The Barbara Lynn Story
Written by Dave Rimmer the DJ and editor of Soulful Kinda Music, where article such as this are the norm (see fanzine section for ordering info)
For somebody born in Texas (Beaumont, January 16 1942) Barbara Lynn Ozen's recording career was very cosmopolitan. Her first recordings were done in New Orleans for a Philadelphia based label, then for a New Orleans label, then for a New York label in Mississippi and Alabama. And that was just the Sixties!
So let's go back to the early days in Beaumont, Texas. Unlike many singers, Barbara Lynn didn't get her start through the church. It was the Texas Blues singers, and Elvis Presley who inspired her. She started learning piano at school, but soon tired of the instrument, so her mother bought her a ukulele. Once she had proved that she could play it, despite being left handed, a proper guitar was purchased for Barbara.
Throughout her teens, Barbara wrote poetry prolifically, it was when she started to put the words to music that she began to perform.
By 1960 she was in New Orleans, singing backing tracks at Goldband Records and performing in local clubs with her band, Bobbie Lynn and The Idols. The group performed cover versions of current pop (Rock & Roll) hits, R & B covers, and at least one of Barbara's poems that she had composed some music for, 'You'll Lose A Good Thing'.
There are several stones about how Barbara was discovered, but the one that appears most frequently, and is supported by Barbara herself, was that she was performing at a club called Lou Arm's in New Orleans when well known producer Huey P Meaux was told to catch the show and give her a listen.
He duly went, saw her perform 'You'll Lose A Good Thing' and decided he wanted to record her. Huey was at this time a regular producer at Cosimo Matassa's recording studio at 521 Governer Nichols Street in New Orleans. He regularly took artists like Joe Barry, Leroy Martin, Rod Bernard and Jimmy Adams into the studio to record. So this is where he took Barbara to record her debut track. It could of course have been the fact that Cosimo let Huey use the facilities on credit rather than money up front which influenced his choice! Either way, within a few days the song was recorded, and several acetates were distributed to radio stations.
Almost immediately Jamie Records in Philadelphia showed interest and promptly signed Barbara to a three-year contract. The song was released as Jamie 1220 with 'Lonely Heartaches' as the flip. It proved to be a huge hit single reaching # 1 on the R & B chart and #8 on the Billboard Pop charts.
Nobody could have anticipated such a huge national hit with a debut single, and there wasn't a follow up single ready. However, on the strength of the hit Barbara went on tour. She eventually covered 43 states and appeared on Dick Clarke's Bandstand TV programme (Which was recorded in Philadelphia) twice.
By the end of the year another two singles had been released and an album recorded. The album included the tracks 'Dina And Patrina', (Although I've seen it listed as 'Dina And Petriria', and even 'Dina And Katriria') and 'Give Me A Break'. The reason I mention this is that the two tracks appear to have been released as a single on Eric, prior to the Jamie deal. Although I've never seen the single Barbara herself does give credence to its existence in an interview with Alan Govenar in 'Meeting The Blues: The Rise Of Texas Music’. Barbara was back in the charts in January 1963 with her third single for Jamie, 'You're Gonna Need Me I I'm Sorry I Met You' Jamie 1240. According to the Billboard chart this was Barbara's only hit that year. However, the Cashbox charts show hits with 'Don't Be Cruel / You Can't Be Satisfied' Jamie 1244, and 'I Cried At Laura's Wedding / You Better Stop' Jamie 1260.
By 1964, Billboard had stopped producing an R & B chart, merging Black artists in with the Hot 100 Pop songs. This caused many problems in terms of recognition for black artists for two reasons: 1964 was the year the Beatles hit the States big time, along with all the other UK groups. So many great singles would have sold many thousands of copies, but never got a chart entry.
Barbara hit the Hot 100 twice in 1964 with 'Oh! Baby (We Got A Good Thing Going / Unfair' Jamie 1286 and 'Let Her Knock Herself Out / Don't Spread It Around' Jamie 1292. This single was significant because it was not recorded in New Orleans. It was actually recorded in Houston at the ACA Studios owned by Bill Holford-
In 1965 Barbara recorded another album. It was not issued until 1997 when Bear family put out the 'Promises' CD. Whilst the tracks were all studio recordings an audience was dubbed over the top to give a, disappointing, live sound
Four singles were also released in 1965, none of them became big hits for Barbara and her contract with Janue was not renewed-
Huey Meaux still had confidence in her though, so 1966 saw her first release on Huey's own Tribe label. The first release 'I'm A Good Woman / Running Back' Tribe 8316 failed to chart, but the second, the original version of 'You Left The Water Running' Tribe 8319 reached #43 on the R & B charts in October 1966. Two further singles on the label in 1967 failed to chart but Huey Meaux had, as her manager, managed to get a contract with Atlantic Records.
The first tracks for the label were recorded at the Grits and Gravy studio in Clinton Mississippi in September 1967. They weren't released until February 1968 and took Barbara back into the charts. 'This Is The Thanks I Got/Ring Telephone Ring' Atlantic 2450 reached #39 on the Billboard R+B charts. And 65 in the pop charts. It was to prove Barbara's last pop hit.
The recording career becomes slightly confusing now. Certainly several tracks were recorded in 1968 (including four at the fame studios in Muscle Shoals and three singles (Atlantic 2513, 2553, and 2585) were released, but none of them charted. There was also a superb album 'Here Is Barbara Lynn' Atlantic 8171. There is then a 3-year gap when it appears that Barbara did no recording at all for the label. I can find no explanation for this, and neither Jerry Wexler in his book, or Charlie Gillett in his history of Atlantic Records makes any mention of Barbara Lynn at all.
Atlantic certainly had tracks in the can though because in 1971 'Until Then I'll Suffer/ Take Your Love And Run' Atlantic 2812 was released. It proved to be a big hit on the R & B chart (Although it didn't reach the Pop chart). It was Barbara's best showing on the charts for Atlantic so a further three singles were released over the next two years. One, 'I'm A One Man Woman / Nice And Easy' Atlantic 2853 was another '68 recording, with the last two being '72 and '73 recordings respectively.
Her ties with the label were finally severed in late 1973 and she set about touring the Southern States on a regular basis. A one off single on the Copyright label was recorded in 1974, followed by another on Starflite in 1975.
A longer contract was signed with Jetstream Records in 1976. The first of two singles being a re-recording of 'Until Then I'll Suffer' Jetstream 804. The second was 'Movin' On A Groove' Jetstream, 829 which is currently enjoying popularity on the rare Soul scene. Neither single charted, and they proved to be Barbara’s last recordings for three years
1979 saw another one off single for Love Records 'Mellow Feeling Parts 1 & 2' Love 111, followed by a break until 1983 when 'I'm still the same" was released on Jamstone Records.
The touring had continued though out the years and 1984 saw Barbara tour Japan for the first time. A live album was released in Japan. Unfortunate I’ve been unable to trace any details of the label or the track listing.
1988 saw the release in Holland of the Good Times Album, which contained ten Jamie tracks, two tribe, three Atlantic and one side of the copyright single. This year also saw a new contract and the release of the superb single " Trying To Love Two/Sugar Ciated Love" Ichiban 88-142 and the album entitled "You Don’t Have To go"
There was then a 6-year gap in releases (Although I suspect that there were a couple of Blues tracks done on the Antones label during this period on compilation albums. Until 1994 when Bullseye Blues released a new album recorded with a full backing band containing such notables as The Memphis Horns and David T Walker.
The last new recordings by Barbara were released in 1996 by ITP as an album on which Barbara recorded (Again) many of her own hits and covered songs by artists like The Marvelettes and Betty Wright.
Several retrospective CDs have been released in the 90s most notably by Ichoban (covering the Atlantic tracks) and by Jamie themselves and the Bear family release of last year.
So that brings the story up to date and I can only add that the consistency or all her recordings, real Soul tinged with Texas Blues, makes Barbara Lynn a real star of Soul music who never really got any recognition outside of specialist circles after her big hit in1962.
Apparently she is now living in Los Angeles, a grandmother, content with life and no regrets over her career.
As always in doing articles like this, without direct access to the artist the material is sourced from a variety of places. This time I like to give credit to a following people:
David Nathan for his sleeve notes on the Ichiban CD
Jeff Hanunusch for his sleeve notes on "Promises" CD.
David Cole for the article in issue 4 of "In The Basement."
Soulful Kinda Music Mag Ed