Interview conducted for Blues & Rhythm by Mike Stephenson in Jackson, Mississippi in June 2010. Many thanks go to Peggy Brown for arranging the interview.
My home is Meridian, Mississippi which is about ninety miles east of Jackson. As a child growing up I lost my older brother about two years ago he was a good friend of David and Jimmy Ruffin members of the Temptations and also Al Wilson they used to run around together and these were my baby sitters. They kept in touch over the years and Al and my brother went off into the armed services. From there I started singing in the church choir like so many of us and from there during school I got into singing contest sand talent shows and all that stuff and my brother in law started me into running up an down the road going into clubs singing at a very early age and from then on it’s been history. I went to school in the Delta at Mississippi Valley State that’s when I learnt what the blues was about as I got a chance to work with B.B. King when he did workshops at the Valley and also with Al Green. A lot of people came through as a lot of them were originally from the Delta and I got a chance to meet up with some of them like Little Milton, Denise LaSalle and many others. I was blessed enough to be in the right place at the right time to work with most of them and got a chance to be friends with some of them.
In 1994 Willie Clayton moved from Chicago to Mississippi and he was looking for a band to work with. At this time I already had a band that I was working with. My husband and I had an established band that we would work with at different clubs all over the state and sometimes out of the state and somebody recommended me and my band to Willie Clayton and that’s how we hooked up. Me and Willie had a real big hit ‘Equal Opportunity’ and that’s when my personal career started to blossom a little bit more. Right after that I cut my very first CD ‘Miss Equal Opportunity’ which was recorded for Johnny Vincent on is Ace Records label. The ‘Equal Opportunity’ number I did with Willie was also on Ace Records.
The next CD I did after that was on Avanti which was also Mr. Vincent’s label it was called ‘A Woman’s Thing’. I was trying to keep it in line with the ‘Equal Opportunity’ thing because and even now that song is real big and you can’t do a show without doing that number people still want to hear it. I tell people that I was picking it up as a national anthem for women so that’s the way I’m using it in my show and everybody started calling me ‘Miss Equal Opportunity’ so I thought I am going to have to be a spokesman for the ladies. My third CD came out on my own personal label, Tapna, and it was called ‘Burning Hot And Heavy’ that CD also included songs that were also related to women and pretty much everything I do I try to keep in that area so that everyone will know me. The fourth CD I did was called ‘New Tricks’ and that’s also on my Tapna label. The fifth CD I called ‘FYI- For Your Information’ also for the ladies and on Tapna. The albums are all recorded in Jackson and I use mostly Soul Kitchen studios mostly.
I try to write some of my material and I also collaborate with other writers like Rue Davis and Billy ‘Soul’ Bonds in fact we did the answer to ‘Equal Opportunity’ called ‘If It’s Good For You It’s Good For Me’. A name of a new group named The Rhythm Allstars they are out of Florida the drummer for the band named Greg McCrae he called me one day and told me he had been travelling all over and he had a song in his head that he wants me to record so I went down to Florida and got with him and he has a studio in Tallahachie and he played the track and we recorded it and it’s called ‘I Got Something That Will Hold Him’ and it will be on my new CD.
I have been using Gonzales as my distributor but they went down so I am looking for someone in this area. I have had some distribution through Select O Hits which is owned by Malaco. I also sell CDs on line with CD Baby. A lot of the mom and pop stores you can leave with the CDs with them and a lot of those stores will purchase CDs from you direct and put them in their stores and their customers. I have my own band it is a six piece with two keyboard players, bass, guitar and background singers. I’ve played from New York to Miami and the Carolinas to California. Mostly it is Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee and Florida and during the summer it is festival time and it is mostly weekends I work. My average sales for my own CDs are from 12 to 15,000. It is good for a self promoted project. My CDs are constant sellers and I sell them at my shows. As a matter of fact my music is doing well in Texas, Dallas in particular due to my records being played by a d.j. on KRNN. Me and Latimore travel a lot together around the music scene we are on the road together often. I have a my space page: www.myspace.com/msequalopportunity which features details of myself.
I play locally in Jackson such the as the local festivals like Lynch Street festival and Jubilee Jam. I do festivals in Clarksdale and Greenville as well and there is a local organisation here called Central Mississippi Blues Society that I am involved with and we have a blues jam every Monday night at Hal & Mal’s and we have all kind of entertainers coming through and people from around the world visit the club.