Ruth Brown was born in 1928 and eventually ran away from home to chase her dreams of becoming a singer. Brown was inspired by jazz vocalists like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, but she put her own unique spin on each song she sang.

Brown was helped on the way to fame by Cab Calloway’s sister, Blanche, who owned the Crystal Caverns club in Washington D.C. Brown began performing at the club regularly before landing a recording contract with Atlantic in 1949. Brown helped the label to gain popularity by perfectly blending elements of jazz and gospel to create a form of early rock & roll or rhythm & blues (both relatively new terms at the time). Brown became known as “Miss Rhythm” as well as the power behind Atlantic’s success.

Have a look at her performing “Tears Keep Tumbling Down” in 1954 at the Apollo and just try not to tap your feet to this catchy tune! And, click “Next Page” after the video for 6 of the greatest American Bandstand moments of all time.