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Percy Mayfield (August 12, 1920 – August 11, 1984) was an Americanmarker songwriter famous for the songs "Hit the Road Jack" and "Please Send Me Someone to Love", as well as a successful rhythm and blues artist known for his smooth vocal style.

Career

Mayfield was born in Mindenmarker, the seat of Webster Parish in northwestern Louisianamarker. As a youth, he showed a talent for poetry and this led him into songwriting and singing. He began his performing career in Texasmarker and then moved to Los Angelesmarker, Californiamarker by 1942 where success as a singer continued to elude him. Finally in 1947 a small record label, Swing Time, signed him to record his song "Two Years of Torture". The song sold steadily over the next few years, prompting Art Rupe to sign Mayfield to his label, Specialty Records in 1950.

Although his vocal style was influenced by such stylists as Charles Brown, Mayfield did not focus on the white market as did many West Coast bluesmen. Rather, he sang blues ballads, mostly his own songs, in a gentle vocal style. His most famous recording, "Please Send Me Someone to Love", a number one R&B hit single in 1950, was widely influential and recorded by many other singers. The song is a brilliant combination of sensitivity to wider issues of conflict in the world and the very personal need forlove.
A 1952 auto accident left him seriously injured, including a facial disfigurement that limited his performing. However, that did not stop his prolific songwriting. Mayfield continued to write and record for Specialty until 1954 and then recorded for Chess Records and Imperial Records. His career continued to flourish with songs like "Strange Things Happening", "Lost Love", "What a Fool I Was", "Prayin' for Your Return"' "Cry Baby", and "Big Question".

In 1961 he came to the attention of Ray Charles with his song "Hit the Road Jack" who signed him to his own label, Tangerine Records, primarily as a songwriter and where he wrote "Hide Nor Hair", "At The Club", "Danger Zone", and "On the Other Hand, Baby".

Mayfield's songs tend to be downbeat and his lyrics tend to be heartbreaking, but his vulnerability and emotional sensitivity prevent songs like "Life Is Suicide" and "The River's Invitation" from being maudlin.

When Mayfield died of a heart attack in 1984, the day before his 64th birthday, he had fallen back into obscurity.

Legacy

Mayfield hit his creative peak in the years before his music became a mainstream sound. Thus it was always a struggle to gain recognition that he was due. But available examples of his music demonstrate his writing and performing talent and his enormous influence on other performers.

References

External links




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