Barbara Mason came from Philadelphia with a giant hit in the mid-60's that outsold some of the records made by the Beatles at the height of their popularity.
She was born in Philadelphia in 1947 and used to sing in impromptu talent shows as a child. They were held at a playground near where she lived. Barbara could sing well, and her reputation as a good singer began to grow around Philadelphia. Producer/talent scout Weldon Arthur McDougal III caught her act and brought her to the studio. She started with a small local label called Charger, then moved on to the Arctic label in Philadelphia, which had a better shot at distributing her records. Jimmy Bishop founded and owned Arctic and was a disc jockey at a large Philadelphia radio station. Barbara wrote all of her own songs while with Arctic and recorded songs in a small back room there. One such record would propel her into stardom.
That record was originally titled Are You Ready? Barbara had been a big fan of Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, who were making some good music in Chicago in the late 50's and early 60's. One song that Curtis had written and given to Major Lance, The Monkey Time, had particularly impressed her and became her inspiration for the song, which was re-titled Yes, I'm Ready. In the Spring of 1965 it was recorded by Barbara in the back room at Arctic in two takes, and the next day Jimmy Bishop began to play it on his radio show. More and more requests came in, and other DJ's that Jimmy knew picked up on the song. Before too long, it reached the top forty and stayed there for ten weeks, peaking at the number five position. Barbara Mason was an international recording sensation before she was out of her teens.
She wrote and recorded a follow-up titled Sad, Sad Girl that also reached the top forty. Barbara preferred to write the music and lyrics together, which she could always do very well, in addition to being a good singer. She made numerous appearances on music television programs Where The Action Is and American Bandstand and became friends with Dick Clark. She moved on to the National General label, which was really more interested in producing movies than hit records. When National General folded Barbara signed with Buddah, a company that had been the distributor for National General and which was much larger than any label she had been with previously. She went to Chicago to work with producer Curtis Mayfield, and recorded a song on the Buddah label which had been written by Mayfield titled Give Me Your Love in 1973. The following year in Memphis she recorded From His Woman To You. These two were to be her last top forty records. The Disco era came into vogue, and Barbara Mason didn't want to have anything to do with it.
Barbara Mason got away from performing for a number of years. In the early 90's producer Alan Beck asked her to perform at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. After a terrific performance there her career once again took off. She has worked on commercial ventures for companies such as Blockbuster, Sony and Toyota and has her own publishing company called Marc James Music (named for her son).
Barbara was good friends with singer Jackie Wilson before he died, and continues to be good friends with some people who have helped her with her career, including Jerry Butler, Curtis Mayfield, and Dick Clark. She tells stories of things that have happened during her career. At one performance in Kansas City, she called a gentleman from the crowd up on stage to help her sing Yes, I'm Ready. He very much enjoyed the song and went into an epileptic fit, resulting in a headline in the newspaper the next day that said "Barbara Mason Knocks Them Dead." A compilation of about fifty of her songs was recently issued on the Bear Family label.
Barbara Mason is an underrated star. Still living in the Philadelphia area, she continues to perform and laughingly says that if President Clinton ever calls to ask her to sing at the White House, she will be ready. The song that she wrote and recorded as a teenager, Yes, I'm Ready, has been played on the radio more than three million times.
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