Born Revoyda Frierson in Hope, Arkansas, 16 August 1934, Ketty Lester studied music at San Francisco State College before becoming a professional singer. Her gospel-influenced vocal sound attracted attention and she played clubs, visited Europe, worked in a revue headlined by Cab Calloway, and landed a recording contract.
Almost immediately, she had a hit with Love Letters, which in 1962 made it into the top five in the US and UK charts. Lester’s style of singing, touching as it did on the similar origins of early R&B and soul, appealed to fans of all these forms.
Through the rest of the 1960s, she sang songs, some of them heard here, such as Son Of A Preacher Man and Prisoner Of Love, popularised by other better-known singers. But Lester’s performance of Love Letters became hers and remains so to this day, no matter how many others might sing it.
Lester’s time at the top proved to be short-lived and she chose to move out of the music business. Turning to acting, on television she had small roles in several popular series, including Days Of Our Lives, Little House On The Prairie and Hill Street Blues. From the early 1960s into the early 1990s she had minor roles in feature films, among them Just For Fun (1963), Blacula (1972), The Prisoner Of Second Avenue (1974), Street Knight (1993) and House Party 3 (1994).
She did make more records, but only sacred music, including Mega Records’ 1985 album I Saw Him. This period is represented here by the closing track. This CD has a very good liner note by Alan Eichler, which details Lester’s career. This is a thoroughly enjoyable release and will appeal to many.
(1) Don’t Think Twice; Living As We Live; I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself; Show Me; You’re Getting Older; Peace, Brother, Peace; Son Of A Preacher Man; Since I Fell For You; Prisoner Of Love; How Sweet It Is; Love Letters; Now More Than Ever; (2) I Will Lead You; The Measure Of A Man; Cracker Box Livin’; (3) She’d Never Heard Of Anyone Called Jesus (48.44)
Lester (v) with:
(1) orch. arr., cond. by Lincoln Mayorga, inc. Clare Fischer (org); Artie Butler (p); Earl Palmer (d); Victor Feldman (pc). Hollywood, 1968.
(2) orch. arr., cond. by Ernie Freeman. Hollywood, 1968.
(3) Wilson “Tex” Richardson Jr (p) and others. Los Angeles, 1984.
Blue Moon Records BMCD 905