Singer-songwriter Percy Mayfield (1920-1984) was known as "Poet Laureate of the Blues," and his widely recorded compositions frequently reflected profound observations about life, love, and race relations. His first and biggest hit, the blues ballad "Please Send Me Someone to Love," recorded for Specialty Records in 1950, was written, he said, "as a prayer for peace between the black man and the white man-that hate that goes on in the world." Other songs, such as "Lost Love," "Memory Pain," "River's Invitation," and "Life Is Suicide," were marked by deep, often doomed melancholy. "I fell in love with sadness because there's more truth in it," he once stated.
Born in Minden, Louisiana, Mayfield wrote poems as a boy and set them to music, but because his mother didn't approve of blues, he sang only in church. He left home at 15 and hoboed around the country on freight trains before settling in Los Angeles in 1942. Seven years later, he took his blues song "Two Years of Torture" to Supreme Records with the hope that Jimmy Witherspoon would record it, but he ended up cutting it himself. Mayfield signed with Specialty the following year and scored seven Top 10 R&B hits for the label through 1952, the year an auto accident permanently disfigured his once-handsome face.
Mayfield's greatest success came as a staff writer for Ray Charles in the early Sixties; "Hit the Road, Jack," "But on the Other Hand Baby," "Hide nor Hair," and "At the Club" were all penned by Mayfield. He also cut two albums of his own for Charles's Tangerine label. Among the many other artists who've recorded Mayfield songs are Brook Benton, B.B. King, Junior Parker, Houston Person, Esther Phillips, Elvis Presley, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, and Nancy Wilson.