Esther Mae Jones, 23 December 1935, Galveston, Texas, USA, d. 7 August 1984, Carson, California, USA. This distinctive vocalist was discovered by band leader Johnny Otis. She joined his revue in 1949 where, performing as Little Esther, the teenage singer recorded two number 1 R&B singles, Double Crossing Blues and Mistrustin Blues. She then worked solo following the bands collapse, but by the middle of the decade Phillips was chronically addicted to drugs. In 1954 she retired to Houston to recuperate and did not fully resume recording until 1962. Phillips version of Release Me, a country standard that was later a hit for Engelbert Humperdinck, mirrored the blend of black and white music found, contemporaneously, in Ray Charles and Solomon Burke. An album, Release Me! - Reflections Of Country And Western Greats, consolidated this style, but when Phillips moved to the Atlantic Records label, her recordings...
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