Forgotten Treasure: Baby Huey “The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend” (1971)
The Baby Huey Story is a unique record in every regard. First off, it’s a rare mix of psychedelic soul, deep funk, blues-rock and proto-rapping in both live and studio settings.Secondly, the record was the only release by the group and it was produced by Curtis Mayfield on his own Curtom label.
And more significantly, it was a posthumous tribute released in memory of the larger than life James Ramey aka Baby Huey. A tragic spiral into drugs and alcohol may have robbed the world of a burgeoning performer at age 26, but his record has standed the test of time. Although it was largely ignored by the mainstream at the time, it found new life being lauded and sampled by Hip-Hop heavy hitters such as Ice Cube, Pete Rock, Public Enemy, Rakim and A Tribe Called Quest. Baby Huey and the Babysitters were a band in the vein of Sly and the Family Stone. Ramey’s stage presence could not be ignored and it was the emotion,blood, sweat and tears he poured into his interpretations and compositions that put the band over the top. They had a lot of succcess on the live circuit but had not hit the studio yet when famed signer Donny Hathaway (under marvelous talent lost too soon) saw them live and insisted that Mayfield attend the following night. They were signed to Curtom but could not finish their sessions before Baby Huey’s addictions caught up to him.Baby Huey - Hard Times
However, in a way the post-humous release which focuses on Baby Huey the person and not the character (Ramey chose the name from the cartoon character in a self-deprecating humerous way) brings even more of the listeners to the struggles, trials and tribulations expressed in the songs. Hard times is the perfect example since the hard as nails opening break is matched only by the honesty of the lyrics and the cadence of the delivery picks up with the hard funk tempo and never let’s up. Baby Huey and the Babysitters made my favorite type of soul : raw, uncut,emotional soul and that’s what you gt on this album whether it be covers (California Dreamin, A Change is Gonna Come) completely transformed by the group’s psychedelic tinge or personal compositions like Runnin (fakin jax samples for you beatheads).Baby Huey - A Change is Going to Come Baby Huey - California Dreamin
I described this album as unique because every song is a gem that stands on its own and whose sequence and construction is completely original, much like the Baby Huey himself. You don’t need Huey’s monologues and heart wrenching howls to feel the man’s formidable presence throughout the album, all you need is to make sure to get this classic record in your collection and discover what a true larger than life artist can create in a limited amount of time and how one amazing LP can shine brighter than a whole discography.Baby Huey - Running