Etta James was a mere 17 when she had her first R&B chart success, in 1955, with ‘The Wallflower.’ Her chart record immediately thereafter was up and down, to say the least, but she did reach a new goal on 21 August 1961, when her patience was rewarded with her first US chart album. Aptly, it was called At Last.
James scored another R&B chart entry towards the end of 1955 with ‘Good Rockin’ Daddy,’ but then had to wait until 1960 for any further sales action. Then she began a run of both soul and pop entries with such fine singles as ‘All I Could Do Was Cry’ and ‘My Dearest Darling’ that culminated in the early 1961 success of one of her most famous and enduring ballads, ‘At Last.’
Listen to At Last right now.
That song went to No. 2 R&B, produced a top five follow-up on that chart with ‘Trust In Me,’ the top 20 ‘Fool That I Am’ and then yet another top tenner in ‘Don’t Cry, Baby.’ Then the album named after that ‘At Last’ smash finally gave her a toe-hold on the Billboard album chart in that summer week in 1961, making its first showing at No. 141. The LP was produced by her paymasters at Chess Records. founding brothers Phil and Leonard Chess.
At Last was actually released by Chess even before its title track single, but took all of nine months to make that debut. It climbed to No. 69, in a 12-week run, and before the end of the year, Etta — now aged 23 — had a modest pop chart single that didn’t make the R&B list, the double-sided ‘It’s Too Soon To Know’ and ‘Seven Day Fool.’ At last, she was getting the consistent recognition she deserved.
Etta James’ At Last can be bought here.
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