Tell Mama is the seventh studio album by American singer Etta James. Her second album release for Cadet Records, produced by Rick Hall at his FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, it was James's first album since 1964 to enter the Billboard 200 chart. It contained her first Top 10 R&B hits since 1964 – the title cut and "Security". The "Tell Mama" single gave James her all-time highest Billboard Hot 100 position, reaching number 23.

Tell Mama
Etta James - Tell Mama (1968).png
Studio album by
ReleasedFebruary 1968
RecordedAugust 22 - December 6, 1967
FAME Studios, Muscle Shoals, Alabama
GenreSoul, R&B, blues
LabelCadet (original release)
MCA/Chess (re-release)
ProducerRick Hall
Etta James chronology
Call My Name
Tell Mama
Etta James Sings Funk
Singles from Tell Mama
  1. "Tell Mama"
    Released: 1967
  2. "Security"
    Released: 1968


Tell Mama was recorded at the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, on the encouragement of Leonard Chess, who successfully convinced James to record the album there. Allmusic reviewer, Bill Dahl praised the album's production, called its sessions, "skin-tight."[1] At Muscle Shoals, producers were able to mix her voice in order for it to sound stronger on previously-distorted high notes.[2] The album's title track became one of the biggest hits of James's career, becoming her first Top 10 hit in four years and her highest-peaking single on the Billboard Pop chart, reaching #23. It has since been considered one of her all-time classics. The album's cover of Otis Redding's "Security" also became a major hit, reaching the Top 20 on the R&B singles chart, while also making the Pop Top 40.[3][4]

Besides a cover version of Redding's composition, other cover versions included Jimmy Hughes's "Don't Lose Your Good Thing" and a pair of copyrights by Don Covay.[1] It also featured the title track's B-side, "I'd Rather Go Blind," which was originally not a hit, however it later became one of James's signature songs.[4] In the 1990s, Tell Mama was remastered and re-released on MCA/Chess. The album was remastered by Erick Labson at Universal Mastering Studios-West in North Hollywood, California. A compilation version of the album was later released and included ten additional bonus tracks, including cover versions of David Houston's, "Almost Persuaded" and Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe."[2]

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic     [5]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music     [6]

Allmusic critic Bill Dahl was pleased with the effort, stating it to be "one of her best and most soul-searing Cadet albums." Dahl called the title track "relentlessly driving" and "I'd Rather Go Blind," "a moving soul ballad." He also said that the album's producers, "really did themselves proud behind Miss Peaches."[7]

In 2000 it was voted number 667 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums.[8]

Track listingEdit

Side One
  1. "Tell Mama" – (Clarence Carter, Marcus Daniel, Wilbur Terrell) 2:20
  2. "I'd Rather Go Blind" – (Billy Foster, Ellington Jordan, Etta James) 2:33
  3. "Watch Dog" – (Don Covay) 2:06
  4. "The Love of My Man" – (Ed Townsend) 2:37
  5. "I'm Gonna Take What He's Got" – (Covay) 2:32
  6. "The Same Rope" – (Leonard Caston, Jr., Lloyd Webster) 2:39
Side Two
  1. "Security" – (Otis Redding) 2:44
  2. "Steal Away" – (Jimmy Hughes) 2:19
  3. "My Mother In-Law" – (George David, Lee Diamond) 2:20
  4. "Don't Lose Your Good Thing" – (Rick Hall, Spooner Oldham) 2:26
  5. "It Hurts Me So Much" – (Charles Chalmers) 2:34
  6. "Just a Little Bit" – (Rosco Gordon) 2:11


Chart positionsEdit

AlbumBillboard (North America)

Year Chart Position[9]
1968 R&B Albums 21
Pop Albums 82

Singles - Billboard (United States)

Year Single Chart Position[10]
1967 "Tell Mama" R&B Singles 10
Pop Singles 23
"Security" R&B Singles 11
Pop Singles 35


  1. ^ a b Dahl, Bill. "Tell Mama > Overview". allmusic. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
  2. ^ a b "Tell Mama" The Complete Muscle Shoals Sessions CD". cd universe. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
  3. ^ Dahl, Bill. "Etta James > Biography". allmusic. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
  4. ^ a b Gordon, Keith A. "Etta James - Profile of Soul-Blues Legend". Archived from the original on 2009-08-01. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
  5. ^ Allmusic review
  6. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195313734.
  7. ^ Dahl, Bill. "Tell Mama > Review". allmusic. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
  8. ^ Colin Larkin (2000). All Time Top 1000 Albums (3rd ed.). Virgin Books. p. 217. ISBN 0-7535-0493-6.
  9. ^ "Tell Mama Charts & Awards > Albums". allmusic. Retrieved 2009-07-27.
  10. ^ "Tell Mama Charts & Awards > Singles". allmusic. Retrieved 2009-07-27.