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Born Otha Lee Moore, 22 May 1930, Chicago, Illinois - Died 16 August 1964, Chicago, Illinois
"Tiny in the same spirit you'd call a bald man curly, Tiny Topsy definitely had the lungpower to match her name", writes Mark Lamarr in the liner notes for the CD "Roc-King Up A Storm" (Westside WESA 801). She was one of those big-voiced R&B women of the mid to late 50s, with a style close to that of LaVern Baker, Big Maybelle and Big Mama Thornton. Her real name has been a mystery. for years, but early in 2008 someone in Berlin discovered that it was Otha Lee Moore Hall (she was married to Samuel Hall) .Before her recording career, Tiny sang with Al Smith's 8-piece jazz/R&B club band, which was formed in Chicago in 1945. This group broke up in 1952 without having been recorded. Al Smith's band went on to become the house band for labels like Chance, Parrot and Vee-Jay and turned out 81 sessions between 1952 and 1959, but without Tiny's involvement. More info on Al Smith at:
Tiny's first recording session was held in Cincinnati on July 9, 1957 and resulted in the bouncy "Aw! Shucks Baby" (Federal 12302), with a great tenor solo by Ray Felder. The label credit reads "Tiny Topsy With The Five Chances". The flip was a cover of "Miss You So", a Top 10 R&B hit for Lillian Offitt (Excello 2104, also # 66 pop). A third track from this session, "A Woman's Intuition", remained unissued until 1988. Her next two singles - both solid rockers - "Come On, Come On, Come On" (Federal 12309) and "You Shocked Me" (Federal 12315) both saw a UK release on the Parlophone label, quite surprising, considering the rarity of US R&B releases in Blighty at that time. (When Elmore James died in 1963, none of his records had been issued in the UK during his lifetime.)
Tiny Topsy's fourth Federal single is a very interesting one. Written by the aforementioned Bernice Williams, it is called "Western Rock 'n' Roll" and incorporates snippets of then-current hits (Lollipop, At the Hop, Get a Job, Short Shorts). It opens with gunshots and probably for that reason, Dave Penny (yes, the same one) calls it a "Western Movies pastiche" in his 1988 liner notes for the LP "Aw! Shucks Baby". However, the recording date of "Western Rock 'n' Roll" (March 19, 1958) predates the release date of the Olympics hit by some three months. So it looks like the sound effects on "Western Movies" were inspired by "Western Rock 'n' Roll" instead of the other way round.
Tiny Topsy certainly was a trendsetter, because her next single (and her last one for Federal) was the original of what has become a classic : "Just A Little Bit". Rosco Gordon had a # 2 R&B hit with his version in 1960 and the song has been covered by countless people, including Jerry Lee Lewis on his "Southern Roots" album.
After leaving Federal, Tiny had only one further single released, "Working On Me Baby", coupled with "How You Changed" (Argo 5383). In the UK, "How You Changed" was retitled "After Marriage Blues" (Pye International N 25104).
An alternate take of "Aw! Shucks Baby" was released by King in 1963, not long before her untimely death at the age of only 34. She never scored a hit, but her small legacy is thoroughly enjoyable.
Her complete Federal recordings were assembled on the LP "Aw! Shucks Baby" (Sing 1161, distributed by Official Records, Copenhagen). Dave Penny's valuable sleeve notes for this album were very helpful.
There's a discography at http://koti.mbnet.fi/wdd/tinytopsy.htm