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Fontella Bass

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Fontella Bass (born July 3, 1940 in St. Louis, Missouri - died December 26, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri) was an American and singer, recording the iconic hit “Rescue Me” in 1965. The daughter of singer Martha Bass (of the Clara Ward Singers), Bass was exposed to music at an early age. She was singing in her church’s choir at just six years old.

As a teenager, Bass was attracted by more secular music. Throughout high school she began singing contemporary R&B songs at local contests and fairs. In 1961, Bass found steady work on the local Leon Claxton Show, playing piano and singing in the chorus. She also began playing piano on blues vocalist Little Milton’s records. With the support of Bob Lyons, the manager of St. Louis station KATZ, Bass recorded several songs released through Bobbin Records. She saw no notable success outside her home town, however.

Two years later, she moved to Chicago after a dispute with Little Milton. She auditioned for Chess Records, who immediately signed her as a recording artist. Her first works with the label were several duets with blues singer Bobby McClure, also a newcomer to the label. Released early in 1965, “Don’t Mess Up a Good Thing” found immediate success, reaching the top five at R&B radio and peaking at #33 at pop. They followed their early success with “You’ll Miss Me (When I’m Gone)” that summer, a song that had mild success, reaching the top 30 at R&B, but barely charting at pop.

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