Camille LaVah

Let's steal away - WAX 18Answer songs can be tricky. The obvious pitfall is to create something that is so close to the original as to come out like a slavish copy. On the other hand take the new song too far from the primary source and you can lose the connection altogether. I think Camille LaVah gets it just about right. Of course you can hear Jimmy Hughes’ track running in your head as you listen to ListenLet’s Steal Away but the bluesy setting, especially the fine guitarist, is sufficiently novel to make it distinctive. I’m also keen on Camille’s breathy innocent tone – lovely contrast with the lyric she’s singing.

I just love West Coast R & B.

UPDATE ~ Ray Astbury has wrriten with details of another Camille 45. "Gedinson's GD-100 Camille and the Creations Hey Baby / Johnny. "Hey Baby" is a version Of Albert King's "Don't Throw Your Love On Me So Strong." "Johnny" is the same as "O Johnny" on Wax. I presume that since the Wax has GD-100-B in the run off area the Gedinson's is the first issue." I've now had the opportunity of hearing "Hey Baby" and of course Ray is quite right about the Albert King souce. Camille sounds very young indeed on this track, on which she is backed by a fine guitarist. Nice sound. You can find this cut and "Oh Johnny" on a couple of girl doo wop collections - even though I'd call "Hey Baby" a blues tune. I'm grateful to Ray for getting in touch.

Camille LaVahNEW UPDATE ~ I'm delighted to say that Camille herself has been in touch and has very kindly sent me this text about her life and musical career, as well as the superb pictures. One thing did stand out for me - the guitarist on her session turns out to have been the wonderful Johnny Heartsman - no wonder I liked the licks that he was playing!

"It began in elementary school Oakland, California, 1950.  I sang in a small choral group.  After graduating from elementary, I sang in the choir in Junior High school.

Then came McClymond’s High School.  While singing in the choir it was announced there would be a talent show try-out. Two choir member and I formed a singing trio.  We called ourselves “The Mack Sisters.” We won first place. The prize included performing at all McClymond’s  events, as well as, other high school events if we maintained a “B” grade point average.  Our signature song was “Sincerely” by the McGuire Sisters.  We sang it as good as they did.

We performed during our freshman and sophomore years. We didn’t continue in our senior year because we didn’t have enough time with all of the examinations and class activities.  After graduation, I got married and had three daughters.  I still sang at friends’ weddings and small social events.

The Big moment came in 1964. A girlfriend invited me to sit in with her while a well-known R&B group was recording a new sound at one  of the local recording studios in Berkeley, California. While sitting observing all of the exciting action, in walked an older gentleman wearing a mean “lid” (hat) and glasses in casual dress. He looked down at me and asked, “Do you sing?” Shocked I replied, “Yes, I do a little.” “I thought so,” he replied in a very pleasant voice. “You look like you should be a star.” I almost fainted but I remained cool.

Camille LaVahMoments later when the episode was over, he apologized for being so blunt.  I told him “no apology was needed. I had no problem with him being direct and to the point.” He then replied, “May I introduce myself? My name is Bob Geddins. I am a song writer and record producer.” Again, I wanted to faint but I remained cool. In my mind this was unreal.

Before the man behind the glass pointed to the musicians to start the session, he asked me to sing a few notes of any song that I knew acappella.  I did. When I finished, he smiled and said, “What a sweet voice you have.” He wrote his name and number on a piece of paper and handed it to me. “If you would like to become a recording artist, give me a call.” I smiled and thanked him and the session began.

Later that evening I told my husband about it. He was always supportive of my singing. He told me to go for it. Several weeks later Bob Geddins came by and met my family. A week later we went over and met his children. His wife was deceased.

I didn’t hear from him for several months. One afternoon I answered the door and there he was with a big smile on his face holding a 45 RPM record in one hand. I invited him in. He told me his idea about answering “Steal Away” by Jimmy Hughes, with the answer he had written. I was delighted but unsure I could deliver what he wanted. He said Steal Away was holding its own as the Top Number 1 record. His answer had to be recorded quickly.

He wanted a duet background. I introduced him to two friends whom I thought were “friends” only to find out later they were not. They stood me up the evening of the recording session.

Camille LaVahJohnny Heartsman and his band along with Lafayette (The Thang) Thomas, the man behind the glass, Bob and I were there. The two original background singers were not. I was so embarrassed and heartbroken. I brought these two aboard and they betrayed me.  Bob and the band members were angry because they stood me up. Bob was more determined than ever to record Let’s Steal Away. He knew it had started to decline and time to release was growing short.

I brought in three more young women in to sing. I didn’t use the term “friends” any longer. Bob didn’t like the harmony which they produced that’s why I’m singing Let’s Steal Away solo. However, I’m so happy he gave them the opportunity to sing and they didn’t stand me up. That’s how Camille and The Creations came to be. They sang background to “Hey Baby” and “Oh Johnny.”  Let’s Steal Away wasn’t successful as Bob envisioned because he ran out of time.  I’m grateful to you and others who loved the recording.

Maybe one day you will be able to hear the complete story. It is a “mind-blower” how the two “haters” wanted to hurt me because the head hater wanted to be the lead singer. Nevertheless, there was never a record recorded by them. ┬áBoth haters, The Creations and Bob are now deceased. I know Bob would be happy for this recognition and is somewhere “smiling.”

I did a number of “gigs” with a local band in night clubs and other venues in the Bay Area for about a year. I had several opportunities the next several years that I declined. My girls were growing up and they were more important. My singing career ended in 1968.

Later after the girls had graduated high school and some college and acquired very good jobs, I began seeking employment in which I had no skills. That’s the humorous part of my life.  Finally at age 38, I became permanent with a school district in the Bay Area.

In 2000, I began writing a novel in which I dreamt I was a writer. A voice awakened me one morning loudly saying “Tip Her, She Deserves It.” I pursued it with that title, and I self-published it with Vantage Press, New York.  It was released in 2004 under my pen name Nikilynn.  It is still being sold on Amazom.com.

I’ve retired from the school district after 30 years’ service.  I am married with 3 daughters, 2 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren.  I am now ready to begin a new chapter in my life at age 74."

I'm really grateful to Camille for sending all this excellent info and the lovely pictures.

 

 

Discography

ListenLet’s steal away / Oh Johnny ~ WAX 18 (1965/6)

 

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