Born Fontella Marie Bass, 3 July 1940, St. Louis, Missouri
The daughter of gospel luminary Martha Bass, Fontella toured as keyboard player and singer with the Little Milton band during the early 60s. Simultaneously, she made several solo records, including one for Ike Turner's Prann label. When Milton's bandleader, Oliver Sain, left to form his own group, he took Bass with him, and teamed her with another featured vocalist, Bobby McClure.
The duo was subsequently signed to Checker Records, on which "Don't Mess Up A Good Thing" and "You'll Miss Me (When I'm Gone)" were hits in 1965. "Rescue Me", a driving song, gave Fontella success in her own right that same year with an R&B # 1 hit (also # 4 pop and # 11 UK). Other solo hits, including "Recovery", followed, but by the end of the decade she had moved to Paris with her husband, jazz trumpeter Lester Bowie.
When they later returned to America, Fontella recorded a series of fine records for the Shreveport-based Ronn/Jewel/Paula complex. She has also worked with Bowie's avant garde group, the Art Ensemble Of Chicago. In Milan in 1980, Bass recorded a real "back to basics" gospel album in the company of her mother Martha, her brother and fellow soul artist David Peaston, and Amina Myers. She has subsequently recorded in the gospel field, and worked on the occasional project with Sain and Bowie.
CD: Rescued : The Best Of Fontella Bass (MCA, 1992, 16 tracks)
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