By Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Although she never had many hits, Maxine Brownwas one of the most underrated soul and R&B vocalists of the ’60s. During the ’60s she released a series of singles for Nomar and Wand, with only a couple of songs — “All in My Mind,” “Funny,” “Something You Got,” “Oh No Not My Baby” — managing to become either pop or R&B hits. Despite her lack of hits, Brown is acknowledged as one of the finest R&B vocalists of her time, capable of delivering soul, jazz, and pop with equal aplomb.
Born in Kingstree, SC, Brown began singing as child, singing with two New York-based gospel groups when she was a teenager. In 1960, she signed with the small Nomar label, who released the smooth soul ballad “All in My Mind” late in the year. The single became a hit, climbing to number two on the R&B charts (number 19 pop), and it was quickly followed by “Funny,” which peaked at number three. Brown was poised to become a star, and she moved to ABC-Paramount in 1962, but she left the label within a year without scoring any hits. She signed to the New York-based, uptown soul label Wand in 1963.
Brown recorded her best work at Wand, having a string of moderate hits for the label over the next three years. Among these were Carole King/Gerry Goffin song “Oh No Not My Baby,” which reached number 24 on the pop charts; “It’s Gonna Be Alright”; and the Chuck Jackson duets “Something You Got,” “Hold On I’m Coming,” and “Daddy’s Home.” Part of the reason Brown didn’t receive much exposure is that the label focused much of their attention on Dionne Warwick, leaving Maxine Brown to toil in semi-obscurity. In 1969, she left Wand and signed with Commonwealth United, where she had the minor hits “We’ll Cry Together” and “I Can’t Get Along Without You.” In 1971, she moved to Avco Records, but all of her recordings for the label went ignored and she faded away over the course of the decade.