jinny Mule" (from "Gabbin' Blues" and Other Big Hits)
- - Non-album track
"My Country Man"
b/w "Maybelle's Blues"
- 5 "Gabbin' Blues" and Other Big Hits
1954 "You'll Never Know"
b/w "I've Got a Feelin'"
- -
"I'm Getting 'Long Alright"
b/w "My Big Mistake"
- -
1955 "Don't Leave Poor Me"
b/w "Ain't No Use" (Non-album track)
- -
"Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On"
b/w "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show" (from "Gabbin' Blues" and Other Big Hits)
- - Non-album tracks
1956 "Such a Cutie"
b/w "The Other Night"
- -
b/w "That's a Pretty Good Love"
- 11 Blues, Candy & Big Maybelle
"Mean to Me"
b/w "Tell Me Who"
- -
"New Kind of Mambo"
b/w "Gabbin' Blues" (from "Gabbin' Blues" and Other Big Hits)
- - Non-album tracks
1957 "I Don't Want to Cry"
b/w "All of Me"
- - Big Maybelle Sings
"Rock House"
b/w "Jim"
- -
"Silent Night"
b/w "White Christmas"
- - Non-album tracks
"So Long"
b/w "Ring Dang Dilly"
- - Blues, Candy & Big Maybelle
1958 "Blues, Early Blues"—Part 1
b/w Part 2
- -
1959 "Baby Won't You Please Come Home"
b/w "Say It Isn't So"
- - Big Maybelle Sings
"A Good Man Is Hard to Find"
b/w "Pitiful" (from Blues, Candy & Big Maybelle)
- - Non-album tracks
"I Understand"
b/w "Some of These Days"
- -
1960 "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good"
b/w "Until the Real Thing Comes Along"
- -
1961 "Going Home Baby"
b/w "I Ain't Got Nobody"
- -
1962 "Candy"
b/w "Cry"
- - What More Can a Woman Do
1963 "Cold Cold Heart"
b/w "Why Was I Born" (from What More Can a Woman Do)
- - The Last of Big Maybelle
"How Deep Is the Ocean"
b/w "Everybody's Got a Home But Me"
- - What More Can a Woman Do
1964 "Oh Lord, What Are You Doing to Me"
b/w "Same Old Story"
- - The Soul of Big Maybelle
"My Mother's Eyes"
b/w "Careless Love"
- - Saga of the Good Life & Hard Times
"I Don't Want to Cry"
b/w "Yesterday's Kisses"
- - Non-album tracks
1965 "Let Me Go"
b/w "No Better for You" (from The Last of Big Maybelle)
- -
1966 "It's a Man's Man's World"
b/w "Maybelle Sings the Blues" (from Saga of the Good Life and Hard Times)
- -
"Don't Pass Me By"
b/w "It's Been Raining" (from Saga of the Good Life & Hard Times)
- 27
1967 "96 Tears"
b/w "That's Life"
96 23 Got a Brand New Bag
"Turn the World Around the Other Way"
b/w "I Can't Wait Any Longer" (Non-album track)
- -
"Mama (He Treats Your Daughter Mean)"
b/w "Keep That Man"
- - Non-album tracks
1968 "Quittin' Time"
b/w "I Can't Wait Any Longer"
- -
"Heaven Will Welcome You, Dr. King"
b/w "Eleanor Rigby" (from Got a Brand New Bag)
- -
"Do Lord"
b/w "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen"
- - The Gospel Soul of Big Maybelle
1969 "Old Love Never Dies"
b/w "How It Lies"
- - Saga of the Good Life & Hard Times
1973 "Blame It on Your Love"
b/w "See See Rider"
- - The Last of Big Maybelle

See also


  1. ^ a b c Bill Dahl. "Big Maybelle | Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  2. ^ "GRAMMY Hall Of Fame". Archived from the original on July 7, 2015. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  3. ^ a b Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues - From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 92. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
  4. ^ Santelli, Robert. The Big Book of Blues, Penguin Books, p. 40 (2001) - ISBN 0-14-100145-3
  5. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 131. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  6. ^ Nigel Williamson, The Rough Guide To The Blues (2007) - ISBN 1-84353-519-X
  7. ^ "Maybelle". Archived from the original on 2010-04-05. Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  8. ^ "Jazz on a Summer's Day (1959)". Retrieved 2015-08-25.
  9. ^ Larkin, Colin. The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Guinness Publishing, page 243, (1992) - ISBN 0-85112-939-0
  10. ^ Evans, David (2005). The NPR curious listener's guide to blues. New York : Berkley Pub. Group. pp. 102–103. ISBN 978-0-399-53072-2.
  11. ^ "BIG MAYBELLE SMITH, BLUES SINGER, DEAD". The New York Times. 1972-01-25. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-12-02.
  12. ^ [1] Archived February 16, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ [2] Archived August 22, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955-2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 57. ISBN 0-89820-155-1.
  15. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-1995. Record Research. p. 31.