Etta James – A Selection & Brief Discussion Of Her Recordings At Chess Records

In 1960 Etta was to sign with Chess records, by it’s co-founder Leonard Chess. At Chess Records, Etta James’s musical style was to further come into it’s own. Here she was able to apply and showcase her musical versatility to several musical genres. This becomes apparent when listening to her recordings on Chess records and their subsidiary record labels. Her key musical genres including soul, r&b and blues. Some of her most successful ballads being All I Could Do Was Cry and At Last. Recorded in 1960 and 1961 respectively, on the Argo Label (a division of the Chess record label), these songs represent some of her most well known and popular work.

Whilst not only concentrating on singing ballads, Etta James’s future recordings were to include many uptempo R&B and Soul tracks. Although her catalogue of music is vast, Seven Day Fool and Mellow Fellow are some of my particular favourite songs by her. These are two examples of her songs which exemplify and demonstrate her vocal talent. Both are uptempo tracks and are to be found on the Argo Label from 1962 and 1964 respectively. As well as duetting with Harvey Fuqua in her formative years at Chess, she was to later duet with Sugar Pie DeSanto. As a result of this, two exceptional Soul and R&B tracks were produced. The first being Do I Make Myself Clear in 1965 and the second being In The Basement in 1966. Both found on The Cadet Records label, formally known as Argo Records.

Etta James was to continue to record with Chess records throughout the 1960s. She was to record in total, over thirty albums as well as over fifty singles throughout her musical career. She died aged seventy three on January 20th 2012 in California.

A Selection Of Some Of My Favourite Etta James’s Songs

To conclude this article, here are a few of my personal, favourite songs by Etta James, for your listening pleasure. Enjoy!

Etta James – Seven Day Fool

NaturalSoulBrother1 (2009)
A great uptempo Soul track, with a great beat.

Etta James – Somethings Got A Hold Of Me

This song displays great vocals as well as being a brilliant, feel good track.
MCAZTLAN213 (2009)

Etta James – Mellow Fellow

billmm79 (2008)
This has to be my favourite Etta James track. The vocals, I find stunning. In addition I find, Mellow Fellow has a fantastic uptempo beat. Furthermore it exemplifies the vocal range of Ms James. In my opinion, a truly wonderful example of 60s RnB at it’s best.

Etta James & Sugar Pie DeSanto – In The Basement (Part 1 & 2)

Amnondoowop (2012)
Especially relevant is that this track features a great combination of voices. I champion the work of Sugar Pie DeSanto, I personally think her voice is incredible, as well as that of Etta James. In The Basement is another example of an uptempo and feel good Soul track.

Further Listening

Interested in hearing more about Etta James’s life and music? The RnB Chronicles have a great upload by WHRV on their site, chronicling her life and some of her music.

To see the bibliography for this page please visit here.


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