Born in 1947 in West Memphis, Arkansas, Shirley Brown sang in church until she was discovered at age 14 by Albert King singing at the Harlem Club in Brooklyn, Illinois. “When I was about fourteen, I would play hookey from school to rehearse with Albert’s band. Prior to that, the only singing I had done was in church.” She worked with Albert for a period of nine years (where he was her manager), and rubbed elbows with Soul luminaries such as Johnnie Taylor and Little Milton. In the early 1970’s, she was picked up by Oliver Sain to work with him and his revue. It was here that she would release her first side, this record on Abet Records. Sain was affiliated with thew Nashville label, as he had released a string of 45s on it as well. Lured away from Sain eventually (but not easily as Sain was a tough man) by the Blues legend Albert King, Brown’s destiny was hooking up with Stax Records and releasing her smash side “Woman To Woman”. This proved to be a great success, and was covered later by Country & Western singer Barbara Mandrell. It’s a shame, but Stax would fold a year after her hit, and she moved on to NYC where she would approach Clive Davis over at Arista. He wanted something a bit different, and told Shirley she sounded a bit too much like Aretha. Signed to Arista, which eventually fell out, she of course would settle with Southern Soul stalwart Malaco Records out of Jackson, Mississippi. That was a perfect match if I ever heard one.
“I was there before Whitney and Aretha. Clive said that if we could ever get the right material, we could have a hit. But he felt that the material was too Southern. He didn’t want that Southern soul sound. He really wanted his female artists to cross over. But that wasn’t my thing. ”
This two sider, “I Ain’t Gonna Tell” b/w “Love Is Built On A Strong Foundation” (which I featured on the mix Lost Soul) may not have sold the amount that her Grammy nominated side “Woman To Woman” did, but is a decent pick up if you can get your hands on it. Written by guitar player/songwriter Philip Westmoreland (who has written for Sain) and trumpeter James Ross, Brown just needed the spark of their lyrics to ignite the fire of this 7″. Upbeat with a sweet little horn hook that goes right into a solid bass line, “I Ain’t Gonna Tell” has Shirley stepping over to the secular side, if ya know what I mean, but with a Gospel charged delivery that you only get in church. Sexy, horny (no pun intended), and mature, Brown soulfully funks up your head with this Abet release. Put the thing on her like she asks, will you?
Download or Listen to Shirley Brown – I Ain’t Gonna Tell from the Abet 45