Singer Jan Bradley's soft soprano graced Curtis Mayfield's song "Mama Didn't Lie," a Top Ten R&B/Top 20 pop hit on Chess Records in 1963. Born Addie Bradley on July 6, 1943, in Byhalia, MS, Jan Bradley moved with her family to Robbins, IL, a Chicago suburb, when she was four years old. When she was about 18, guitarist Phil Upchurch's manager Don Talty was recommended to her after an acquaintance saw her perform at a high school talent show. Impressed, Talty wanted to sign her to his label, Formal Records, but her parents wouldn't give him the OK, preferring to wait until the singer graduated from high school. Upchurch put Talty in touch with singer/songwriter Curtis Mayfield of the Impressions. After she passed an audition, Mayfield began working with the young singer. Bradley's debut single "We Girls," a Mayfield composition, became a regional hit around the Chicagoland area and surrounding markets, earning airplay on top-rated pop station WLS Radio.
Following a few more releases, Bradley hit with another Mayfield song, "Mama Didn't Lie" b/w "Lovers Like Me," which was picked up for national distribution by Chess Records. The song went to number eight R&B, number 14 pop in early 1963. Not long afterwards, Mayfield and Chess got into a dispute over song publishing rights. When the dust settled, Mayfield was no longer involved with Bradley's records. Faced with a dearth of material, Bradley began writing songs. Bradley didn't chart nationally until one of her songs, "I'm Over You," arranged by Riley Hampton and produced by Billy Davis -- not to be confused with the Fifth Dimension member -- made it to number 24 R&B in early 1965. Other Chess singles followed: "Just a Summer Memory" (co-written by Bradley and Talty, produced by Leonard Caston and Davis) b/w "He'll Wait on Me," "It's Just Your Way," and "These Tears" b/w "Baby What Can I Do." After the Chess deal expired, Bradley and Talty recorded for other labels throughout the '60s -- Adanti, Doylen, Spectra Sound ("Love Is the Answer" b/w "Back in Circulation") and Night Owl -- without chart success. Another Bradley single was "The Things a Woman Needs." At the start of the '70s, Bradley retired from the music business, got married, started a family, earned an MA degree, and started doing social work. A favorite of devotees of the U.K. Northern soul scene, "Mama Didn't Lie" is included on the Uni/Chess compilations Chess Rhythm & Roll (released in 1994) and Chess Soul: A Decade of Chicago's Finest (released in 1997), and on the soundtrack of the 1988 John Waters/Divine movie Hairspray, from MCA Special Products. Collectables issued a 45 with "Mama Don't Lie" b/w Fontella Bass' "Rescue Me." ~ Ed Hogan