AS WELL AS being one of the brightest lights for the 70's, twenty-one year old Philadelphian, Barbara Mason, is surely one of the most attractive artists of today. Her petite, almost childlike appearance, belies the vast experience that has been instilled in her during the past six years since she achieved her first major success, "Yes I'm Ready", on the Philly-based Arctic label. Although it sold way over a million in the States, it meant very little when issued in this country on London Record.. Maybe we weren't ready for Barbara...
She spent the five years following that hit, learning the ins-and-outs of the business and now she is completely ready for us. Earlier this year, her manager, the irrepressible Mr Jimmy Bishop, signed Barbara to the Buddah distributed National General label. As day follows night, the first release by Barbara on National General, "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head", plunged her right back into the public eye.
Barbara actually first recorded in 1964 for the Crusader label — they had Dobie Gray's "In Crowd", remember? The song was "Troubled Child" and it meant a lot in her home city. For the second single, Barbara switched to Arctic Records and became the label's first artist. The first Arctic single was "Girls Have Feelings" but it was the second single that put Barbara Mason on the map. As with the other two singles, "Yes I'm Ready" was penned by Miss Mason herself. It was a hypnotic little song with strangely simple yet haunting lyrics that the public was able to associate itself with individually. How did Barbara come up with such a classic at such an early age?
"It just came to me", she smiles now. "I believe that people were able to relate themselves to the simple message contained within the song — especially young girls!" This is particularly strange because on stage, Miss Mason could not fail to appeal to the male section of the audience, yet on disc she relates to the distaff section of the public.
But Barbara Mason is multi-talented truly. We all know of her singing capabilities but people are not quite so aware of her songwriting. Most of her own hits have been self-penned or co-written with manager Jimmy Bishop. Is there any special motivation that compels Barbara to write?
"No, not really" she pertly replies "I try to write in a simple manner that anybody can understand. I've actually been writing since I was ten or eleven years old. I used to sit at home with a book of poems and I'd set them to music on my piano. Then I decided to try and write a lyric myself and it just grew from that. In those days, I just rhymed "cat" with "rat" as such. I think that this same basic simplicity has stayed with me all this time. Maybe it's even the reason for it. And I have to be in a special mood to write really. I can write better when I'm in a sad mood. Though I'm not really a sad person, I find I'm happier or more at ease to write a song when I'm feeling blue. I was in such a sad mood for "Sad, Sad Girl", I remember that!"
Barbara is also unique in that she didn't start out as a gospel singer, she didn't sing in church. In fact, she really never wanted to get involved in show business. Fortunately for all concerned, she did get involved. Grudgingly, she used to appear in local talent shows and frequently she won. She wrote her own songs and accompanied herself on piano.
Gradually, Barbara graduated to the bigger talent shows and she came to the attention of Wally McDougall who introduced her to Jimmy, who has built her career in the last six years. Yet our reluctant star took a long while adjusting herself to the demands of her audience.
Barbara's current act includes "Raindrops", "Yes I'm Ready", "You Made Me So Very Happy", "Fever", "Something", "Oh How It Hurts" and "Misty". It's a sophisticated show aimed at the Diana Ross and Nancy Wilson circuit.
The next direction for our artiste could well involve an acting career. In fact, Barbara confesses that she would rather act than sing: "It would give me the opportunity to achieve what I really want in life. I think that I could live a part if it was given to me, rather than just act it". The inevitable question followed: What sort of parts would you like? "Sad parts! I don't see myself, though, in a love role. I suppose a dramatic part would be good for me. You see, I'm not a morbid person but I'm naturally quiet, reserved and more content in a sad situation".