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Kim Tolliver

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  • Born: Lebanon, TN
  • Died: Cleveland, OH
  • Years Active: 1960s, 1970s

Albums

Biography All Music Guide

All Music Guide:

Soul singer Kim Tolliver was born in Lebanon, TN, but her formative years took place in Cleveland, OH's Hough area. She built a reputation wowing local bar patrons with dramatic interpretations of blues and soul songs, and gigged for years before recording her first single. The slow torching "In Return for Your Love" came out on Don Robey's Sureshot label in 1967 and quickly disappeared. Her next four recordings were products of Jack Taylor's Rojac Records, located in New York City. These Southern-fried soul offerings are considered gems, perhaps the best of her career, by those who have heard them. They include the gospel-laden "I'll Try to Do Better"; "Tuesday Child" and its B-side, "Cop My Stuff"; "Let Them Talk"; and "Driving Me Into the Arms of a Stranger." She gigged a lot during this period, as far away as Australia, and once did 102 days in Auckland, New Zealand, with obscure soul singer Lou Ragland. Her next singles appeared on Gar Records -- "I Caught You" is an up-tempo, humorous mimic of Joe Tex's style. The second Gar single, "Got Myself Together," has a sweet Southern hook. The Gar and some Rojac singles were written and/or produced by Fred Briggs, who became her third husband. Her first husband, blues singer Rex Robinson, died in an automobile accident while coming home from a gig in Lorain, OH; second hubby Leroy Grafrenreed owned and operated a barbershop in Cleveland. Briggs had produced and written for, among others, the Dells, Margie Joseph, the Goodies, and Johnny Taylor, and had recorded himself as Coldwater Stone. Under Briggs' tutelage, Tolliver enjoyed a prolific period. She cut "How Long Can I Keep Holding on, Parts 1 & 2" on Superheavy Records as Big Ella. She cut her first album, Passing Clouds, on Fantasy Records as Kimberly Briggs in 1972, and waxed her second LP, Come and Get Me, on Chess Records a year later as Kim Tolliver. Neither label promoted the pleasing LPs and both were deleted before most knew they existed. In 1975, she cut "I Don't Know What Foot to Dance On" on Castro Records as Kim Tolliver; the disco dancer, written by Briggs and Andrew Hamilton, was popular in England's Northern soul clubs. In 1968, Pathfinder Records released the dramatic "Standing Room Only," which suffered the same dismal fate as previous releases. Though her recordings bombed, she kept active in local clubs like the Chaz Bo, the Spaghetti Inn, the Music Box, and Gleasons. She had a following in Buffalo, where she played the Revilot Club. She reunited with Jack Taylor on his newly formed Tay-Ster Records for her final two 12" releases: a reworking of "Let Them Talk" and "Where Were You." Tolliver sang hard like Eddie Levert and Linda Jones, and could work a crowd into a frenzy. Disgruntled by her lack of success coupled with her separation from Briggs, Tolliver put music down for real estate, and with the help of her companion, and sons, Daryl and Andrew, made a comfortable living. The '90s found the once-vibrant singer suffering from Alzheimer's. Fred Briggs suffered a stroke. Kim's unsuccessful recordings have become sought-after treasures for collectors. A bootleg CD titled The Torrid Tolliver contains 18 tracks and includes all her singles, except the Castro release, and the choicest cuts from her two albums.

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