"The Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond" are not the only place to find an Annie Laurie. If the New Orleans' music scene and the early days of doo wop and rhythm and blues are more to a listener's taste than folk from the British Isles, then the Annie Laurie of choice would be the female vocalist who made her recording debut in the mid-'40s and later enjoyed a string of hits including a cover version of "Since I Fell for You," created with the Paul Gayten band. Laurie's influence on her fellow singers seems to run hot and cold, ranging from the often-repeated rumor that she was Dinah Washington's favorite to the following, much cooler appraisal from Irma Thomas: "Annie Laurie? She was okay."
Laurie first chimed in professionally within territory bands helmed by leaders such as Snookum Russell and Dallas Bartley. The singer established her knack for personable cover versions with her very first side, W.C. Handy's famed "St. Louis Blues," cut in 1945 with the Bartley outfit. Shortly after that she arrived in New Orleans and was hired by Gayten, whose activities in the music business included working as a bandleader, producer, and label owner. As a performer he had his own string of hit records for the Regal and DeLuxe outfits between 1947 and 1950, some of which featured vocal performances by Laurie.
Gayten's knack may have been matching up available song material for cover versions with the various singers he was affiliated with. For Laurie, this included the previously mentioned "Since I Fell for You," which had been a blockbuster for Buddy Johnson and has endured dozens of powerhouse cover versions, as well as a less than liberating "I'll Never Be Free," originally associated with Lucky Millinder. Regal had done well with Laurie, but when the crown toppled off that label's head in 1951, the singer began working as a soloist on the newly reorganized Okeh imprint, moving over to Savoy by the middle of that decade. In the late '50s, she returned to the DeLuxe outfit, moaning through her biggest hit ever in 1957, "It Hurts to Be in Love." She was in the studios for the Ritz label in the early '60s, but began devoting herself entirely to church music just in time to miss the rock & roll invasion. ~ Eugene Chadbourne