$tateside Records are proud to present Nina Simone’s Colpix singles lovingly remastered in mono. This title includes seven singles available in their original edits for the first time since the 1960s, and liner notes by $tateside DJ and compiler Dean Rudland.
Nina Simone started her musical career as a classically trained child virtuoso, whose piano recitals were local events. Strongly rooted in the works of Bach, the musician became a singer almost by accident: the rest is history.
Over the next five decades her recordings, which reached the top of the charts on many occasions, earned her cult status and critical acclaim. From 1959 to 1964 she was signed to Colpix, who relinquished all creative control to her. With her voice at her finest, she worked her way through jazz and blues standards such as ‘The Work Song’ and ‘I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)’, as well as folk tunes like ‘Little Liza Jane’, ‘Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair’, her very own ‘Blackbird’ and ‘I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl’.
“I played what I wanted and nothing else,” said Nina of her Colpix days in her autobiography, I Put A Spell On You. “Hell, they weren’t paying me well enough to tell me what to play. There was no proper producer on my records – just an engineer to set everything up, an orchestrator to write out the arrangements, and the rest I did myself.” In recent years, Nina Simone’s life and career have been extensively covered in acclaimed biographies and documentaries. However, her early recordings (that do not particularly illustrate her fight for civil rights or her personal life) are often overlooked.
Very little is said about her output for Colpix, yet it is with these records that she began to develop her uniqueness. Her time at the label is often distilled down to the successful series of live albums she recorded, but it was in the 7” singles that her progress is clearest. From the pop-tinged opening single ‘Chilly Winds Don’t Blow’, to the hauntingly spiritual, self-penned ‘Blackbird’ on the flipside of her final 45 for the label, Nina Simone’s creative development can be traced through her Colpix singles. A performer with a breakthrough hit when she joined in 1959, she was an established artist when she left the label in 1964.
Nina Simone’s background is well known. Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina, in 1933, her prodigious talent as a musician was evident early on. Spotted playing hymns in church at the age of 6, some of the town’s prominent residents established the “Eunice Waymon Fund” to pay for her music lessons. A noted musician, Muriel Mazzanovich (who Nina affectionately called Miz Mazzy), trained the budding prodigy to be a Classical concert pianist. It was from these humble roots that Eunice developed a lifelong love of Johann Sebastian Bach, Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven and Schubert.
After graduation she studied at Juilliard in New York before applying to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Her application was rejected; something she suspected was due to racism. The blow was devastating. Broken-hearted, she vowed to apply again, but in the meantime needed to make a living and fund her music lessons. In 1954 she took a residency playing in a bar in Atlantic City, where she was also asked to sing. It was at this point Nina Simone was born.
When the owner of the Midtown Bar asked her for her stage name, Eunice told him to call her Nina Simone. “I always liked the name Nina, and I saw the name Simone on a movie poster” (probably the French actress Simone Signoret). Her unique blend of jazz, classical music and blues soon won her an audience, and in 1958 she signed to Bethlehem Records. Her version of George and Ira Gershwin’s ‘I Loves You Porgy’ went Top 20 on the Billboard pop chart. Her debut album Little Girl Blue followed soon afterwards. It was a bold artistic statement, especially notable for ‘Love Me Or Leave Me’, which incorporated a touch of Bach.
The contract Simone signed with Bethlehem reverberated years later when ‘My Baby Just Cares For Me’ went to number one all over Europe and yet, having previously signed them away, she received no royalties. In 1959 she moved to New York City. “New Year 1959 found me in a creepy marriage stuck in a tiny room with a hit record, a rising reputation, and no idea of how to make the money I needed to finish my classical training,” said Nina. However, the success of ‘I Loves You Porgy’ meant she was in demand, and Joyce O’Selznick, the talent scout for Columbia Pictures Records, Colpix, offered her a long term deal.
It was an unusual label that released soundtracks, records by actors under contract to the studio, and some jazz and rhythm and blues. The first single, ‘Chilly Winds Don’t Blow’, was written and produced by Hecky Krasnow. Hecky was best known for novelty records with Columbia Records, including Gene Autry’s ‘Frosty the Snowman’ and ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’. The follow-up was an adaptation of the spiritual ‘Children Go Where I Send Thee’ backed with ‘Willow Weep For Me’. In September 1959 she was booked at NYC’s Town Hall in Midtown Manhattan. The show, recorded live, mixed folk songs, ballads, jazz, and blues, as well as a couple of originals.
“All these club dates had been trashy rehearsals for this, the night belonged to me”, said Nina, “if you don’t believe me you can listen for yourself, I was a sensation. An overnight success, like in the movies.” Released as an album, Nina Simone At Town Hall would define her time at the label and lead to two further live albums. The first single from this session was ‘The Other Woman’, coupled with ‘It Might As Well Be Spring’ from her debut studio album for the label; The Amazing Nina Simone. It was followed by two more tracks from Town Hall, ‘Summertime’ and ‘Fine And Mellow’.
Whilst these weren’t hits, they nevertheless helped to cement Simone’s reputation. The next single ‘Since My Love Has Gone’ was based on a melody by Verdi, and was backed by ‘Tomorrow (We Shall Meet Once More)’. Both of these were enhanced by dramatic, almost operatic string arrangements. This was then followed by ‘If Only For Tonight’, paired with an exclusive edit of Simone’s ‘Under The Lowest’ taken from Nina Simone At Town Hall. Colpix had Nina return to the blues for the next release, and she excels on ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out’.
The B-side is even better, as she takes on ‘Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair’, a signature song she would return to time and time again. The Nina Simone At Newport album brings us the next single: an upbeat version of ‘Cotton Eyed Joe’ and a wonderful rendition of ‘Trouble In Mind’. The run of compelling singles continues with her take on Oscar Brown Jr’s ‘Work Song’ which she makes her own, just as she does with B-side ‘Memphis In June’ by Hoagy Carmichael. She surpasses herself on her next outing with readings of ‘You Can Have Him’ and ‘Gin House Blues’.
Keen to score a hit with Simone, Colpix sent her back to the studio for an answer to Ray Charles’s smash ‘Hit The Road Jack’. A sought-after record nowadays, ‘Come On Back Jack’ didn’t chart, and as a follow-up, the next single was ‘In The Evening By The Moonlight’ from the Newport album. Only two more singles followed. The first one’s A side, taken from Nina Simone Sings Ellington, was a version of ‘I Got It Bad’, and on the flipside was one of her own and finest self-penned songs, ‘I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl’.
Her final single paired the traditional folk standard ‘Little Liza Jane’ with the astounding Simone original ‘Blackbird’. More than any biography or documentary, this song shows how far she had matured artistically, revealing a glimpse of her future as a civil rights activist, and songs to come like ‘Mississippi Goddam’ and ‘Young, Gifted And Black’. With these 27 songs, the Colpix singles trace Nina Simone’s musical journey from jazz and folk singer to critically acclaimed songwriter.
1. Chilly Winds Don’t Blow
3. Children Go Where I Send You
4. Willow Weep For Me
5. The Other Woman
6. It Might As Well Be Spring
8. Fine And Mellow
9. Since My Love Has Gone
10. Tomorrow (We Will Meet Once More)
11. Under The Lowest (Short Version)
12. If Only For Tonight13. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out
14. Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair
1. Trouble In Mind
2. Cotton-Eyed Joe
3. Work Song
4. Memphis In June
5. You Can Have Him
6. Gin House Blues
7. Come On Back Jack
8. You’ve Been Gone Too Long
9. In The Evening By The Moonlight
10. I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl
11. I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)
12. Little Liza Jane
1. Chilly Winds Don’t Blow
2. Children Go Where I Send You
3. The Other Woman
6. Since My Love Has Gone
6. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out
7. If Only For Tonight
1. Trouble In Mind
2. Work Song
3. Gin House Blues
4. Come On Back Jack
5. In The Evening By The Moonlight
6. I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)
7. Little Liza Jane