Cry Baby Curtis
Cry Baby Curtis – whose real name was probably Curtis Payne – was another of those wonderful West Coast R & B singers I love so much. Even though he had four 45s released under this name, because of duplication they only amounted to five actual tracks, but nearly every one of them was good. And they all featured his hoarse crying tone, full of gritty power.
His Cash single coupled the doo wop influenced uptempo “Do You Think I Care” with the splendid doom laden blues ballad I Wanna on which he shows his throaty tones to excellent effect. He moved on to Kent Harris around the turn of the 60s for as good a sequence of tracks as anything cut on the West Coast at the time. The really tough Where Did You Stay Last Night is quite brilliant, lovely lead guitar and a cracking horn arrangement courtesy of ace sax man Zeke Strong, and a furious Curtis screaming out his pain. Harris reused the backing track for “Don’t Just Stand There” on which Cry Baby certainly lived up to his nickname with a vocal of quite astonishing intensity. There Will Be Some Changes Made is another winner, as Curtis gets down in his knees over some muted horns, a female chorus and fine drumming.
It is my great friend Greg Burgess who noticed the similarity of Cry Baby Curtis to Donoman, whose tracks you can listen to here. And of course he’s quite right to point out that they’re one and the same artist. As he put it to me – “There surely can’t be two singers of that sort of frightening intensity (almost OOT) on the West Coast at the same time recording for the same labels”. Enjoy them both on this website.
UPDATE ~ I have more 45s by this outstanding vocalist - what I believe to be his first on Fidelity and then two more on Dumas. All are now in the discography. The Fidelity 45 shows Payne in a more commercial style with a string section and some background singers on the beat ballad "Fool That I Am" and the handclapping dancer "Never Let Me Go" - but there's no disguising that super voice. The first Dumas release couples an easy paced R & B dance tune "Kiss Like You" with a doom laden blues ballad in "Tell Me". He did that sort of track so well - and this is a very good one. Dumas 1209 features a swinging uptempo R & B track "Million Dollar Gift" - no horns just a small band. "Pleading" is another first class blues ballad with a typical throat tearing vocal from the man. Lovely.
I wonder how many more records by this superb singer are waiting to be found?
Never let me go / Fool that I am ~ FIDELITY 3103 (1959) (as CURTIS PAYNE)
I wanna / Do you think I care ~ CASH 1062 (1959)
Kiss like that / Tell me ~ DUMAS 1201 (1962) (as CURTIS PAYNE)
Pleading / Million dollar gift ~ DUMAS 1209 (1963?)
Where did you stay last night / There will be some changes made ~ ROMARK 110 (mid 60s?)
There will be some changes made / Don’t just stand there ~ JULET 1005/6 / TREVOR 103 (mid 60s?)