Baby Huey (born James Ramey, January 1, 1944 – October 28, 1970) was an American rock and soul singer,
born in Richmond, Indiana. He was the frontman for the band Baby Huey & The Babysitters,
whose single LP for Curtom Records in 1971 was influential in the development of hip hop music.
A native of Richmond, Indiana, James Ramey moved to Chicago, Illinois at the age of nineteen,
and worked with several local bands as a singer. Due to a "glandular disorder", Ramey was a large man,
weighing about 350 pounds (160 kg). His size contributed to his stage presence, but also to health problems.
Nevertheless, he made light of his condition, adopting the stage name "Baby Huey" after Paramount Pictures’
giant duckling cartoon character of the same name. In 1963, Ramey, organist/trumpeter Melvin "Deacon" Jones,
and guitarist Johnny Ross founded a band called Baby Huey & the Babysitters,
which became a popular local act and released several 45 RPM singles, including "Beg Me", "Monkey Man",
"Messin’ with the Kid" and "Just Being Careful".
During the late-1960s, the band followed the lead of Sly & the Family Stone and became a psychedelic soul act.
Huey began wearing an Afro and donned psychedelic African-inspired robes, and adding sing-song,
self-referential rhymes to his live performances. According to his bandmates, Ramey’s rhymes were very similar
in style to those later popularized by rappers in hip-hop music. The Babysitters were a popular live act,
but never took the time out to record an album.
In 1969, the band’s agent Marv Heiman secured them an audition with Curtom Records arranger Donny Hathaway.
Hathaway was impressed by the act, and got Curtom Records head Curtis Mayfield to sign Baby Huey, but not the band.
Although the band participated in the recording of Ramey’s debut album, there were feelings of unease among them,
and Ross and Jones quit the band during the recording.
By 1970, Ramey had developed an addiction to heroin, and his weight had increased to over 400 pounds.
He began regularly missing gigs or turning up late, and, at the insistence of his bandmates, briefly entered rehabilitation
in the spring of 1970. James Ramey died of a heart attack on October 28, 1970, at the age of 26, and was found around noon
in his hotel bathroom by his manager. His funeral was held on November 1, in his native Richmond, Indiana.
Baby Huey & the Babysitters’ album, The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend, was released after the death
of their lead singer. Produced by Curtis Mayfield, the album featured several Mayfield compositions, as well as a cover of
Sam Cooke’s "A Change Is Gonna Come" and two original compositions by Ramey. The album did not sell well upon its original
release, and was largely forgotten by the mainstream. Today, the album is considered a classic of its period.
Several songs from The Baby Huey Story, including "Hard Times", "Listen to Me", and "Mighty Mighty Children",
have been frequently sampled by hip hop producers since the 1980s. "Hard Times" alone has been sampled by dozens of artists,
including Ice Cube ("The Birth", Death Certificate),
A Tribe Called Quest ("Can I Kick It?", People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm),
Ghostface Killah ("Buck 50", Supreme Clientele), and others. Many people, including the Babysitters themselves,
see The Baby Huey Story as a significant and important influence on hip hop music.
After Ramey’s death, The Babysitters briefly employed a young Chaka Khan as their lead singer before disbanding.
The members went their separate ways to work as instrumentalists in other bands, although they regularly participate
in projects involving their past work with Baby Huey & the Babysitters.
The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend is the only available release of Baby Huey. Several singles, including "Beg Me",
"Monkey Man", "Messin’ with the Kid" and "Just Being Careful" are not included.
01 "Listen To Me" (6:35)
02 "Mama Get Yourself Together" (6:10)
03 "A Change Is Going To Come" (9:23)
04 "Mighty, Mighty" (2:45)
05 "Hard Times" (3:19)
06 "California Dreamin’" (4:43)
07 "Running" (3:36)
08 "One Dragon Two Dragon" (4:02)
09 "Mighty, Mighty Children Pt. 1 (2:28)
10 "Running (Previously Unissued Mono)" (2:52)
11 "Hard Times (Previously Unissued Mono" (3:20)