Mimi Roman – First of the Brooklyn Cowgirls
Kitty Ford – Pussycat
The reason these two names are combined in this review is that these ladies are one & the same. There’s the excellent country singer Mimi Roman & the equally skillful pop singer Kitty Ford.
Singers did this at times – Jackie Ward became Robin Ward for the pop song “Wonderful Summer.” However, Mimi Roman — a charming, attractive Bronx-born, Brooklyn-bred C&W singer is quite convincing the moment she starts to sing Hank Williams’ “Weary Blues From Waiting.” She must have impressed someone because the New Yorker made it to the Grand Ole Opry.
In the early material, Mimi sounds like 1920s chanteuse Lee Morse who also had a wonderful lilting yodel as she sang. These cuts on the double-CD First of the Brooklyn Cowgirls (Dropped Aug 26– Sundazed) were restored from retrieved 78 rpm acetates, old live performances, radio, tv programs, & demos. In most cases, it all stands up remarkably well. Many are standard fare performances, but Mimi’s distinctive voice & personality should’ve led to a major career. But like the 1920s singer Annette Hanshaw & 60s powerhouse Timi Yuro (“Hurt”) – the record labels didn’t know what to do with these artists. Country? Pop? Easy listening? Jazz? Middle-of-the-road? Adult contemporary?
The double Roman CD has 16 cuts on CD1 (37:00) & 19 on CD2 (42:00). The Ford CD Pussycat (46:00) has 19-tracks. All produced by Joseph Hopkins & Jay Millar.
Many songs are commercially viable such as “I’m Lookin’ For Some Lovin’” with its Sue Thompson-Loretta Lynn sincerity. Roman never comes off hokey & songs like “Wrap It Up & Save It,” have some wonderful fiddle sawing & carefully tread the novelty tightrope – but she succeeds. Her vocal range is impressive. All performances, no matter how thin due to the technology still provide consistent melody, lyrical cleverness & mainstream catchiness.
Highlights – I’m The One Who Loves You,” “Route 66,” “Rocky Road Blues,” (excellent), “Gotta Have My Baby Back,” (Patsy Cline tradition) & “Four Feet Deep In Teardrops,” (wonderful).
Mimi did record for major labels (Decca, Capitol, Warner Brothers, Smash & Kapp). Had name musicians play on her songs – Chet Atkins (guitar) & Owen Bradley (piano) among several others & she was a friend of Elvis Presley.
The double collection has a handsome 24-page stitched insert that’s well done. CD2 has better sound quality & Mimi’s voice is captured pristinely. “You Win Again,” is delightful. But even though her professional career ended before 30 she went on as a demo/studio singer as Kitty Ford.
With the release of Mimi’s alter-ego, the more pop commercial Kitty Ford’s Pussycat (Drops August 26–Sundazed) was a complete turnaround musically. This 19-song set is primarily previously unissued restored & mastered music culled from her personal reels, acetates, demos & 78s.
This Ford CD is a little less annotated but a generous find for aficionados of early 60s pop music. Here, with its tantalizing title cut in a cool Julie London-Peggy Lee style, Ford is not as suggestive as Rusty Warren’s sin-sational songs. Ford sings her with acceptable humor & class. I’m surprised today’s R&B female singers haven’t picked up on songs such as this.
These deal more with the angst of teen love; heartbreak & Kitty goes from a Patsy Cline tone to a Connie Francis resonance. Quite convincingly too. The energetic “Think” is a pop that could’ve influenced a young Lesley Gore who made a career of these types of songs.
A light-hearted influence cruises in with a Bert Kaemphert’s Orchestra trumpet touch in “Poupee,” (which needs a better title for the USA). It’s a Euro-driven melodic tune that could fit into any one of the early 60s comedy films.
Then a surprise, a calypso-driven melody “Sisal Twine,” with its island beat & reggae flavor long before reggae became popular stateside. This could be rearranged today by a reggae artist & become a hit. Kitty’s also quite diversified – she provides a Spanish-tinted “Pachanga,” which is equally enchanting.
Many songs are light, nothing heavy & no edgy topics. “I Love You Conrad,” was the demo for a song that went to the Broadway play & film “Bye, Bye Birdie,” sung by Ann-Margret & Bobby Rydell. In the demo, Kitty sings with an effective adolescent voice as Robin Ward did in “Wonderful Summer,” (the reason Jackie Ward changed her name on it).
Then comes some prison-noir with “Blue Diamond Ring,” with its “Peter Gunn” themed dark but with bright singing & punchy strings approach. The Everly Brothers hit with “Let It Be Me,” but Kitty’s near Euro-accordion accentuated French touch has her voice conjuring tears – a great performance.
The balance of the CD has some Patti Page type easy listening songs, strings for heavy pop ballads all sung warmly & obviously meant as jukebox fodder. Today, the music is fun to listen to. Upon closer inspection, there’s no denying the cleverness of the arrangements & some lyrics.
What’s sad is that record companies & music publishers invest money in such good work, then not be sure what to do with it, how to market it, or sell it to another artist. Mimi Roman & Kitty Ford didn’t get a fair shake – and they deserved it. Both Mimi & Kitty were as good as any major performer. There was no lack of talent…and I guess judging from these CDs — no lack of trying.
B&W photos courtesy of Mimi Roman’s personal collection. CDs @ Barnes & Nobel & Amazon + https://sundazed.com/roman-mimi-first-of-the-brooklyn-cowgirls-2cd.aspx