Brenda Patterson: Forty Years On

Back cover photo from Brenda Patterson's eponymous 1973 album on Playboy Records, reissued in 2011. Image source; http://www.psychedelicfolk.com

Every once in a while, searching to find out what happened to a singer from the past who should have become much, much better known. One such singer being Brenda Patterson. A few albums in the early 1970s, then no more solo work. A few collaborations in the 1980s and 1990s. Then, largely nothing. Yet she released one album in 1973, the eponymous Brenda Patterson, that was full of heart-wrenching vocals that are as fresh today as nearly forty years ago. Plus, an amazing version of Paul Simon’s, “Congratulations”, arranged by Jim Dickinson. Roaring version of Etta James’ “Dance With Me Henry”. Pieces of the album may be heard here. Maybe it was because she went from Columbia Records to Playboy Records, the latter being a label associated with the magazine, and a label that came and went rather quickly. Picked up the album as deleted, with more than one copy to give away, which I did.

One way or another, an example of so much music that remains superb and timeless, and for some reason doesn’t get reissued.

Maybe should be doing more than just being wistful.

__________________________________________________________________

Postscript, April 14, 2011: Title here and discussion of album originally referenced to thirty years ago. Then realizing and correcting what I can’t believe myself: so much that still is so fresh is now nearly forty and fifty years old, as here…(!)

Postscript, April 15, 2011: I had forgotten that Elvis Costello also recorded a version of “Congratulations” in 1994.

Postscript, May 18, 2011: Passages. One of her major collaborations was with Memphis/Cockrum-based roots musician Carl Wayne “Coon” Elder. Did a search on him to find that he had died in a single-vehicle car accident, at the age of 65, on May 16:

Elder was best known for his work with the Coon Elder Band. The band was part of a wave of progressive rock-oriented country groups to emerge from Memphis in the 1970s, including the Amazing Rhythm Aces. Elder led an outfit that featured songstress Brenda Patterson.

Wondering where she is now…

Postscript, November 5, 2011: Very good news. I have just discovered that the 1973 album has been reissued, at the beginning of 2011, by Big Pink Music–a company based, not in America, but in South Korea.

Postscript, March 31, 2012: Brenda’s superb version of the Etta James classic, “Dance With Me Henry”/”Roll With Me Henry” has now been posted to Youtube:

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13 Responses to Brenda Patterson: Forty Years On

  1. Larry Cohn says:

    I’m the person who signed Brenda Patterson to both CBS/Epic Records and
    Playboy Records. I also produced much of her material. I at that time thought,
    and still do today, that she was the best white rock/soul/blues singer in the
    country. The folks at CBS thought the same but, as things would have it, it
    just didn’t happen for her. Playboy was a shame and despite the fact that
    as President of the Record Company, I personally was treated extremely
    well, the entire endeavor lacked comittment and purpose. I greatly regret
    having left CBS for Playboy.

    Larry Cohn
    A Non-Practising Lawyer

  2. L. Westfall says:

    Brenda is alive and well in Memphis TN. Rarely sings publicly but still gets together with bandmates from Cooley’s House and others to make music. She still sends shivers up your spine when she sings!

    • Terry says:

      Dear L. Westfall:

      If you ever get to see her and talk to her, please tell her that her old friend, Terry, out in L.A. thinks of her often, and when I retire, in about three years, that I’m planning on driving back to Atlanta, where my daughter Marcella lives, with my two grandkids. And I’d sure like to stop by and see her; maybe take her out to dinner, if she’d like.

      Thank you for your time.

      Warmest regards,

      Terry Mauro aka Marzano
      tmauro@pacbell.net

  3. Terry Mauro aka Marzano says:

    I can attest that the Brenda Patterson I knew in 1973 was one of the finest female vocalists to come out of that era. Please don’t forget the backup vocals she arranged and sang on Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ On Heavens Door” from the soundtrack to the movie Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid:

  4. On January 15, 2012, Theresa Mauro (tmauro@pacbell.net) commented in an e-mail message as follows (message and e-mail address reproduced with permission):

    Brenda also had a son named Sean, who was maybe seven or eight years old, back in 1973. Brenda used to take my daughter, Marcella, who was around five or six at the time, and pick up Sean from school, and take them with her, while I was off in class at Los Angeles Community College. She was a great friend and mother, as well as a talented and gifted artist.

    I don’t know if you’re in contact with her, but if she ever checks in with you, tell her I said hello, and have great memories of the time we spent together. I never forget the best ones, and Brenda was one of the best.

  5. Maggie Robertson says:

    I heard Brenda for the first time on Ry Cooder’s The Border soundtrack, where she sang “Building Fires” I am so reminded of Patsy Cline. Truly wish she would put out a CD of new material.

  6. Terry Mauro aka Marzano says:

    Thank you, Bruce, for keeping this page up, as a tribute to my friend. I keep hoping she’ll one day get word that there are people who knew her, who still think of her and have wonderful memories of the time, and years, they spent with her, when she was out here on the West Coast.

    Warmest regards,

    Terry

    • Leah says:

      I just happened to this blog while doing a search about Brenda, who happens to be my father’s sister. She is doing well and still lives in Memphis. I was always in awe of her voice, but I was definitely blessed with the coolest aunt!

      • Terry Mauro aka Marzano aka McDonald says:

        Leah, please tell Brenda, if you have any contact with her, that I miss her, and think of her often. I’m on Facebook under my maiden name, Terry Mauro, but I’m sure Brenda remembers me under the name of Terry Marzano, or Terry McDonald. I was friends with Brenda from 1973 to 1977. Tell her that my daughter, Marcella lives in Atlanta, and remembers Brenda’s son, Sean. In 1973 -74, when Marcella was five years old, Brenda was looking after her while I was at school, and took Sean and Marcella out to Pasadena to her friend Donna Weiss’ house. Donna is a singer and a songwriter, and when she looked at my daughter, she said to Brenda, “She’s got Bette Davis eyes.” Of course, around that time, Donna was putting the words to a melody she had written, and I saw later that she co-wrote it with Jackie DeShannon. Imagine how my thoughts went back to Brenda, when in 1979, while driving home to Thousand Oaks by way of Decker Canyon, Kim Carnes’ recording of “Bette Davis Eyes” came out of my radio. I got goose bumps!

        Anyhow, I’ve been trying to track down Brenda for years, just to let her know that I still think of her and wonder how she’s doing. If your father happens to keep in touch with her, or you happen to speak with her, tell her I’m still out here, but plan to retire in the next five years. I’d love to drive back East, and meet up with her in Memphis, on my way to Atlanta.

        Thank you, and best regards,

        Terry

  7. Leah says:

    Hi Terry, I love hearing the memories you have of Brenda and her son. I love the “Bette Davis Eyes” story (as that was my favorite song at one time). I was very young while she was pursuing music and don’t remember much from that time. I do remember, however, staying up late to watch her on “The Midnight Special“. I am thankful for that memory of her. My knowledge of her music came from the albums she gave my father (which I still have and enjoy). My father also has the gift of voice, but his stage is the church stage. Both of them used to compete in 4-H competitions when they were young. Her son lives near, and has a family. She also has a beautiful daughter. I would be happy to give your information to Brenda, in hopes that you can catch up with each other’s lives, or meet up some day.
    Thank you for sharing a portion of your life and time spent with Brenda.

    Leah

    • Dear Leah, there was a big article about Brenda several days ago in the Austrian newspaper called “Der Standard” (=The Standard). They were praising her and they were
      wondering if she is even still alive.

      Any chance to get in contact with her?

      If not, please tell her that even in Europe she still is a star and people love her incredible voice!

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