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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Baby Huey and the Babysitters

Baby Huey/James Ramey

Baby Huey (born James Ramey, August 17, 1944 - October 28, 1970) was an American rock and soul singer, born inRichmond, Indiana. He was the frontman for the band Baby Huey & The Babysitters, whose single LP for Curtom Records in 1971 was influential in the development of hip hop music.

A native of Richmond, Indiana, James Ramey moved to Chicago, Illinois at the age of nineteen, and worked with several local bands as a singer. Due to a "glandular disorder", Ramey was a large man, weighing about 350 pounds (160 kg). His size contributed to his stage presence, but also to health problems. Nevertheless, he made light of his condition, adopting the stage name "Baby Huey" after Paramount Pictures' giant duckling cartoon character of the same name. In 1963, Ramey, organist/trumpeter Melvyn "Deacon" Jones, and guitarist Johnny Ross founded a band called Baby Huey & the Babysitters, which became a popular local act and released several 45 RPM singles, including "Beg Me", "Monkey Man", "Messin' with the Kid" and "Just Being Careful".
During the late-1960s, the band followed the lead of Sly & the Family Stone and became a psychedelic soul act. Huey began wearing an Afro and donned psychedelic African-inspired robes, and adding sing-song, self-referential rhymes to his live performances. According to his bandmates, Ramey's rhymes were very similar in style to those later popularized by rappers in hip-hop music. The Babysitters were a popular live act, but never took the time out to record an album.
In 1969, the band's agent Marv Heiman secured them an audition with Curtom Records arranger Donny Hathaway. Heiman states that Hathaway came by the Thumbs Up club and was very impressed by the act, and got Curtom Records head Curtis Mayfield to come the following night. Mayfield wanted to sign Baby Huey, but not the band. Although the band participated in the recording of Ramey's debut album, there were feelings of unease among them, and Jones quit the band during the recording. It's also likely that Ross had quit some time before.
By 1970, Ramey had developed an addiction to heroin, and his weight had increased to over 400 pounds. He began regularly missing gigs or turning up late, and, at the insistence of his bandmates, briefly entered rehabilitation in the spring of 1970. In addition to the heroin problem, Ramey was also drinking. Melvyn Jones had described in his book an incident that took place: while pouring his breakfast cereal, Ramey's drug kit fell out of the box. James Ramey died of a heart attack on October 28, 1970, at the age of 26, and was found around noon in his hotel bathroom by his manager. His funeral was held on November 1, in his native Richmond, Indiana.

Baby Huey's album, The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend, was released after his death. Produced by Curtis Mayfield, the album featured several Mayfield compositions, as well as a cover of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" and two original compositions by Ramey. The album did not sell well upon its original release, and was largely forgotten by the mainstream. Today, the album is considered a classic of its period.
On October 7, 1971, Jet Magazine ran a small piece on how his mother Mrs Ernestine Ramey Saine was granted authorisation to audit the records of two recording firms including Curtom Records. The order also permitted her to evaluate an undetermined estate left by him. According to Chicago attorney Vernon M. Rhinehart, Ramey had a salary that was $3,500 per week.
Several songs from The Baby Huey Story, including "Hard Times", "Listen to Me", and "Mighty Mighty Children", have been frequently sampled by hip hop producers since the 1980s. "Hard Times" alone has been sampled by dozens of artists, including Ice Cube ("The Birth", Death Certificate), A Tribe Called Quest ("Can I Kick It?", People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm), Ghostface Killah ("Buck 50", Supreme Clientele), and others. John Legend and The Roots covered "Hard Times" for their 2010 album Wake Up!. Many people, including the Babysitters themselves, see The Baby Huey Story as a significant and important influence on hip hop music.

So here are all of the the tracks recorded with The Babysitters, and all of the solo work.....enjoy!

Listen to me
Mama get yourself together
A change is gonna come
Mighty mighty (live)
Hard times
California Dreamin
One dragon two dragon
Beg me
Just being careful
Messing with the kid
Monkey man


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. nice one... been meaning to find this for a while now.

    thanks! ^_^

    found you via den o'sin, btw. cheers!

  3. Wow! A friend of mine was in The Babysitters. Thanks for bringing them to light.

  4. Messin' With the Kid and Monkey Man were two sides of a pre-Curtdom 45 on the Satellite label out of Chicago (not the Satellite that became Stax), I believe from late '66.

  5. The other Satellite, yup, and I do believe there is yet another Satellite Records in and house music, if I am correct. :)

  6. Great tunes, thanks for posting these. I was only aware of a couple of the Curtom tracks, the whole LP is great. Love the early stuff too.

  7. Nice .. wish they had more music in their catalog

  8. Who was his manager that found him? Does anyone know?