“Didn’t It Rain” by Evelyn Freeman & the Exciting Voices

jazz67.jpegThe first Bel Canto label 45 was “Didn’t It Rain” b/w “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” a thrilling vocal credited to Evelyn Freeman & the Exciting Voices, which according to Ellison White, had as many as 14 singers, including White and Freeman’s husband, Tommy Roberts, Gwen Johnson, sister of Ray and Plas Johnson, Johnny Woodson of the Kuff Linx, Margaret Bradford and bassman George Bledsoe on violin. That same unit also backed Peggy Lee on her 1958 hit, “All Right, OK, You Win.”

Freeman was sister of Ernie Freeman and had a gospel career before crossing over to R&B. Though “Didn’t It Rain” saw no action upon release, years later the tremendous vocals and throbbing bass line made it an underground hit, especially for those with in-car record players used to provide the soundtrack for cruising the local boulevards. As a result, “Didn’t It Rain” b/w “Water Boy” (from Freeman’s Bel Canto LP) was picked up for release on the United Artists label

Bel Canto was operated by Russ Malloy at 2919 S. LaCienega Blvd. in Culver City and was in existence from mid-1958. Bel Canto turned out to be less interested in vinyl recordings than in newly marketed stereo, releasing their product line on just-introduced two-track reel-to-reel tapes, thought to be the wave of the stereo future. In 1959, their two-track product line was converted to the more popular four-track format.

TRW (Thompson Ramo Wooldridge Inc) bought out Bel Canto and also made deals with Liberty, Dot, Disneyland and Mercury to release their catalog on tape to provide product for release on cartridge tapes and the system needed to play them. Out of this early phase came eight-track and cassette technology of the mid to late 1960s.

At about the same time of the U.A. label reissue of “Didn’t It Rain,” Imperial recorded Freeman on the soundalike, “Didn’t It Rock Pt. 1 & 2,” but the original was by far the best.On the final week of Nov. 1964, a full six years after the song first saw light of day on 45, Wallich’s Music City ranked “Didn’t It Rain” on United Artists at #1 on their Flashbacks list, a tribute to one of the best of 1958, which never hit in its day. Most of the 1964 buyers blasted the bottom-heavy song on their in-car turntables as they cruised the local avenues.

After the demise of Bel-Canto as an active record label, the Evelyn Freeman Singers backed Hollywood Flames lead signer Earl Nelson on “No Time To Cry” b/w “Come On” on Ebb in 1959. However, as Ebb had its greatest success with the Hollywood Flames, this experiment of trying to turn one of the group’s lead singers in to the next Bobby Day, who had a very successful career outside of the Flames, was quickly abandoned and he rejoined the group for a series of Ebb releases as well as being part of the original “Gee Whiz” Bob & Earl on Class.

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11 Responses to ““Didn’t It Rain” by Evelyn Freeman & the Exciting Voices”

  1. david kilby Says:

    ack in the early sixties I used to frequent a second hand ship in Sydney that I later realised was where some radio stations used to dispose of the records that they received but didn’t use.I used to buy them for 1/6 or 2 shillings….occasionally 3/6….mostly on spec…I’d be drawn either by the artist’s name (especially if it sounded black)…the title or the label.Unfortunately I was an impoverished student so the volume on ‘interesting’ names vastly exceeded what I could purchase.
    The Exciting Voices of Evelyn Freeman doing a song called Didn’t It Rain(United artists label) sounded like it had possibilities so I bought it. When I got it home and played it I loved it and it still remains one of my all time favourites. Years later I picked up Didn’t It Rock from an American record list but(I agree) it never reached the heights that Rain reached.
    Four years ago my wife and I were travelling the USA and pulled in to Yuma. Our youngest son and I popped into an Op shop that had spme records. There was nothing remotely of interest until the 2nd last in the pile. It was the Bel Canto LP of Didn’t It Rain !!
    Incidentally I paid full price for a 78 copy of Raunchy when i was a kid and since then have been fascinated following Ernie Freeman’s chameleon like musical career…even bought him when he called himself Sir Chauncy !

  2. HenriB Says:

    Didn’t It Rain. One of my all time favorite records!!! I found the stereo of it on reel-to-reel and the long version. I also found the stereo LP!!!!!

  3. Jack Molloy Says:

    Thank you for posting a wonderful essay about Evelyn Freeman and ‘Didn’t It Rain’. It was a short cut on the Bel Canto demonstration record that I wore out listening to over and over and over again. Russ Molloy was my dad. He has since past away and I miss him.

  4. Jennifer Says:

    Thank you for sharing, very cool!

  5. 2010 in review « 45 RPM Says:

    […] “Didn’t It Rain” by Evelyn Freeman & the Exciting Voices December 2007 4 comments 3 […]

  6. adrian stern Says:

    this song was a great favourite in the London and Paris discothèques during the 60’s. it’s a wonderful jive record and still makes me want to get up an groove

  7. Jacques Michell Says:

    I still have my copy of the reel-to-reel version of Didn’t It Rain which I bought at Smith’s Records in New Orleans in the early ‘60’s. The album contains Didn’t It Rain, Deep River, Let Us Break Bread Together, All God’s Children, Well, I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray, Ol’ Arks A-Moverin’, Steal Away, Lord, I Want To Be a Christian, and Go Down Moses.

    I’ve transferred the album to iTunes so I can still enjoy, and be moved, by these beautiful hymns so beautifully performed.

  8. LowRider Says:

    After years of looking for this song by Evelyn Freeman, I finally found an old 45 and digitized it. Brings back many memories of my low riding days cruising in SoCal in the mid sixties with my ARC 45 record player under the dash.

    Your article gave me a lot of unknown information. Thanks!

  9. Jordon Dabney Says:

    Evelyn is my great-grand mother, and I’m so happy someone finally posted something about her

  10. marty13957 Says:

    First heard it in 1962 but could never find it, then late one night I heard the last 30 seconds on some fm station.. I called up and the dj told me the lady I wanted was Evelyn Freeman…since then I’ve bought 8 lp’s..and a few 45s..
    2. bel canto?. “stereo demonstration record”
    2. gold albums..
    bel canto..stereo
    1. Album with a cross on it..stereo
    3. Blue album..united artists in “high fidelity”
    Ps there’s a great version on you tube.

  11. Jim Fullen Says:

    Thanks for the bio…..had a darn time finding it! I have a website devoted to album (12″ LP’s) price guide. I linked Evelyn Freeman to this page! Thanks
    http://insanevinyl.com

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