An entertainment pioneer, Hadda Brooks


Hadda Brooks
Date: 
Sat, 1916-10-21

Hadda Brooks was born on this date in 1916. She was an African American pianist and singer.

She was born in Los Angeles, and at the age of four, at her request, her parents gave her piano lessons. After she attended public schools, she later studied classical music. In 1941, she married Earl “Shug” Morrison of the Harlem Globetrotters. He died within the first year of their marriage and Brooks never remarried. In the mid- to late 1940s, black popular music began to change from swing jazz and boogie-woogie into the sort of rhythm & blues that helped lay the foundation for rock & roll.

As a singer and pianist Brooks was one of the many noteworthy figures aiding that transition, although she's largely forgotten today. While her torch song delivery was from the big band era, her boogie-woogie piano looked forward to jump blues and R&B. Ironically, the same qualities that made her briefly successful, her elegant vocals and jazzy arrangements, left her ill-equipped to compete in the music business when harder-driving forms of rhythm & blues and early rock & roll began to dominate the marketplace in the early '50s.

Brooks actually preferred ballads to boogie-woogies, but worked up her style by listening to Pete Johnson, Albert Ammons, and Meade Lux Lewis records. Her first record, "Swingin' the Boogie,” was a sizable regional hit in 1945. Brooks' first records were instrumental, but by 1946, she was singing as well. She had a fair amount of success in the late '40s, reaching the R&B Top Ten with "Out of the Blue" and her most famous song, "That's My Desire." Her success on record led to some roles in films, most notably in a scene from "In a Lonely Place," which starred Humphrey Bogart.

In the mid 1950’s, Brooks briefly withdrew from recording into the nightclub circuit. For most of the 1960s, she was based in Australia, where she hosted her own TV show (1957, KCOP TV Los Angeles). Her profile was boosted in the mid-'90s by her induction into the Rhythm & Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, and by the inclusion of her recording of "Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere" in the film "The Crossing Guard." A new album on Pointblank, "Time Was When," was released in early 1996. She died on November 21st, 2002 in Los Angeles.

Reference:
ACSAP Biographical Dictionary
R. R. Bowker Co., Copyright 1980
ISBN 0-8351-1283-1

Heart & Soul:
A Celebration of Black Music Style in America 1930-1975
by Merlis Davin Seay, Forward by Etta James
Copyright 2002, Billboard Books
ISBN 0-8230-8314-4

To Become a Musician or Singer

Person / name: 

Brooks, Hadda