3/13/18: Jan Bradley “Mama Didn’t Lie”
I’ve got an old Jan Bradley song in my head today. If you’re familiar with her fantastic work, you probably know how difficult it can be to get those songs out of your head! Not that I mind, of course.
Jan Bradley grew up in Illinois, and was trying to break into the music business as an exceptionally talented singer. After being noticed at a high school talent show by an up-and-coming agent and while looking for her big break, Bradley got the opportunity to audition for Curtis Mayfield, the famous leader of The Impressions, when he was still relatively early on in his career. He was an aspiring producer at the time, and he ended up enjoying her audition enough to immediately sign her to a recording contract!
The first song that Mayfield wrote for her was “We Girls,” and that became a regional hit record, but it was “Mama Didn’t Lie” that became a big hit all over the country. Curtis Mayfield actually played guitar on this song, and when it was released by the now-famous Chess Records, it shot all the way to #14 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #8 on the R&B charts!
When Curtis Mayfield started battling Chess Records over the rights to his songs, he left Chess Records and all artists that stayed signed were prohibited from working with him. That meant Jan Bradley, and she unfortunately never had another hit as big as “Mama Didn’t Lie.” The closest she ever came was “I’m Over You,” which peaked at the #24 R&B spot in ’65.
Jan stopped singing professionally in the early ’70s and became a social worker in Chicago. She’s still out there, now in her 70s herself, with a couple adult children and three grandchildren. She still sings in the church choir, and her music is still popular among R&B aficionados. For a while in the ’60s, she was a star… and now she’s a mother, a grandmother, and undoubtedly a stellar member of the choir at her church! I’m sure it’s great to head to service on Sunday and hear her singing, and I can’t imagine a happier ending to her story.