Percy Mayfield, “The River’s Invitation” (1952)
Percy Mayfield was a rhythm ‘n’ blues performer and songwriter whose best-known song is probably “Hit the Road Jack,” the Ray Charles hit from the early ’60s. Mayfield was known as the “Poet of the Blues” performing in Texas and ultimately moving to Los Angeles in the late ’40s and ’50s. The reasons for the handle are more apparent in this song: “I spoke to the river / And the river spoke back to me / It said man you look so lonely / You look full of misery / And if you can’t find your baby / Come and make your home with me.” The ups and downs and various turns of Mayfield’s biography (which include an auto accident that disfigured his face) only make the high points of his early career more eerie and intriguing. Worth tracking down.