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Well… look at it this way.

There are only a certain number of elite superstars at any given time in rock ‘n’ roll. It’s not a finite number by any means, but there’s a limit to just how many artists can capture the attention of the masses at one time, even though they’re all releasing only three or four singles at most during a given year.

So if one of those artists… say the Queen Of Rock ‘n’ Roll herself, Ruth Brown… happens to have a remarkably effective doppelgänger putting out a few very good records in her style… in this case singing a tune composed by one of Brown’s own songwriters… is that really the worst thing in the world when it’s allowing you to get a few extra singles a year by a voice you love listening to?

Probably not… unless of course you’re Varetta Dillard, the one who has to silence her OWN voice in the process just so she can be a Ruth Brown imitator for the morally bankrupt label she has the misfortune of working for.


This Love Affair Would Never Mean A Thing
As you can tell, we’re kinda torn about this situation.

Usually… almost always in fact… we tend to side with the artists when it comes to being allowed to follow their own muse. If you don’t like what they do, then don’t sign them in the first place.

Consequently have a lot of sympathy for Varetta Dillard, a good artist who was never really allowed to sing the way she wanted because Savoy’s producer Lee Magid wanted her to sound like Ruth Brown instead.

The fact that Dillard could so capably imitate Brown right down to the smallest detail made the temptation too strong for Magid to resist, especially after scoring big with Easy, Easy Baby, a record that can stand with anything Brown herself has done of late.

In a way it’s perversely ironic since Atlantic Records had been guilty of something similar with Brown, “encouraging” her to sing rock ‘n’ roll after letting her fall on her face commercially singing the pop styled material she favored. Apparently nobody in this day and age gets to do what they want in a studio.

But because she was so successful at it, and because Atlantic at the time at least had a little more artistic compassion than many labels, they let Brown go back to the pop crap every once in awhile (probably so that it would fail and get her back cutting rock tracks), such as her last single, one side of which – Good For Nothing Joe – was something that made rock fans who inadvertently bought the single expecting her usual fare, want to torch the record store in protest.

So Savoy must’ve figured that if Brown wasn’t going to consistently be giving that fan base what they wanted, why not have Varetta Dillard step into the breach again with I Cried And Cried and provide that fervent audience with what they’re clamoring for?

But our conflict over this matter is that as much as we genuinely want to hear Dillard be allowed to cut rock ‘n’ roll in her own natural style, we have to admit that her best efforts so far, including this, have come when she sounds exactly like Ruth Brown!

That doesn’t mean Lee Magid was right, it just means she’s always gotten better material and better production when he’s out to prove himself by NOT letting Dillard prove herself by doing what she wants.


Find You Somewhere In Town
Rudolph Toombs was responsible for the five best rock records Ruth Brown had released thus far… and the best two that Varetta Dillard released in her stead.

That’s a pretty good track record, but I’m sure it’s one that Dillard was smarting over, especially if these were songs that he’d composed with Brown in mind. Maybe he offered them to Atlantic who passed on them, but more likely Lee Magid paid him well to write songs in that style for Dillard just to make his job easier when it came to impersonating another artist.

But good songs are good songs and that’s what matters and I Cried And Cried is a good song. Good enough for Ruth Brown, and – much to her dismay I’m sure – good enough for Magid to have Dillard pretend she was Ruth Brown, which once again she does very effectively here.

The horns that open this are a little less robust than we’d like but once they step aside and let Dillard jump into the fray things pick up, as the horns now just play a supporting role to Mickey Baker’s guitar which handles the primary instrumental accompaniment with quick bursts of notes in between the vocal lines.

While she was certainly cursing her producer for making her copy another singer’s style, that frustration isn’t evident in her performance (probably because Magid wouldn’t let her out of her cell or feed her until she gave an honest effort). Dillard’s voice takes on all of the qualities Brown was known for – the little squall in the back of her throat, the precise way Ruth held notes by stretching them out and gradually letting them float down to the ground, even the pronunciation which she nails with alarming accuracy.

Beyond that there’s little actually say about Dillard because she’s not Varetta Dillard anymore who is making her own artistic choices and while we admire her talent to be able to pull this off, what we’re really doing is appreciating how great Ruth Brown is in absentia.

As for the song, it’s not the best work Toombs has done, mainly because the hook isn’t as memorable as past efforts for you know who, but the story itself is fine as he has Dillard dealing with a break-up, trying and failing to keep a stiff upper lip about it. The emotional roller coaster aspect is really well done, allowing her feelings to evolve naturally over the course of the song rather than giving her one perspective and insisting she stick to it for the duration.

But we can’t help but notice he’s prominently using many of the words that someone else has made so distinctive – “more” for instance, which Brown always somehow makes work when turning it into two syllables thanks to that catch in her voice – and we know damn well that wasn’t coincidental here. Even the arrangement, with its George Kelly tenor solo, follows a predictable path, one that is musically satisfying, stylistically appropriate for the era, but also one that is intended to conjure up somebody else’s records.

In that regard this works well… better than it has any right to ethically. But that was the problem. They did it good enough that it would compel them to try again… and again… and again.


Oh How I Tried To Get You Out Of My Mind
It’s not often that artists are hoping one of their records fails, but when this wasn’t a chart hit it’s possible Varetta Dillard thought she was done with this masquerading once and for all.

But who are we kidding? This is the record industry we’re talking about, where gimmicks are considered a more reliable way to garner sales than talent or hard work ever were. No wonder Dillard was telling us I Cried And Cried as her dreams of establishing her own identity were slipping away from her.

Maybe she should’ve kept in mind something that adults who visit friends or family with little kids learn the hard way… when you arrive and the kids are kind of nervously keeping their distance from you, many adults go to great lengths to win them over. They get down on the floor, run around, get them all worked up, laughing and screaming and having a great time.

By then the adult is exhausted but the kids want to play even more and will keep demanding you continue until you drop.

Sometimes it’s better to just ignore them, act aloof and keep your distance. Though it won’t get you any love, you’ll be able to walk out under your own power and not spend the next day recovering.

In Varetta Dillard’s case, if she’d never shown Savoy Records that could faithfully imitate Ruth Brown maybe they wouldn’t have been so eager to promote her records, but at least they wouldn’t have forced her to keep playing these games and she would’ve been able to walk out of there at the end of the day with her dignity intact.


(Visit the Artist page of Varetta Dillard for the complete archive of her records reviewed to date)