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American Routes Shortcuts: Barbara Lynn

Barbara Lynn
American Routes

Each week, American Routes brings you "Shortcuts," a sneak peek at the upcoming show. Barbara Lynn has traveled the gulf coast club circuit for almost 40 years. Back in the late 50s, Barbara cut a figure in her hometown of Beaumont Texas, earning the nickname “The Black Elvis,” by playing left-handed guitar and singing for her high school girl group, Bobby Lynn and the Idols. Recording for her long-time producer Huey “The Crazy Cajun” Moe, Barbara Lynn made a name for herself with original hits like “You’ll Lose a Good Thing.” And “Until Then, I’ll suffer.” Despite early success, Barbara Lynn is a woman deeply connected to her family and very pleased with her life in South East Texas.

BL: My mother and them told me I used to play on the windowsill, pretending that it was a piano. And that’s what I would do every evening when I would come from school, I’d get my homework or whatever and I’d go to the window sill and start pretending that I was playing the piano. And I ended up getting and Arthur Godfrey ukulele because--

NS: A ukulele?

BL: Yes

NS: He was on the big talent and he used to get up there and strum…

BL: Yes, and I would watch him so much.

After playing the Arthur Godfrey ukulele I told my mother and them I think I want me a solid body guitar, because I would sing Elvis then and I was determined, I was going to play guitar. I really liked his songs, in fact I ended up recording “Don’t Be Cruel”

In fact, in grade schools they started calling me Elvis Presley- they said I was trying to wear my hair like Elvis. Then I formed an all-girls band, too.

NS: Bobby Lynn and the Idols

BL: Bobby Lynn and her Idols, yes. Every evening we would go in the back of the school and try to sing, and a lot of other students would stop and just circle around us. And we’d appear on the talent shows there, the record hops. And if they had a contest, Barbara Lynn and her Idols, we’d always win.

NS: Your big hit recording “You’ll Lose a Good Thing” 1962. What leads up to the words and music that becomes that hit?

BL: Over a guy that I was going with. His nickname was Stank.

NS: Stank?

BL: But his real name was Sylvester. And you know, we had been going to gether for about a year and then I walked in on him talking to another girl, another close friend of his, and then I saw them again, and I started putting something together here.

NS: Something stinks

BL: Something stank. So when I did walk up on him this last time, I told him, “Sylvester, if you lose me, you’re gonna lose a good thing.”   The next day I got up and I wrote some lyrics and recorded that song and I laughed all the way to the bank.

NS: Blues is something that some people say is not proper for a lady, and yet blues seems to be a important in your musical upbringing and what you start to record.

BL: Well a lot of the record companies that I dealt with, they had be going into blues. But then, I also was writing from people I see everyday life. You know, things that I knew people were going through. And so I turned that into a song, too. You know like maybe some women were getting beat on, or cheated on, stuff like that. And I’d go in my little office and try to write a song from that. Like the one, “I Won’t be Your Second Fiddle Girl.”