PM/Simmons Collection
1971 - 1982

Malcolm Simmons - Vocals and Harmonica
Lonnie Brooks - Guitar
William "Dead Eye" Norris- Guitar
Detroit Junior - Piano and Organ
Robert Covington - Bass
Danny Ray Simmons - Bass
Billy Davenport - Drums
Willie Henderson - Baritone Sax
Butterscotch - Tenor Sax

Arelean Brown - vocals on tracks 3, 9 and 13
Lee "Shot" Williams - vocals on track 9
Fenton Robinson - vocals, guitar on track 7


Electro-Fi 3360
Audio Sample


You've Got To Help Me - Little Mack Simmons
You're So Fine - Little Mack Simmons
I'm A Streaker Baby - Arelean Brown
Next Time You See Me - Little Mack Simmons
The Same One - Little Mack Simmons
Key To The Highway - Little Mack Simmons
Cryin' The Blues - Fenton Robinson
Mother-In-Law Blues - Little Mack Simmons
Impeach Me - Arelean Brown (with Lee "Shot" Williams) 

Messing With The Kid - Little Mack Simmons
Mama Was Right - Little Mack Simmons
Inflation Blues - Little Mack Simmons
Chicken Man - Arelean Brown
Rainy Night In Georgia - Little Mack Simmons
Snap Your Fingers - Little Mack Simmons
I'm Gonna Keep On Searching Till I Find Mine (Part 1) - Little Mack Simmons
Skin Tight - Little Mack Simmons
Blue Lite - Little Mack Simmons 


"This is a valuable collection that demonstrates both Mack’s musical and creative talents. . . . An important document in the history of Chicago blues."

-Blues Beat magazine, fall 1999

"A solid CD . . . a CD that I’m sure you’ll enjoy and will return to often."

-Blues & Rhythm magazine, November 1999

Reached number 10 on Red Lick Records’ chart of best-selling blues CDs for Christmas 1999.

"Little Mack's ventures as a producer of his own and others' music is masterfully presented here by the wonderfully named Electro-Fi, who are properly re-establishing his reputation as an artist of note. . . . There should be something [on this CD] to suit anyone who ever professed to having a penchant for the blues. . . . Brilliant!"

-Juke Blues magazine, Autumn 1999

"Features some energetic and tasty blues workouts from Simmons aided by Lonnie Brooks on guitar and the guest appearances of vocalist Arelean Brown (her ‘I’m A Streaker Baby’ is a knockout)." —The London Times entertainment supplement, January 29–February 4, 2000 "His music ranges from hardcore Chicago blues to astute soul covers with blistering harmonica work. Lovers of unvarnished soul and electric blues will want to check this one out."

-Cadence magazine, January 2000

It was a changing world Malcolm "Little Mack" Simmons was walking back into as he made his way through the gates of Statesville Prison in 1969. His career as one of the bright young lights of the Chicago blues scene had been put on hold as he served every day of a 36-month sentence for possession of a minuscule amount of reefer. With his freedom newly regained, it was time to put all that behind him. There was some serious business to be taken care of. The golden age of Little Mack Simmons was about to commence.

Little Mack Simmons had already been down a long, hard road since his birth on January 25, 1933, in Twist, Arkansas. He faced adversity early with his father's death just ten days after his own birth. On the brighter side, he enjoyed a childhood friendship with fellow harp devotee James Cotton. "Cotton and me used to live right across the road from one another," Mack recalls. "We'd take off school any chance we could, go down in the shade under the bridge and blow harp all day long."

Married at 15, Mack left Twist for St. Louis in hot pursuit of his wife. Though the marriage failed, a chance street-corner encounter with slide master Robert Nighthawk led to Mack's first club gig, a two-week stint backing Nighthawk. It was also in St. Louis at this time he met his second wife, the singer Georgia Mae Hinton. Together they migrated to Chicago, where Georgia Mae's first cousin Little Walter Jacobs lived. In a multitude of South Side clubs, Little Mack listened as Walter did his thing. "He was the very best I ever did hear on the harp," Mack states unequivocally.

In 1955 Mack formed his own band with other young lions of the burgeoning South Side blues scene. The lineup comprised Emery Williams, Jr.-a.k.a. Detroit Junior-on keyboards, bassman Little Bobby Anderson, drummer Robert Whitehead and guitarist Eddie King. Under Mack's leadership this potent combo snagged the coveted house-band gig at Cadillac Baby's Club, located at 4708 South Dearborn.

Mack also made his recording debut with releases on Cadillac Baby's Bea and Baby label. "Come Back To Me" sold well locally, as did the minor masterpiece "Jumpin' at Cadillac's," which reunited him on vinyl with his childhood friend James Cotton. Mack went on to cut two 45s at Chess under Willie Dixon, then recorded for a handful of local labels, such as C.J. Palos, Dud, Pacer and New Breed, with varying results. Although they are collectors items today, he yearned to exercise complete creative control over his recordings.

As the 1970s dawned, Mack put to use the same moxie that had rescued him from a life of punitive plantation work to reinvent himself as a Robin Hood-inspired, harp-blowin', blues-singin', drug dealin', soulified man of God. Taking advantage of gigs in Texas border towns, Mack would cross over into Mexico and load up the side panels of his tour bus with high-grade heroin and marijuana.

Back in Chicago the profits financed Mack's purchase of Club Zodiac at 2235 South Cottage Grove. With the acquisition of a state-of-the-art 24-track recorder worth $60,000, Mack transformed the second storey of the club into Simmons Recording Studio. "I was the first black person in Chicago I know of [who] had a studio like that," Mack recalls. Having this facility at his disposal led to the formation of Simmons Records and P.M. Records, the latter set up in partnership with Mack's cousin Pryor Young.

Little Mack Simmons was now a man just one step ahead of the law. As contradictory as it may seem, Mack combined his drug-lord lifestyle with a deep Christian belief. The same man who employed a personal heroin tester also possessed a surprisingly steadfast moral code that would not allow him to turn away anyone truly in need. He purchased several low-rise apartment buildings on the South Side, and the newly furnished dwellings were soon filled with elderly tenants from whom Mack refused to collect rent. This is only one example of how he channeled his money back into the South Side community. "That's why I'm still alive today. If somebody cheated me or did me wrong on a dope deal, I just turned away from it and let it go," Mack revealed in a recent interview. "That's why I can still walk the streets today without having to watch my back all the time. I used that money for good and never did harm a person."

With Club Zodiac fast becoming a South Side hot spot and Simmons Recording Studio up and running with full-time engineer Sam Gallo on the board, Little Mack was now determined to cut the kind of records he wanted to make. He set out to assemble a top-flight band to back him on wax. He recruited guitarist Lonnie Brooks, then currently leading the Royal Aces, Club Zodiac's house band. Next up was his old associate keyboardist Detroit Junior. Also called was up-and-coming guitar ace William "Dead Eye" Norris, so named for his ability to focus in on any band member playing even slightly off key or out of tune and fix him with such a withering gaze that the offender would immediately cease and desist. With Robert Covington on bass and Billy Davenport on drums, Mack was ready to kick off a prodigious burst of recording.

Paying tribute to his southern roots, Mack cut his take on "You've Got To Help Me" by Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller), Big Bill Broonzy's " Key To The Highway," Junior Parker's "Next Time You See Me" and "Mother-in-Law Blues," his friend and rival Junior Wells's signature tune "Messin' With The Kid," as well as "You're So Fine" and the instrumental "Blue Lite" ("Blue Lights") in homage to Little Walter. Mack's original tunes "Inflation Blues" and "Mama Was Right" saw the light of day as 45-rpm releases on the P.M. label.

By the mid 1970s, Little Mack had settled into a regime of touring, dealing, preaching, singing and recording that kept him a busy man indeed. When not leading marathon all-day or all-night recording sessions himself, Mack would book out the studio to other blues luminaries, often sticking around to add harp to their sessions. The first LP by Eddie Shaw and the Wolf Pack, financed by Mrs. Chester Burnett, was recorded at Simmons Recording Studio, and it was released on the Simmons label. Syl Johnson recorded material there, which was released on his own Shama label. Sunnyland Slim and Otis Clay both recorded at Simmons, as did guitarist and vocalist Fenton Robinson, whom Little Mack had met on an Ike Turner-promoted tour of the West Coast with Earl Hooker in early 1970. Fenton cut a solitary 45 for P.M. prior to being signed by Alligator. "Cryin' The Blues" (which appears here on CD for the first time) and the flip side "Find-a-way" both feature Mack's harp blowing. This 45 stands out as possibly the most down-home recording the sadly missed, underappreciated Fenton Robinson ever released.

Perhaps the jewel in the crown of P.M. Records and Simmons Records was the Chicago singer and songwriter Arelean Brown, a vivacious and gifted artist. In 1981 Living Blues magazine proclaimed, "She was a woman who should have been heralded as Chicago's cleverest blues songwriter of the past decade." Born June 10, 1924, in Tchula, Mississippi, Arelean grew up in an extended musical family whose members included George Brown (a guitarist for Howlin' Wolf), China Man Brown, Lee "Shot" Williams, Smokey Smothers and Lester Davenport.

After settling in Chicago in the late 1950s, Arelean, who wrote and produced her own material, released several 45s on the Bea and Baby, Dynamite and NoRmAya labels. Her lone LP Arlean [sic] Brown Sings The Blues In The Loop was released on the Simmons label in 1977. Her long-time friend Little Mack accompanies her on harp on all three of the cuts appearing here: the sublimely salacious "I'm A Streaker Baby," "Chicken Man" and "Impeach Me" (with Lee "Shot" Williams sharing the vocals). When "Streaker" became a celebrated success in Chicago, Arelean mounted her "Streakers Revue," which featured exotic dancers, streakers and risque blues served up with charm and jest. Her performances in South Side clubs soon became legendary.

An active community leader, she supplemented her career with an assortment of outside jobs: cab driver, club owner, landlady, grocer, counselor and community-service worker. When cancer claimed this beloved blueswoman on April 27, 1981, an obituary in Living Blues magazine stated, "Her blues singing was filled with rare spirit and wit. . . . Those who never saw her missed one of the true originals in the blues."

In the latter part of the 1970s, Mack Simmons was branching out to encompass all forms of music that inspired him. He released a gospel LP When The Lord Stands By, featuring the devotional music he loved so dearly. His almost instrumental version of "Rainy Night In Georgia," included here, garnered a lot of airplay on Chicago radio. He tipped his hat to country and western on a Simmons 45-rpm release "Snap Your Fingers." Mack strolled down soul street on the Tyrone Davis-penned "I'm Gonna Keep On Searching Till I Find Mine" and got way too funky for most blues traditionalists on his Andre Williams-arranged version of the Ohio Players' "Skin Tight," but who other than Little Mack would tack on a "Mannish Boy" intro and bring his harp along for the ride. His harp was also put to good use on MackÕs exquisite reading of Little Walte''s "Blue Light," which closes this disc by bringing it full circle back to the blues.

The 1980s, a mean and dangerous decade, did not dawn kindly on Little Mack Simmons, despite enjoying a loyal following in Chicago and steady airplay from Pervis Spann on WVON. His releases on P.M. and Simmons had failed to break out and secure him the wider recognition he so richly deserved.

Arelean Brown's death in spring 1981 was followed by Mack's arrest on August 12, 1982. A noontime raid of Mack's apartment netted police $28,419 in cash and 13 ounces of heroin with a street value of $47,000. Despite being described in the Chicago Sun Times as a major drug distributor on the South and West sides, Mack was out on bail three days later performing at the International Blues Festival. While Mack never denied the charge, his widespread acts of generosity throughout the years (he once gave a Baptist congregation $18,000 cash for repairs on their church) paid dividends. Although the grand jury found him guilty, it handed down a suspended sentence, and Little Mack walked free.

Most of his assets had been seized by the state or eaten up by legal fees. "God took it all away from me, everything I had but my life and my talent," he said. Mack retreated with his family to the only building he still owned. When it, along with the equipment and master tapes from his studio, was destroyed by an arsonist several months later, Little Mack was left impoverished and discouraged.

For the balance of the 1980s, Mack Simmons virtually disappeared from the blues scene. It was a frustrating ten years for Mack and the first time since childhood that he laid his harp down and turned his back on the love of his life, his music. Sitting in on gigs at the Delta Fish Market in the early 1990s led to a gradual return to club work, as well as to recording CDs for the Wolf and St. George labels.

His signing to the Electro-Fi label in fall 1996 has to date produced two critically acclaimed releases. Both his initial CD Little Mack Is Back and his 1998 follow-up Somewhere On Down The Line have introduced Little Mack to a new crop of blues fans worldwide who have grown to appreciate the man and his music. This long-overdue recognition has culminated in a 1999 nomination for a Living Blues Award in the category of Most Outstanding Blues Musician (Harmonica).

A bout with colon cancer, from which Mack has now successfully recovered, is just another chapter in a life resplendent enough with challenge for several men. The release of The P.M./Simmons Collection is both a fitting tribute to Little Mack Simmons and a chance to preserve and present the kind of records they just don't make anymore.

Andrew Galloway



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