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ANN PEEBLES APRIL 1975 INTERVIEW
LEARNING TO COPE WITH THE RAIN
BEING the recording artist for a classic can have almost as many pitfalls as advantages. The history of our music is littered with names who have been associated with gems and then simply been unable to come up with a repeat performance. In most cases, it isn't that the luckless person is lacking in talent — it's simply that such a high standard has been set that it becomes virtually impossible to match it. One such example that springs to mind is Lorraine Ellison, whose classic recording of "Stay With Me" remains to this day one of our music's greatest advertisements. With this background borne in mind, I hesitantly put the question to the lovely Ms. Ann Peebles that was such a situation possible following the accolades that were heaped on her following "I Can't Stand The Rain", acknowledged the world over as a gem. People like John Lennon and Elton John acclaimed the record as a stroke of sheer musical genius and I seriously wondered how the somewhat reserved purveyor of such brilliance felt about it. "I certainly don't feel that 'Rain' could ever be a drawback for me," she quietly pointed out, taking the question in the serious mood required. "I think that it will always serve as an incentive to try harder to reproduce another record of the standard of 'I Can't Stand The Rain'. It certainly helped me to become recognised and that has helped me immensely. And since that record, I have found a lot of people showing interest in the records I made before 'Rain' and there's a definite increase in my record sales since it. When 'Rain' became so popular, a lot of people dug into my earlier career to find out what I had been doing before."

Of course, one of the big advantages that Ann Peebles will always have over a lot of the one-hit-wonder brigade (and I certainly don't look upon Lorraine Ellison as being part of this hoarde!) is that she has undeniable talent and a string of earlier hits to illustrate my point. She also has a bunch of people rooting for her who will never allow her to "fade away". And the two main men in that group are her effervescent husband, writer and recording artist, Don Bryant; and, of course, the Memphis magician himself, Willie Mitchell, whose musical recipe has proven so successful in recent years. Willie has been particularly shrewd lately because he has broadened his scope and bounced back with a string of new Al Green hits. And Ann's new single, "Beware", shows just how much change has taken place on the banks of the Mississippi. Actually, change isn't the right word because that basic ingredient is still there. "I feel that 'Beware' is the best thing I've done since 'Rain'," Ann proudly boasts but with intense conviction. "And when I get home, my first job will be to finish the album. Much of the material has been written by Don, with other co-writers from the Hi family. And whereas I've always been associated with sad songs in the past, the new album shows me in a new light. Naturally, I'll always sing love songs because that's a universal message — but you'll find me singing more happy songs on this new album. I'm certainly not going to try and reproduce another 'Can't Stand The Rain'. A song like that comes once in a lifetime and if I'm ever lucky enough to come up with another one, then I'll count my blessings — but I can't make it happen, it has to come spontaneously."

The story of the birth of "I Can't Stand The Rain" has been told in the pages of B&S several times so it will suffice to merely offer a precise version this time around. Husband Don and Ann were writing new material in their Memphis home one evening and the weather outside was somewhat foul — to put it mildly! But it lit a spark of ingenuity in the twosome's mind and they wrote the song on the spot. Having made an excited phone call to Willie Mitchell across the city, they were all in the studio the next day to record. The rest is history and the finished product will probably go down in history as one of our music's greatest creations.

But Ann is adament that there are cuts on that new album that she feels are as strong as "I Can't Stand The Rain" — only in a different vein. "There are three songs that particularly excite me," she enthuses. "One is called 'Tell The World', another is 'Thankful' and the third is 'Thank God For You'. 'Tell The World' is a love song but it's a love of life song and not a love for someone special type idea. We always write love songs because there will always be a demand for them. People want to hear about all aspects of loving — whether it be the ups or the downs, most people have experienced both ends, right?"

The Bryants — Don and Ann — are both avid Memphians now, having lived in the city of Memphis since their marriage two years back. Ann herself hails from St. Louis, where she was born on April 27, 1947. Coming from a large family of eleven children, she spent her childhood years singing with the family gospel choir the Peebles Choir at the local Baptist Church. "I was nine when I first started singing in the choir," Ann recalls. "Along with my five brothers and five sisters, we used to sing under under the direction of my father. It was my father who really encouraged me to follow the career I've chosen. No, he wasn't upset that I chose to sing pop, R&B or whatever instead of staying with gospel. The choir is still in existence in St. Louis and there are still nine of my brothers and sisters involved. And there are some grandchildren coming along now to help out! My father plays guitar and some harmonica as well as conducting the singers. He is very talented himself and I believe that if he had been allowed the opportunity, he could easily have been a star in his own right. But of course, all of this happened before such opportunities were open to people such as he. In his heart, I think he always had a secret dream to be a singer professionally. But he could not — so he lives his dreams through me, perhaps. Whenever Don and I go back home to St. Louis, we always join in with the choir for the weekend — and we really love it, I'll tell you! In fact, every opportunity we get, we drive to St. Louis to be with the family. And they'll surprise us as often as they can by coming to Memphis to be with us. But Memphis has become our home — it's Don's natural home but it's also the base for our business. And Memphis has the advantage of being a crossroad for the music industry. There's no other place like it and I could never try and live anywhere else now. It's such a warm and loving place — in fact, it's just where I want to be. The only place I've ever been that can even come close to it is Europe — and particularly Britain. And I'm not just saying that, I mean it. This is my fourth time here but it's Don's first — and he really loves it over here because it reminds him so much of home. People over here have that warm, family type closeness that folks in Memphis have. And you don't get that too much in America today.

This fourth trip also offered a new Ann Peebles because she was sporting a smashing blonde rinse through her hair — I'm sure that hair stylists will take me to task over that description but I'm not that well up in the world of the coiffeurs! "I've actually had it that way for about four months now," Ann smiled, trying to decide whether I approved or not — approval was an easy answer! "I wanted to try something bold and you can't get any bolder! I was in the beauty shop and I asked to have my long hair cut short — and I asked the lady what she could do to make it look different. She suggested a brown rinse so I thought I would go all the way and have a blonde rinse! I'll keep it that way for a while — until I get bored with it and want to try something new." According to Don, his wife is liable to have spontaneous decisions like this and though he admits a certain element of surprise when he first saw it, he now not only likes it but understands where she is coming from. It certainly adds a new dimension to the subtle beauty of the very feminine Ms. Peebles. And I tend to agree with the British customs official who specially stopped Ann on her way through customs — to compliment her on the way she looked with her striking blonde hair.


  
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