This week’s update features a man who only had a short time in the music industry but left a huge legacy during that brief time. Tragically he was to pass away at the criminally young age of 26 after a heart attack that was linked to his drug addiction.
Huey (real name James Ramey) was born in 1944 in Indiana before upping sticks and moving to Chicago at the age of nineteen. As the result of a glandular disorder, his weight ballooned to around 350 pounds which presented many health problems, but in spite of this Huey was starting to gain a reputation for himself as a stirring singer of huge promise. It was around this time that his stage name came to being – so named after a cartoon character of the same name.
The Baby Huey & The Babysitters name was born and the band put out a number of singles which received local acclaim. After a few years playing locally, Huey decided to take a different path following the popularity of psychedelic soul acts (namely Sly & The Family Stone) and went through something of an image overhaul with a huge afro and donning traditional african robes.
In 1969 a meeting with the Curtom label’s arranger, the legendary Donny Hathaway was to prove the turning point for his career. Hathaway convinced Curtis Mayfield to come along to a show to watch Baby Huey and Curtis was so impressed that he offered to sign Huey on the spot….. but not the Babysitters. Despite his reservations about the band an album entitled “The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend” was recorded in 1970, however Huey’s addiction to heroin had ensured he put on even more weight and it was this that led to his early death a few months later.
“The Living Legend” was released posthumously and featured a number of Curtis Mayfield compositions as well as a fantastic cover version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” which showcased Huey’s incredible voice at it’s majestic best. Despite the album’s failure to become a commercial success at the time, many years later hip-hop stars were to plunder the album for samples and funk aficionados starting dropping tracks from the album into their dj sets. These days an original copy is worth quite a bit of money but even if you can’t afford an original, there are reissues which are very affordable and I would implore you to invest in a copy to dig the massive talent that was Baby Huey.