Barbara George

Gutsy New Orleans R&B singer


Barbara Ann Smith (Barbara George), singer and songwriter: born New Orleans 16 August 1942; married (three sons); died Chauvin, Louisiana 10 August 2006.

One of the most memorable records of the pre-Beatles era, "I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)", was written and performed gutsily by Barbara George, a 19-year-old New Orleans singer who had never before set foot in a recording studio.

Originally released at the end of 1961 on Harold Battiste's A.F.O. (All For One) label, the catchy single, featuring a cornet solo by Melvin Lastie, soon gained nationwide distribution by Sue Records. It topped the R&B charts and crossed over to the US pop listings, eventually peaking at No 3 in January 1962. "You Talk About Love", George's follow-up single, only made the lower reaches of the Top 100 and, after releasing the first album on A.F.O., she signed directly to Juggy Murray's Sue operation, joining a roster which included Ike and Tina Turner and Inez and Charlie Foxx.

However, George only issued four singles on Sue - "If You Think" and "Send For Me (If You Need Some Lovin')", another minor hit, "Recipe (For Perfect Fools)" and "Something's Definitely Wrong". Battiste, the New Orleans arranger who had been her mentor, rued the day she had decided to join Murray's label, telling John Browen, the author of Rhythm & Blues In New Orleans: "Fatherly advice is no good when you're fighting Cadillacs, fancy clothes and money." George subsequently issued a few more sides on Lana and Seven B in the Sixties before dropping out of music altogether and looking after her three sons.

Born Barbara Ann Smith in 1942, she sang in church and on the streets of New Orleans, where she was discovered by the singer Jessie Hill, who had written and recorded the Mardi Gras favourite "Ooh Poo Pah Doo". By this time she was married, and would record under the name Barbara George. Hill took her to audition for Battiste, who was setting up A.F.O. with the crème de la crème of New Orleans African-American session musicians. George based "I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)" on the traditional gospel song "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" and Battiste wasn't too impressed at first, though he agreed to help her cut the track.

The success of George's début 45 helped put A.F.O. on the map, but also brought problems since it was only achieved with the help of Sue. Battiste moved to California to work as musical director on The Sonny and Cher Show in 1963, a few months after George's defection to Sue.

"I Know (You Don't Love Me No More)" is one of the songs which put New Orleans on the musical map, up there with "Mother In Law" by Ernie K-Doe, "Iko Iko" by the Dixie Cups and "Tell It Like It Is" by Aaron Neville. In the Seventies, it was covered by Bonnie Raitt and Rufus Thomas and still crops up on film soundtracks and oldies shows on a regular basis.

Pierre Perrone

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