Swing Shift Austin, TX

March 24, 2012 by staff 

Swing Shift Austin, TX, ABOUT DONNA: She had been discovered in 1951 in Chicago by “Chicago Defender” reporter, Bob Tilman. He was in the diner where Hightower was a cook and heard singing in the kitchen. He asked the waitress to turn up the radio so he could hear the orchestra.

She looked at him all funny and said, “oh, that’s no radio, that’s Donna Hightower, she drives us crazy singing all the time!” The reporter helped Donna get her first singing gig at the Crown Propeller in Chicago, where she was discovered (again) by Decca Recording Company scouts, and made a few records under the name “Little Donna Hightower,” including “I Ain’t In The Mood.” She later moved to California and recorded for RPM records and sang at a number of clubs throughout the country.

By 1958, she was in New York City, working for a music publishing house. In those days, they would bring a singer in and cut acetate records of the latest tune they wished to push, and would mail these out to record companies. Donna cut some sides, one of which (“Light of Love”) was heard by Peggy Lee and Capital Record producer, Dave Cavanaugh.

In early 1958, jazz great Dakota Staton was asked to make another record for Capital but, she was a follower of numerology, and felt that the time wasn’t right. Needing an artist, Cavanaugh remembered a singer he heard on the music company acetate. Capital contacted the music house, who called Donna’s agent, who then called Donna and told her that Capital wanted to record her. Donna– who lives in Austin, Texas now and still makes occasional appearances– loves talking about these sessions. She picked the songs (with Mr. Cavanaugh’s approval, of course) and she and the musicians worked out head arrangments to the songs. She nailed the songs in one take each, hence the name “Take One.” The record was released on January 5, 1959.

She went back into the studio about six months later and cut the tracks for “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You,” but the album was not released until November 16, 1959. By then, Donna had moved to Europe, where she would live for the next thirty years.
Her big break came in Spain during the early 1970′s, where she had a series of successful recordings with Danny Daniel, and as a solo artist with “This World Today is a Mess,” which hit gold and made her an international star. She retired and moved to Austin, Texas in 1990. She still makes occasional appearances and thrilled more than 5,000 crowd members in Spain when she performed there in 2006 and 2007.

Capital has never gone back into their vaults and released these recordings (nor the promo sides she cut at the time). The sonics on this CD are pretty good but you should be aware, these are not taken from the studio session tapes but rather, remastered from LP’s. (Put on headphones and you’ll be able to hear that.) Had we access to those masters, we’d probably get to hear “Take One” in true stereo but alas, we only have mono here for those tracks. “Gee Baby” was released in both mono and stereo; the tracks here are stereo. Thus, this is the source of my rating it as a three only– not because of Donna’s fabulous singing– but because of the fact it’s from LP sources, rather than the original tapes.

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