Barbara Tamiko Ferguson was born in 1945, one of ten children, in Kyle, West Virginia, USA. Her father was an African-American and her maternal grandmother was partly of Japanese descent.
«My mother married a white man of Scotch-Irish ancestry, and on my maternal grandfather's side there is Cherokee Indian blood. So, racially at least I'm really mixed up. Like the rest of my family I consider myself a Negro.»
The extreme versatility of Tamiko's singing is readily appreciated in considering her own musical background. She was raised in Detroit and, while working as a secretary, she auditioned for a talent agency and made her professional debut in 1961 at the Flame Show Bar in Detroit, a room that earlier showcased such talents as Johnnie Ray and Della Reese:
«I got that job strictly on nerve, I decided one day I wanted to be a singer. Though my repertoire consisted of only one song, "Goody, Goody", I got an audition through an agent with Maurice King, who led the orchestra at the Flame Show Bar. I was hired on the spot for a one-week engagement, but stayed six months.»
During that first six-month engagement, she expanded her repertoire considerably under Maurice King's guidance and improved her showmanship. She developed a style of her own, though she never learned to read music. She describes such style as "jazz-bop", which is a unique styling compounded of pop songs on a jazz base:
«I depend on my ear, I think God gave me a gift for music which I express through my voice. When I first started out, I used to get so scared my knees would knock. The more I sing the more confident I feel, but I still get a little nervous on an opening night.»
Tamiko Jones as pictured on the cover of a French 7" split EP shared with Angela Martin, circa 1963-64
Tamiko began her recording career as Timiko on the Checker label in 1963; her first release - the subject of this short post - was the happy-go-lucky song "Is It a Sin?" written by Richard "Popcorn" Wylie backed with "The Boy For Me" written by Robert Bateman on the flip side.
Soulfuldetroit.com interestingly reports that «Robert Bateman was dating Timiko Jones and wrote "The Boy For Me", which she recorded around March 1963. The song was sold to the Chess brothers in Chicago, who put it out on their subsidiary label, Checker. It might have become a hit if they had opted to switch the A-side to "Is It A Sin", which is a much catchier tune - courtesy of Popcorn Wylie. As it is, the disc seems not to have made it beyond the DJ-copy stage.»
Despite what is mentioned above, the record was officially released in stereo and here you can see a picture of it showcasing brown labels. The record in my possession is a monoaural promo version which sadly came with no cover when I purchased it; here you can see the same record in a Chess Group company sleeve. As far as I know, "Is It a Sin" is placed on Side A and "The Boy For Me" fills Side B.
All Tamiko Jones' quotes in this post are taken from a feature/interview published on "Jet" magazine in March 1967. A more detailed biography is available in this other post of mine.
Here's the track list for this 7" single:
01. Is it a Sin (2:36)
02. The Boy For Me (2:38)
Both tracks were remastered in July 2014 and are available in FLAC lossless format or high-quality 320 Kbps MP3 files; both formats include scans of the complete original artwork.
Please have a look at the comments for the download links.
...I'm not sure if this picture belongs to the time when the single was released, but anyway, the original image is available here...
The following videos offer a preview of the remastered single, enjoy "Is It a Sin" and "The Boy For Me"!
More information about Tamiko Jones is available here:
If you have any other useful information concerning this post, or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!