Few voices that came in contact with an 8 track stereo recording machine in the 1960s lit fires that blazed as strong as the well deep vocal talents of one Mitty Collier.
Far too bluesy and honest in delivery to really break through and have consistent success like her Chess records contemporaries (And I’m calling mighty fine Soul Singers like Etta James and Fontella Bass less bluesy in this case), her records have the dual blessing of being a direct link to raw Chicago blues and gospel, often put in Uptown soul surroundings that blessed many a Chess Record Recording.
Born June 21, 1941 (So Happy Birthday in a short 12 hours Reverend Collier) in Birmingham, she took the tradition route almost every female singer of the 1960s took to our ears, grew up in a gospel choir and at some point before hitting 21, was convinced to go secular. She won the weekly Talent show at the Regal Theatre in Chicago in 1959, which lead to a 6 week engagement as an open act for BB King and Etta James, where she was noticed by Chess record executives, and signed in 1961.
She recorded brilliant combinations of straight up blues in String laced uptown settings from the starting with “Got To Get Away From It All” (She packs her pistol here) and continuing with “Miss Loneliness” which brings a rich depth to a typical lonely girl Girl Group Number. Success would finally appear as her answer song “I’m Your Part Time Love” propelled her into the R&B top 20 in 1963:
Today her B Side “My Babe” is considered the killer side
However her biggest, most classic hit was a reworking of the gospel standard “I Had a Talk With My God” as “I Had A Talk With My Man Last Night” in 1964. The beautiful ballad that makes bedside conversations with the one you love sound like the most spiritual thing you can do peaked at #3 R&B and #41 Pop in the fall of 1964.
It was followed by “No Faith, No Love” (R&B #29, Pop #91) and “Sharing You” (R&B# 10, Pop #97) in 1965 and 1966 respectively.
During this time, here blues uptown soul approach tended to be a hard sell in a crossover sense. The odd blend between her gut wrenching approach and the atypical presentation of Chess female soul singers (Think Motown with extra glossy strings or a little bit more syrup in the Rhythm section) seemed at cross purposes to the ears of consumers at the time (although it seems slightly brilliant now).
Given that she was more of a straight up blues shouter in the Koko Taylor tradition, she might have benefitted from stripped down settings for success at the time however.
But my favorite Mitty Collier song will forever be “My Party”
No other song cuts the vein wide open on how devastating it was to see a significant other going off to fight a war that almost meant guaranteed death. The darkness of celebrating the gathering grief, and Mitty’s power just kill the song. Try not to be haunted by this song (whether live or the recorded single). No Surprises here, it wasn’t a hit in 1966.
She closed out her Chess Career with a re-recording of her first single, and dropped out of singing in 1971 when she developed polyps on her vocal chords.
In the late 70s after years of medical procedures and rehabilitation she returned to the Gospel field, and became an ordained Minister in 1989, where she preaches and sings in a Chicago Church to this day, perhaps singing in Church this Sunday as I type this.
So, wherever you stand, let The Reverend preach to you. I’m sure your soul is the better for it.