Mamie Davis was born in 1940 in Mississippi and started her career in show business with local groups like Herman Scott & The Swinging Kings, before moving up a grade or two by touring with Ike Turner and Little Milton, with whom she gravitated to Chicago in the early 60s. She joined Chuck Bernard at Dick Simon’s St Lawrence label, and was fortunate to find in the talented Monk Higgins an arranger/producer who provided her with most of the settings on her tracks.
Her first release was the hard driving R & B “Special Agent 34 – 24 – 38” for which she was given the name “Mamie Galore” to tie in with the novelty “James Bond spy” appeal of the title. The flip was more heavy tough soul – but Mamie’s voice wasn’t the deep, gruff toned delivery you might expect. Her range was much higher for a start, and the tone much “purer” but there was no mistaking those bluesy cadences which made many of her sides a pretty much perfect example of 60s Chi Town soul. But it also enabled her to attempt softer material such as the Motown sounding “It Ain’t Necessary”, “Too Many Memories”, “Tonight’s The Night” and “This Time Tomorrow”. In fact (typically) the first of these became her bestselling disc and you can see her lip synching to this and her “Special Agent” cut on episodes 17 and 18 of “The Beat!!!!”. And very fine she looks too in her wig – even if a little nervousness is present in her demeanour and movement.
But for my money it was the tougher tracks on which she gave her best vocal performances. Try the uptempo “You Wore Your Lie Well” with its ferocious horn chart for example, or the mid paced “You Got The Power”. She cut four sides with Dee Irwin, and very comfortable she sounds in a duet setting as well. My favourite of them is the gently funky I Didn’t Want To Do It But I Did where her lighter tone makes a fine contrast to Dee’s hoarse vocal.
But Mamie could turn her hand to slower material as well – and Mistaken Wedding with its echoes of Etta James’ brilliant “Stop The Wedding” is very good deep soul. Love that blue guitar as well, probably by Cash McCall. The gospel based Have Faith In Me has some lovely chord changes, reinforced by the fat horn section, and features some righteous testifying from Ms Galore.
Her masterpiece is undoubtedly the brilliant deep soul Do It Right Now. This hasn’t really had the attention it deserves thanks to the Northern interest in the other side “No Right To Cry” which has pushed the price of the Sack 45 pretty much out of any sensible person’s reach. But the side is a stunning Windy City track chock full of good things from the churchy organ which holds it all together to the deep trombone/baritone sax combination. And Mamie is just perfect above a sympathetic girl chorus. Mamie may also be found on the excellent female group track Hold On To Your Man issued under the name Specialities Unlimited but I don’t think that has ever been confirmed – but this is as good an opportunity as any to feature this fine cut.
By 1972 Mamie was back in her home state, where she continued to sing R & B until her sad early death in 2000.
Special agent 34-24-38 / I wanna be your radio ~ ST. LAWRENCE 1004 (1965)
Have faith in me / Too many memories ~ ST LAWRENCE 1008 (1966)
It ain't necessary / Don't think I could stand it ~ ST LAWRENCE 1012 (1966)
Mistaken wedding / You got the power ~ THOMAS 309 (1966)
This time tomorrow / Tonight's the night ~ IMPERIAL 66306 (1968)
You wore your lie well / Beautiful inside ~ IMPERIAL 66413 (1969)
Do it right now / No right to cry ~ SACK 4361
As DEE IRWIN & MAMIE GALORE
All I want for Christmas is your love / By the time I get to Phoenix ~ IMPERIAL 66334 (1968)
I didn't wanna do it but I did / Day tripper ~ IMPERIAL 66359 (1969)
Note - Both sides of the Sack 45 appeared on a UK Manhattan LP credited to "Doris Duke & Friends". The album also included an unissued Sack cut by Mamie entitled "I Don't Believe".