Hard Times, by Baby Huey and the Babysitters

The month of October 1970 was a difficult one for rock fans. On the 4th of the month Janis Joplin was found dead at the Landmark Motor Hotel in Hollywood. Only a few weeks earlier Jimi Hendrix found similar fate at the Samarkand Hotel in London. Both were 27 at the time they died. The 28th of the month brought another tragedy, this time in the Roberts motel in Chicago. After the deaths of two legendary stars, this last event went almost
unnoticed. The casualty was a 26 year old, sad-faced, overweight black singer with no record to his name. He was also one of the best soul singers who ever lived. His name was James Ramey, known also as Baby Huey.

 

While still way too young at the time of his death, Baby Huey was an experienced performer with 8 years of constant gigs behind him. In 1963 he arrived in Chicago with a four-piece band and played all around town. The band grew to include ten musicians and changed its direction to psychedelic soul, started playing bigger venues and performed in New York at the Cheetah and other clubs. For some reason all through the 60s they only recorded a few singles but never got to record a full length album. Maybe the money coming from constant touring was too lucrative.

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Baby Huey at the Cheetah club Chicago

Finally in 1969 they got an audition for Curtis Mayfield’s label Curtom and started recording studio material with Mayfield acting as producer. Three of the songs were interpretations to Curtis Mayfield songs, including the highlight of the record, Hard Times. That song became a cult for multiple hip hop and rap artists who sampled different pieces of it in their songs. Unfortunately Baby Huey died while working on the album, and we only have about 30 minutes of the music he was able to complete. Mayfield later cobbled together a few instrumentals to justify a full length album.

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The Baby Huey Story The Living Legend, front cover

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The Baby Huey Story The Living Legend, booklet

The band is as tight as they come, due to their extensive period of hardening on the road. The rhythm section plays great rock, soul and funk grooves, and the horns dash out some of the best syncopated comping I heard. Here is a great example:

Baby Huey was a big man. Health-wise he was too big, around 350 pounds. At some point in the late 60s he developed a heroin habit which took him over the 400 pound mark. As a performer he took this lightly and nicknamed himself after an oversized baby duckling cartoon character. He opened his shows announcing “I’m Big Baby Huey, and I’m 400 pounds of soul!”. You can only imagine the stage presence of a 400 pound, 6’ 5” tall man with a huge afro and a voice as intense as Otis Redding and James Brown.

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Baby Huey, Wisconsin 1970

A classic soul track from a forgotten classic album, here is Hard Times:

Cold, cold eyes upon me they stare

People all around me and they’re all in fear

They don’t seem to want me but they won’t admit

I must be some kind of creature up here having fits

 

From my bawdyhouse, I’m afraid to come outside

Although I’m filled with love I’m afraid they’ll hurt my pride

So I play the part I feel they want of me

And I pull the shades so I won’t see them seein’ me

 

Havin’ hard times in this crazy town

Havin’ hard times, there’s no love to be found

Havin’ hard times, in this crazy town

Havin’ hard times, there’s no love to be found

 

From my bawdyhouse I feel like meetin’ others

Familiar faces, creed and race, a brother

But to my surprise I find a man corrupt

Although he be my brother, he wants to hold me up

 

Havin’ hard times in this crazy town

Havin’ hard times, there’s no love to be found

Havin’ hard times, in this crazy town

Havin’ hard times, there’s no love to be found

 

So many hard times…

Sleepin’ on motel floors

Knockin’ on my brother’s door

Eatin’ Spam and Oreos and drinkin’ Thunderbird baby

 

(Wail) In this crazy town

Havin’ hard times, there’s no love to be found

Havin’ hard times, in this crazy town

Havin’ hard times, there’s no love to be found

 

I’m sick and tired

I’m sick and tired of payin’ dues baby

And I’m sick and tired of havin’ so many hard, hard times baby

And from my party house, from my party house

Categories: Songs

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2 replies »

  1. A bad month also for Hotels/Motels around the world

    On Wed, Dec 21, 2016 at 3:53 PM, The Music Aficionado wrote:

    > hayimkobi posted: ” The month of October 1970 was a difficult one for rock > fans. On the 4th of the month Janis Joplin was found dead at the Landmark > Motor Hotel in Hollywood. Only a few weeks earlier Jimi Hendrix found > similar fate at the Samarkand Hotel in London. Both we” >

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