Erma Franklin “Don’t Wait Too Long” (Epic 9559-B, 1963)
*Happy Birthday Erma Franklin*
The oft overlooked older sister of The Queen of Soul would have celebrated Birthday 78 this March 13th. Although scoped out for secular music ahead of her sisters, Erma was actually a year behind Aretha for signing with a record label. She was initially scouted by Berry Gordy to be Motown’s first female act in 1958, but her father didn’t approve of Berry Gordy and his upstart label. Given the pedigree of all three Franklin sisters being the darling of Gospel and R&B stars like Clara Ward and Dinah Washington, he sought more establishment opportunities for all his children. Although Aretha got a rather prestigious deal with Columbia, Erma’s deal with Epic in 1961 wasn’t anything to sneeze at either.
Perhaps the deal with Epic might have been a mistake, as Erma’s output was just as schizophrenic as her sisters over at Columbia during the same period, not knowing whether to pitch her as a Nancy Wilson style balladeer or a Mary Wells Woman-Child Chanteuse of Pop Soul. For each tread into being Dinah Washington Jr. with oversaturated strings and wordless backing choruses, there were opportunities to fling your wig at the audience in R&B rave ups. As Erma moved from Epic to other labels, the medicine was prescribed to make her a more authentic soul singer as the MOR direction was dropped.
Although she could softly excel at the soft ballardry, she seemed far more at home on the R&B stuff that allowed her to woop and wail closer to the Gospel orgy household she grew up in. This effort from 1962, frentic enough to fight on equal ground with Etta James and Maxine Brown ravers of the same period, proved that she was a force to be reckoned with, future bridesmaid sister to the Queen of Soul or not. Sometimes a family is far too packed with talent.