One of Moms finest albums recorded in 1962 is now available on CD. At one time the most successful woman stand-up in Americashe remains the highest-charting comedienne in Billboard historysocial satirist Jackie Moms” Mabley is largely unknown to contemporary audiences, but her impact on successive generations of both female and African-American comics remains estimable. Born Loretta Mary Aiken in Brevard, NC on March 19, 1894, her early life was marred by tragedyone of a dozen children, when she was 11 her father, a volunteer firefighter, was killed when his fire truck overturned and exploded, and her mother was later fatally struck by a mail truck. Before the age of 13, Aiken was also raped twiceonce by an older black man, then by Brevard’s white sheriff; both violations resulted in pregnancy, and she ultimately left her children in her grandmother’s care and relocated in Cleveland, Ohio, living with a minister’s family. There she began singing and dancing in local shows, befriending local entertainers including Jack Mabley, who became her boyfriend; their relationship proved ill-fated, and when Aiken’s brother expressed embarrassment over his sister’s stage career, she adopted Mabley’s name for her ownHe took a lot off me,” she told Ebony in 1974, so the least I could do was take his name.”
Subsequent chart entries include At the Playboy Club, Young Men, Si, At the White House and Moms Breaks Up the Network. She made her television debut in 1967 on A Time for Laughter, and was later a regular guest on the television variety shows of Harry Belafonte, Mike Douglas and Merv Griffin. In 1969, Mabley unexpectedly cracked the pop and R&B charts with a straight-faced, even maudlin rendition of the Dion hit Abraham, Martin and John.” After starring in the 1974 film Amazing Graceher first big-screen appearance in over a quarter centuryMabley died May 23, 1975 at the age of 78; in the years following her death, she has been the subject of a number of off-Broadway productions, including the Clarice Taylor-headlined Moms and 1999’s Moms Mabley: The Naked Truth.