Esther Phillips

Not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Eligible since: 1975 (The 1976 Induction Ceremony)

Nominated in: 1986   1987   

Previously Considered? Yes  what's this?

Inducted into Rock Hall Projected in 2018 (ranked #29 in the Influences - Rock Era category) .

Esther Phillips @ Wikipedia

Esther Phillips Videos

AKA "Little Esther"

Will Esther Phillips be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
"Musical excellence is the essential qualification for induction."


3 comments so far (post your own)

Induct Esther Phillips - AKA "Little Esther"

Posted by Roy on Thursday, 10.23.08 @ 13:26pm

it's about time to induct her

Posted by akeem on Tuesday, 12.30.08 @ 03:26am

Esther Phillips first recorded on Excelsior/Modern. But it was while she was with Johnny Otis on Herman Lubinsky's Savoy label, that Esther Phillips, as Little Esther back then, hit the top ten of the Billboard R&B charts 7 times singing lead or with others on the following wonderful, mostly comical songs:

"Double Crossing Blues" (#1 in 1950) (with Bobby Nunn of the Coasters)
"Mistrustin' Blues" (#1 in 1950) (with Mel Walker)
"Misery" (#9)
"Cupid's Boogie" (#1 in 1950) (with Mel Walker)
"Deceivin' Blues" (#4 in 1950) (with Mel Walker)
"Wedding Boogie" (#6 in 1950 with Mel Walker and Lee Graves)
"Faraway Christmas" (#6 in 1950 with Mel Walker and Lee Graves)

When Ralph Bass started King/Federal, she moved over to the new label. Johnny Otis continued to back her up, although he had to do so quietly since he was still under contract to Lubinsky. Among her sides from King, were the comical duet "The Deacon Moves In" with Billy Ward & His Dominoes and the haunting, beautiful "The Storm". She also recorded her own version of Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog".

It was suspected that she was already hooked to heroin at the ripe old age of 15 before she first started recording with Johnny Otis. If so, her addiction would have worsened over these early years, and may have prompted the argument over money that eventually broke up her working relationship with Johnny Otis.

After several years, in the early 60s, a young Kenny Rogers helped Little Esther stage her comeback. Legend says she adopted her last name at this time. She decided that "Little" wouldn't work for a woman like her anymore, and apparently also decided that her real name "Jones" wouldn't work, either. Spotting a Phillips gas station sign, she decided on calling herself Esther Phillips. Under her new stage name, Rogers got Phillips signed to his brother's label, Lenox.

It was while on Lenox that Phillips recorded the country-soul version of "Release Me" that became a #8 pop hit in 1962. Despite the success, Lenox went bankrupt, and Atlantic stepped in, reissued "Release Me" and continued Phillips' comeback.

During this time, she covered the Beatles' "And I Love Her", changing the title to "And I Love Him". The Beatles felt it was one of the best covers of their songs recorded by any artist, so they brought her over to Great Britain to perform, including a guest spot on a television show with John Lennon introducing her (you can find this performance on YouTube). She also reworked Percy Sledge's signature hit into "When A Woman Loves A Man".

Phillips failed to catch on, so she was dropped from Atlantic in 1967, and despite her worsening addiction, she managed to record a live concert called "Burnin'", reputedly one of her best albums. From there, she eventually found success again on the Kudu label. Among these songs were her recording of Allen Toussaint's "From A Whisper To A Scream", an intense version of Gil Scott-Heron's tale of heroin abuse titled "Home Is Where The Hatred Is" and, of course, a discofied cover of her hero Dinah Washington's "What A Diff'rence A Day Makes", which went top 20 pop.

After seven albums with Kudu and four more albums with Mercury, she recorded her last R&B hit, "Turn Me Out" on the Winning label, and then her health finally failed in 1984 after years of heroin abuse.

Interesting note: in 2008, Robert Plant mentioned Esther Phillips during an interview about his and Allison Krauss' tour supporting their recent album "Raising Sand". Plant, talking about the different singing techniques he had to use with these songs. He said:
“And as far as what we're doing now, I've learned that constraint and modifying the amount of air that I've pushed through my body, and reducing it and minimizing sound can be so much more effective. You know when Esther Phillips sang "From a Whisper to a Scream," she was singing about emotion, and that's what this thing is all about. Alison and I are almost telepathically linked when it comes to working on vocal intensity within songs.”

Aside from the Beatles and Robert Plant, other artists who reportedly were influenced or otherwise admired Esther Phillips were Aretha Franklin, Frankie Lymon, The Dominoes, Lizz Wright, Betty LaVette, and Amy Winehouse.

Posted by Charles Crossley Jr on Wednesday, 05.13.09 @ 05:58am

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