Etta James’ first album with the Chess organisation was “at last!”, released on Argo Records in November 1960, produced by Phil and Leonard Chess.
She helped the Chess organisation to enter the 1960s with a bang with four top five singles on the Billboard Hot R&B Soul singles chart. The first single released was “All I Could Do Was Cry”, produced by Billy Davis and co-written by him along with Berry Gordy and Gwen Gordy. The single did well by peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot R&B singles chart in 1960. The single was recorded in a Doo Wop/Rhythm and Blues style. The follow-up single “My Dearest Darling” peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot R&B singles chart during the same year.
The following year in 1961, Chess Records released another single from the parent album, which included the previous two top five hits. The single was simple entitled “At Last” which almost peaked at the top, reaching number two on the Billboard Hot R&B singles chart. Several years later the single became the second gold single for a female artist signed to Chess Records according to the RIAA, but under a different label, Verve Records, a Jazz label. The single was re-released on September 15th 1992 and obtained certified gold certification on May 23rd 2005 according to the RIAA official website. The single took over forty years to be certified as a gold record! This was Etta’s first and only million-selling single for the label. The final single from the album was “Trust in Me”, which peaked at number four on the same chart listings.
The single “At Last” became an international standard, featured on a film soundtrack and in adverts. The album “At Last” was ranked at number 116 on the Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. As the years progressed, over many decades, the classic hit single “At Last” received key industry recognition by being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. James also received recognition with an award for Life Time Achievement in 2003, which was well-merited, given her unpromising start in life. Etta James was born in Los Angeles
on January 25, 1938. Her real name was Jamesetta Hawkins, her mother was 14 years old and she never knew her father as a child. She had many struggles in her life, but she could sing blues, jazz and soul in a way that made her very special.