Jimmy Hughes was born in 1938 in Leighton, Alabama. As with many of the great soul singers, Jimmy began singing in a church choir, The Singing Clouds. At eight years of age he was showing enough talent to be given the chance to sing lead. Reaching his teens he decided on a singing career, spending many years with a variety of gospel and spiritual groups. 1963 saw Jimmy turn to secular music. Producer Rick Hall of Fame Records persuaded him to cut his first sides. The result being his first record 'I'm Qualified' US Jamie, which although gaining a lot of air play throughout the Southern States, failed to chart. In 1964 it was a different story with his second release 'Steal Away'/'Lollipops, Lace and Lipstick' US Fame. This particular record has a place in the history of soul music, being the first record totally masterminded at Fame (no longer our tobacco barn, Fame had now moved to Avalon Avenue studio) the first hit for the new studio, and the first 45 on the Fame label. Rick Hall was unable to find an outlet for one such master, so he decided to go it alone by forming the Fame label.


'Steal Away', a gospel-influenced adultery saga, has Hughes crying and wailing, and was a huge hit on the R&B charts, even managing 17 pop. This launched his career, putting him on the endless circuit of one-nighters. Follow up singles failed to make much impact until 1966 when the compulsive 'Neighbor Neighbor'/'It's A Good Thing', US Fame, saw Hughes storm both R&B and Pop charts once again.(I remember Graham Bond always performing a storming live version of 'Neighbor Neighbor') Actually the B side, an Oldham-Penn number 'Its A Good Thing' has always had more spins on my deck than the A side. An underrated up-tempo jogger. 1967 saw 'Why Not Tonight', another R&B chart success. He failed to chart again for Fame. A move to Atlantic Records, then to Stax/Volt achieved only minor chart success, although 1968 saw 'I Like Everything About You' climb to R&B 21, this being his last chart record.


Always the reluctant artist, lacking any real ambition to be a celebrity, he retired from music altogether in 1974, dying of cancer in January 1997.


John “Soulboy” Joliffe