The story behind the LP Etta James Rocks the House

Nashville Scene look back 50 years at the recording of the Etta James classic LP Etta James Rocks the House.


Etta James LP Cover | AllMusic | tc260

Sitting close to the stage, producer Ralph Bass oversaw the recording of James’ shows on Sept. 27 and 28, 1963. In his original liner notes for Etta James Rocks the House, he described the opening song of her performance: ” ‘Something’s Got a Hold on Me’ was called by Etta, and the band counted off the tempo and were gone! As the song progressed, Etta caught fire. … A groove developed midway through the song, and I forgot everything technical. … She reached heights never before captured in the studio.”

Etta James Rocks the House was released in 1964. Initially, it barely scraped the Billboard album chart, making it to just No. 96. But over the next 50 years, its reputation would grow, and the force of James’ performance has endured in what many consider one of the greatest live blues and R&B recordings in history. But behind the triumphs of James’ music was a darker side. On the cover of the album a bandage is plainly visible on her wrist. It masked the physical marks of a heroin addiction that soon brought devastation to her life and career.


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