Ann Cole / Rhythm and Blues

Ann Cole

Born Cynthia Coleman, 29 January 1934, Newark, New Jersey
Died November 1986, Newark, New Jersey

Cynthia Coleman's father, Wallace, was a member of a famous spiritual group, the Coleman Brothers. Cynthia formed her own spiritual group in 1949, the Colemanaires (Cynthia Coleman, Joe Walker, Sam Walker and Wesley Johnson). This family group travelled throughout the USA and made appearances in a number of major cities, with Cynthia doing most of the group's lead singing. They released five gospel singles in 1953-54, four for the Timely label and one for Apollo. In 1954, Cynthia made her first (secular) solo recordings, credited to Ann Cole, for Timely Records. Sales and distribution were poor, but one person who was impressed by Ann's voice was Sol Rabinowitz of Baton Records in New York City. He spent an entire year trying to find the obscure singer and finally succeeded. In Sol's own words:

"I met Ann Cole for the first time in a bar in Paterson, New Jersey, and we hit it off. She was accompanying herself on the piano and singing her heart out six hours a night for the princely sum of $ 50 per week. Her voice was so hoarse she had trouble speaking. We met again at my office and after determining she was free of her previous record company, signed a long term contract. At her request I promised to do what I could as her manager, but I refused to take commissions."

Ann's first release on Baton was "Are You Satisfied" (a cover of a country number by Sheb Wooley), featuring the immediately recognizable guitar work of Mickey Baker, who plays on most of her Baton recordings. It went to # 10 on Billboard's R&B charts in January 1956. The fourth Baton single, "In the Chapel" (1957), also charted (# 14). However, these two hits are not the recordings for which she will be remembered. Though the song is usually associated with Muddy Waters, it was Ann Cole who recorded the original version of "Got My Mojo Working" (Baton 237) on January 27, 1957. On a month-long tour through the South together, Ann sang with Muddy's band. "Mojo" had not yet been released, but in spite of Sol Rabonowitz's warning not to sing unreleased material, Ann taught Muddy's band the song and performed it regularly during the tour. Muddy liked the song so much that he asked Leonard Chess to let him record it himself. Chess, who didn't know anything about the Ann Cole recording, gave the Waters record a rush release and both versions came out in the same week. The difference in the lyrics between the two versions resulted from Muddy's inability to remember the original words (written by Preston Foster). Waters claimed to have written the song. Eventually the matter went to court, where it was ruled that Foster was the composer. But the two versions are still separately copyrighted. See also the Wikipedia entry: Ann was voted "Most Promising New Female R&B Vocalist" by Cash Box in 1956. The next year she appeared on a Fats Domino record. For decades, Domino fans have wondered who the female voice on "When I See You" was, but now there seems to be general consensus that it is Ann Cole. After leaving Baton in 1958, Ann recorded for Sir Records (1959), MGM (1960) and Roulette (1962). Her sole Roulette single was a double sided hit. "Have Fun" peaked at # 21 on the R&B charts, while "Don't Stop the Wedding" (an answer to Etta James's "Stop the Wedding") was a pop hit for one week (# 99). Not long thereafter, Cole had a serious car accident, which confined her to a wheelchair. That was the premature ending of the musical career of a great R&B vocalist, who was ahead of her time. Especially her Baton recordings still sound very good to me. Eight of these have been collected on the CD "The Baton Label : Sol's Story" (Ace 505), including of course "Got My Mojo Working".

According to the Social Security Death Index, she died in November 1986. Her birth date is given there as January 29, 1934, which is probably the correct date (all other sources say January 24, but they all copy each other as likely as not).

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