ANITA TUCKER : True And Real
Annie Bell ‘Anita’ Tucker (October 20th 1930 –March 12th 2009)
was born on a 600 acre farm in Arkansas. She was of African American and Cherokee descent and moved to Memphis with her family as teenager.
She came from a deeply religious family who: “…forbade me to sing the Blues…they thought they were sinful. But I wanted to sing the Blues.”
By her mid teens, she was entering many of the amateur talent contests they used to hold in black theatres at the time. In a 1964 interview with a Sydney newspaper, she claimed her favourite song was an Ivory Joe Hunter tune called ‘Around Midnight’ (almost certainly Blues at Midnight), with which she used to “win time after time”, often with a purse of about $25 each time but there was hell to pay at home when her parents found out!
Anita’s first release was in 1955 on the Philadelphia based Guyden label, an offshoot of Essex records and part of the recording family that would expand in later years to include some of the bestoriginators of the Philly sound.
There is mention of her being on the King label in a Billboard magazine of this year but no releases on King are evident.
Guyden was only launched the previous year and Anita was their third release.
The A side was Ring-Aling-Aling b/w A Million
Some time that year, ‘Big’ Dave Cavanaugh signed her to Capitol records,
Anita came charging out of the starting gate in November 1955 with the classic Slow,
Smooth and Easy b/w Let’s Make Love. The lead side is a great R&B
mid-tempo jiver with backing harmonies and instrumentation from the
Howard Biggs Orchestra, including Mickey Baker and Sam ‘The Man’
Taylor. The backing vocals are often thought to be The Five Keys,
The next release in March of 1956 was from Tucker’s second Capitol
session, backed this time by Dave Cavanaugh’s big band, Trying to
Get to You b/w Shiver my Timbers (the latter was another from the pen of Ollie Jones). Trying to get to You was a cover of the 1954 hit for Doo Wop band The Eagles and also covered by Elvis. The final Capitol release in May of the same year was Handcuffed Heart b/w Hop, Skip and Jump.
Despite her obvious vocal talents and looks, some decent material plus good write ups, Anita’s singles didn’t earn the success Capitol were looking for and so they dropped her in 1956.
The two sessions also produced a couple more tracks, One and Two & If You Go, both tracks unreleased at this time, but issued on French label Pathe Marconi in 1986.
Although not recording much for the next few years, Tucker released a one-off single for the small Hollywood label 54 records in 1959, Heartaches and Tears b/w I need Love. Both sides are slightly more soulful R&B.
The A side is an upbeat tune with echoes of When The Saints Go Marching In whilst the flip side is a great strolling easy groove, both sides feature some fine vocals and solid sax work.
Anita performed live as her bread and butter work and began to perform further afield. Through the 60’s and 70’s she was working all over the world, from Iran to Istanbul and Paris to London.
1962 saw another single release on one more obscure Hollywood label,Vended, known for a small handful of soulful cuts.
He’s an Evil Man b/w I’ll Get Along Without You, both sides produced by Larry Johnson
in house. The songs are not particularly memorable but Anita’s soulful performance is easily on a par with the earthy grittiness and depth of someone like Etta James.
Alas, the release failed to make any real impact but Anita continued to make a living and to travel, singing Blues, Soul and R&B, as well as her acting work.
Tucker released a couple of singles with Akue in 1966
These singles seem to be her last two recordings, firstly Lonesome Road b/w try a Little
Tenderness, followed by I Cried For You b/w You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You. The tracks were big band Jazzy, Rhythm & Blues and Blues.
Anita displays confident control of the material and there are shades of Dinah Washington in the tone and phrasing.
Listening to this body of work from Anita Tucker, one word springs to mind: (underrated”.
She was a singer with power, a range of colour to her voice and the ability to convey Soul, Blues and passion.
Though she enjoyed a long and varied career as a singer, actress, and model, she never achieved the success of some of the other female R&B singers of the 1950’s, which was maybe the material, possibly support or just plain old luck.
She stayed true to the music she loved, to her the songs were: “…real blues –earthy, sometimes dirty. But even when they were dirty, they were real…Everything about them was true and real”.
02.A Million Thanks
03.I Need Love
04.Slow, Smooth And Easy
05.Shiver My Timbers
06.I Cried For You
08.Hop, Skip And Jump
09.Heartaches And Tears
01.He's An Evil Man
02.Trying To Get You
03.Try A Little Tenderness
04.Let's Make Love
05.You're Nobody (Till Somebody Loves You)
07.I'll Get Along Without You
08.One And Two
09.If You Go