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Percy Mayfield

If Percy Mayfield had done no more than compose “Please Send Me Someone to Love,” he would merit a decent footnote in the history of popular music. A classically proportioned 32-bar blues-ballad with a deceptively simple melody and a lyric that subtly links an individual's yearning for affection with the troubled state of the world, Mayfield's song has been a favorite of saloon-bar singers for the past half-century. Singer-songwriter Percy Mayfield was known as "Poet Laureate of the Blues," and his widely recorded compositions, have become standards in American popular music. Born in Minden, Louisiana, Mayfield wrote poems as a boy and set them to music, but because his mother didn't approve of blues, he sang only in church. He left home at 15 and hoboed around the country on freight trains before settling in Los Angeles in 1942. Several years later, in 1947, he took his blues song "Two Years of Torture" to Supreme Records with the hope that Jimmy Witherspoon would record it, but he ended up cutting it himself. The hits began to flow, including his signature 1950 #1 for Specialty Records, "Please Send Me Someone To Love." Then, in 1952, Mayfield was involved in a horrible car accident, leaving his face disfigured. He struggled through the '50s, releasing unsuccessful singles for Chess, Cash, Imperial, and 7 Arts before leaving Los Angeles for his Louisiana home. During this time Mayfield wrote one of Ray Charles signature songs, "Hit The Road Jack." This led him to be signed by Brother Ray for his Tangerine label as an in house songwriter, and artist. . He wrote custom material for his legendary label boss; "Hide Nor Hair," "The Danger Zone," "My Baby Don't Dig Me" considered some of his finest. Aside from his songs for Ray Charles, Mayfield did have some success on his own. He also cut two albums of his own for Charles's Tangerine label. Among the gems are "River's Invitation" (1963), whose Gerald Wilson arrangement helped Mayfield back onto the R&B charts. "Stranger In My Own Home Town" (1964) was subsequently recorded by both Elvis and Mose Allison. The harrowing "My Bottle Is My Companion" (1968) chronicles the artist's bouts with alcoholism in the period following his accident. "Ha Ha In The Daytime" (1968) was his last Tangerine side. Among the many other artists who've recorded Mayfield songs are Johnny Adams, Brook Benton, B.B. King, Junior Parker, Houston Person, Esther Phillips, Elvis Presley, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, and Nancy Wilson.

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