It’s perfect that I’m featuring two unheralded Leo Women back to back, giving them the long overdue attention (in my little corner of the internet) that they deserve.
Like Timi Yuro spoken of in the last article, Miss Maxine Brown is also a cult figure and a Northern Soul Treasure, and possibly THE finest example of the Uptown Soul genre. Despite never breaking higher than the Pop top 20, her recording style was influential on the birth of Soul music, made all the more poignant that she set pencil to sheet music herself to get her career going with her self penned “All In My Mind.”
She followed that up with “Funny” and switched to ABC Paramount… and had 7 or 8 flops in a row in 12 months, losing her earlier momentum despite some wonderful moments like “I Don’t Need You Know More” (an awesome barnstormer about finding pride and confidence and moving forward) or “Am I Falling In Love?” (one of her influential leanings in Uptown Soul).
Leave it to Jewish housewife turned Record Mogul Florence Greenberg to rescue her from relative obscurity by buying her contract and signing her to her label Scepter/Wand, palace of Uptown Soul featuring The Shirelles, Chuck Jackson and Dionne Warwick… and immediately started cutting magic like “Ask Me” (Pop#75) “Little Girl Lost” (a Martha & The Vandellas style romp about losing a love in the big city) and “I Cry Alone” (written in 1960 and rumored to be written specifically for her, but Burt Bacharach couldn’t get it to her due to label hops til 1963)… all gems… but nothing that really landed her in the realms she deserved…
…til one spring day she was listening on a tape to The Shirelles demo version of “Oh No Not My Baby” and as she sang along, little girls jumping rope outside her stoop starting singing along… and she knew she had a hit.
Weirdly “Oh No Not My Baby” is more legendary than it’s modest #24pop (#2 R&B on the Cashbox listings) reflects. It’s maracas, blanket of strings and harmonies between Maxine and shadow legend Dee Dee Warwick are just as legendary as another groundbreaking uptown soul record from Scepter … Dionne’s “Walk On By”
And half the issue was that all of Scepter’s promotional muscle went to Warwick… and a string of brilliance from Maxine, from the beautiful “It’s Gonna Be Alright” the prototype for Ashford/Simpson Motown “One Step At A Time” and a brilliantly uptempo waltz version of “If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody” stalled in the middle of the pop charts, relying on her brilliant performances alone.
She paired up with Chuck Jackson, scoring a decent hit with “Something You Got” and got two LPs out of it, increasing her total to 4, and then left, cut an excellent LP for Epic in 1968, produced by none other than Motown Funk Brother saxophonist Mike Terry (yeah, all those sexy soulful sax solos on those 1963-1965 Motown hits… yeah, him).
Her “Seems You Forsaken My Love” is priceless…. Then, a single in “We’ll Cry Together” closed out the 1960s for her with a chart hit.
She faded “away” I think appeared off broadway a few times, but leave it to England to never forget the people we neglect, she never lost her popularity there, and some of her Scepter cuts, notably “One In A Million” “It’s Torture” & “Let Me Give You My Lovin'” kept her alive…
…and today, at 70 years old she still tours, looking 20 years younger, and full of Joi de vivre. Showing that true love keeps you young.
For that reason there’s nothing on YouTube that I can find of her singing in the 1960s, so we’ll have to settle for her singing her best remembered hit on PBS back in 2001. enjoy!