Having licked a serious drug problem, Etta is climbing to the top again and has been delighting audiences on the road with the Rolling Stones, some of her staunchest fans.
EVEN the most diehard R&B/Soul/Black Music lover will admit that the British Rock Invasion of America in the mid-60's was the shot in the arm that our music needed to get over. Groups like the Beatles and Rolling Stones blatantly stole the basics of Black Music but they did it in the name of art and were at least willing to acknowledge the source of their ideas.
It brought a whole bunch of Black names into the forefront of international entertainment and since that time, Black music hasn't looked back.
OK, so that is the past but history has a way of repeating itself and the Rolling Stones have recently been able to correct an injustice in our music by carrying Etta James' name to the fore and taking her on the road with them. Mick Jagger has long been an Etta James fan; and Keith Richard acknowledges Etta as the Queen of R&B.
"Apparently, Keith wanted to take me on tour with them as long as four years ago but I was still at the rehabiliation center in California and wasn't able to go," Etta recalls.
"And they know all of my old records and apparently they first saw me something like seventeen years ago at a small club in Los Angeles. Even as long ago as that, they were roaming around Watts so it proves that this is no new thing for them."
So, how did the actual tour take place and how did Etta make contact with the Stones?
"My producer, Jerry Wexler, is a good friend of Peter Rudge, who is the Rolling Stones' manager," she explains. "So, Jerry gave them a copy of my new album and apparently Mick went nuts over it and immediately asked for me to join the tour.
"Originally, I was booked for two shows - in Washington and New Jersey but I asked them if I could do some more gigs with them and they agreed."
Was Etta as big a fan of the Stones as they were of her? "The truth?", she impishly asks. "Well, I really hadn't seen much of them and hadn't heard too much of their music. But I knew they were the Kings of Rock & Roll and when I actually first saw their show, they put me into a frenzy, they were that good - and I ended up like the fans!
"And Mick is so sweet. You see, I'm really pushy and I actually asked outright for the dates once the first two were over. I explained how I needed that break and the experience of playing to white kids. It's funny because they all seemed to think at first that it was me that sounded like Janis Joplin and not the other way around. But we soon put that right."
Etta's return to favor has been completed with her debut album for Warner Brothers, "Deep in The Night". It is a musical masterpiece and is produced by Jerry Wexler, the man whose alert ability to create something out of nothing played a great part in putting Aretha Franklin on the throne she held until she started using other producers.
"The company seems to be going all out on the album," Etta enthuses. "And they are putting a new single out. "Sugar On The Floor" is the track and that's the one that I would have gone with from the beginning, instead of "Piece Of My Heart".
"The only complaint I have about the album is that perhaps there are too many ballads on it. I felt that there should have been more hard, uptempo tunes and those European tunes - such as "Sugar On The Floor" - are the ones that seem to be doing the trick right now. And there's a lot of mystique in that title, too."
Despite the success of the album, Etta is already hard at work sorting through material for her second album for Warners and it is due to go into production early in October. "I think it'll be a lot funkier - rather like a female Otis Redding, you could say," she grins. "And there is a strong possibility that Mick and I will do a duet together, too.
"You know I did two tunes with Tony Orlando, don't you? You remember "Let The Good Times Roll" that Shirley and Lee had? And the old Sam Cooke tune, "Bring It On Home To Me". But generally speaking I feel happy with where I am today.
"I'm happy, as I say, with the album - maybe I wouldn't have chosen all of the songs but even though Jerry picked them, I O.K'd them at the time. If we had had more time, I think we would have gone for more original tunes but there'll be time for the next album.
"Jerry is a truly great producer and I will always be grateful because he gave me my chance and helped get me with Warner Brothers. The whole thing lasted six or seven months but I was determined to be with them so I patiently waited while the negotiations went on."
Etta's recent career has been littered with disappointments and none more so than her return to Chess. The "All The Way Down" album, produced by Gabriel Mekler had "classic" stamped all over it and yet was never promoted enough to allow the public the opportunity of supporting it.
"Oh, there are times when I feel down and disgusted with it all," she admits openly. "I really felt that that album was good and that I was on my way back with it. Gabriel was the guy who produced Janis Joplin, did you know? But that album still sounds good today and "All The Way Down", the single, was even a disco hit at the time.
"It's funny because I certainly don't consider myself as a disco artiste. And yet I have always made people dance - right back to "Dance With Me Henry". But I couldn't get into all that moaning and grunting - no sir. Donna Summer can be the Queen of that!"
Immediately after speaking with Etta, she was heading for Detroit Airport to catch a flight to London to spend a full month in Europe, a continent that has perhaps appreciated Etta better than her own.
"I love it over there," she enthuses. "Well, actually I should say I loved Montreaux because that was where I stayed. And I'm playing Montreux again this time - along with London, Paris and Amsterdam. I'm the only woman on a kind of a Blues package. It's a different world over there - and I love it."
Etta has been in the business and giving us hits for almost a quarter century. It's common knowledge that her career was stopped in its prime because Etta became a victim of her own success and became involved in drugs. It almost cost her her life. But she was determined to beat the devil and after a rigid spell in a drug rehabilitation center, she fought her way back - and with dignity.
She isn't at all ashamed of her past but uses it instead to serve as an example to young people today. For such, she has formed the Etta James Anti-Drug Abuse Foundation in an effort to help others avoid that fate. The Foundation houses a referral service and a graphic art department. It also has just started a theater academy and they are currently performing a play about Etta's life.
Fortunately, her past hasn't affected her God-given gift, her voice - ample proof of that can be found on the "Deep In The Night" album. She is a warm, witty and candid lady and my only wish is that she is now able to reclaim her position at the top of the ladder again.
Having put up such a stolid fight, that's the least she can hope for!