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‘Mama, he treats your daughter mean’: Reassessing the narrative of British R&B with Ottilie Patterson

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 March 2021

Sean Lorre
Affiliation:
Rutgers University
Corresponding
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Abstract

The phenomenon of British R&B is most often understood in terms of young, white, middle-class British men turning to the ‘down-home’ sounds of black American men for musical motivation. This article offers a revision to this dominant narrative by reinserting ‘slim, lively Irish girl’ Ottilie Patterson, the UK's most popular blues singer before 1963. I analyse the content and context of Patterson's 1961 album, Rhythm and Blues with Ottilie Patterson, drawing from contemporaneous mass-media discourse as well as Patterson's own notebooks held at Britain's National Jazz Archive. Patterson's performances captured on this record demonstrate how R&B was first publicly (re-)presented and understood in the UK. I argue that Patterson's work challenges the assumptions that (a) British R&B began with the formation of Alexis Korner's Blue Incorporated and (b) the R&B revival was predominately motivated by the appropriation and vicarious expression of African-American hypermasculinity.

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Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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