I was slow, but I came to understand that gospel music formed the roots of the blues, and the blues is the basis for rock ’n roll. This is why it was such a pleasure to hear Maydie Myles sing this week. She’s the real thing—a genuine product of the black church that formed the background for her to perform the music that she was born to sing.
She got started in a church pastured by her own father in Norfolk, Virginia by playing piano at age six. By age 11, she was singing gospel music. By 14, the pressure was on for her to turn professional.
Like so many young performers from the church, her parents wanted her to perform only gospel music. Maydie loved rhythm and blues, and sneaked out of her house on weekends to sit in with the R&B bands on Norfolk’s famous Church Street. She actually changed her name to “Debbie Taylor” so her parents wouldn’t hear of their daughter singing the devil’s music in a nightclub.
At 17, after much internal family strife, Maydie signed with Decca Records. Her career took off and she got national recognition on Billboard’s charts and appeared on TV’s American Bandstand and in clubs like The Peppermint Lounge. Later, Clive Davis signed her on his Arista label, where she recorded I Don’t Want to Leave You.
Maydie has recorded with the Holmes Brothers, The Blues Brothers Band, Jesse “Wild Bill” Austin and the late Cornelius Bumpus. Last night, she dropped into the P&G Bar in Manhattan to sing with Jonny Rosch, her old Blues Brothers colleague.
Jonny Rosch, a member of the Blues Brothers Band, plays harp as Maydie Myles looks on. Rosch and Friends play each Tuesday at the P&G Bar in Manhattan.
---It was a smashing set, with Adam Rogers on guitar, Neil Jason on bass, Dan Cipriano on sax and the great Anton Fig on drums. Also joining her at piano was Tony Aiardo. Maydie laid it on, with her rich, soul-stirring voice filling the house. Her vocals were flawless, but it was her genuine life story that made her “soul sister number one.”
Maydie Myles and Tony Aiardo on piano. Photos by Frank Beacham