Etta James Week continues with…
Early life and career: 1938–1959
Jamesetta Hawkins was born on January 25, 1938, in Los Angeles, California, to Dorothy Hawkins, who was only 14 at the time. Her father has never been identified.James speculated that he was the pool player Rudolf “Minnesota Fats” Wanderone, and met him briefly in 1987. Due to her mother’s frequent absences from their Watts apartment conducting relationships with various men, James lived with a series of foster parents, most notably “Sarge” and “Mama” Lu. James referred to her mother as “the Mystery Lady.”
James received her first professional vocal training at the age of five from James Earle Hines, musical director of the Echoes of Eden choir, at the St. Paul Baptist Church in south central Los Angeles. She became a popular singing attraction there, and Sarge tried to pressure the church into paying him for her singing but they refused. During drunken poker games at home, he would often wake James up in the early hours of the morning and force her through beatings to sing for his friends. As she was a bed-wetter, and often soaked with her own urine on these occasions, the trauma of being forced to sing meant she had a lifelong reluctance to sing on demand.
Something’s Got A Hold On Me