Percy Mayfield Biography

12 August 1920, Minden, Louisiana, USA, d. 11 August 1984, Los Angeles, California, USA. A gifted performer, with a rich soulful voice, the Los Angeles-based Mayfield’s first success came in 1950 with ‘Please Send Me Someone To Love’ on the Specialty Records label. A massive US R&B hit, it reportedly sold well in excess of one million copies and became an enduring composition through its many cover versions including one by Ray Charles. Further chart entries, ‘Lost Love’ (1951) and ‘Big Question’ (1952), confirmed Mayfield’s status, but a terrible car accident suffered in 1953 when he was travelling home to Los Angeles from a gig in Las Vegas drastically curtailed his solo career. The accident cost Mayfield his matinee idol looks and he returned to his home town of Minden, Louisiana. His songwriting took on a darker hue, with songs such as ‘My Jug And I’ and ‘My Bottle Is My Companion’ reflecting his problems with alcohol.

During the 60s, ‘Hit The Road Jack’ enhanced Mayfield’s standing as a gifted composer when it became an international hit for Ray Charles. This influential musician recorded several of Mayfield’s songs; Mayfield, in turn, pursued his career on Charles’ Tangerine record label. He secured a US Top 100 hit in 1963 with ‘The River’s Invitation’, a downbeat, pathos-laden tale reflecting Mayfield’s bleak worldview. Further sides including ‘Life Is Suicide’, ‘Memory Pain’, ‘Danger Zone’ and ‘Nightless Lover’ confirmed Mayfield’s status as ‘poet of the blues’.

Mayfield remained an active performer throughout the 70s and early 80s, and his later work appeared on several different labels. His death from a heart attack in 1984 robbed R&B of one of its most individual voices. Johnny Adams released an excellent tribute album in 1989 titledWalking On A Tightrope.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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