Connie Little / Connie and the Cytations / Ruby Starr


Toledo, 1961-1995

Connie Mierzwiak could sing, and sing big, at a young age. Growing up in Toledo's Sylvania suburb, the home of many great local artists like the Mods, she started performing at a young age, and at 12-13 years she recorded her first 45 credited as Connie Little on the apparent one shot Raymier label. The credits are Connie Little and the Cashmeres, it's not known if the Cashmeres were the band or singers..A year or so later, she had another 45 as Connie and the Cytations, on Town and Country records, a label run by Murray Cohen. According to the label, this record was recorded at Hanf studios in Toledo. Both these 45s have pretty solid rockers on the A sides, the band sounds like an early 60s Toledo rock styled band. A third 45 was issued on the Elmor label from Chicago, on this record she is backed by the Raging Storms, although the songs are not as rockin' as the other two 45s. 

During these years, she also performed in Connie and the Blu-Beats who sprayed their hair blue. Paul Cappelletty is the only other identified member of the Blu-Beats. Along with the rock bands she performed Brenda Lee styled country pop as well. Connie had flaming red hair (when not painted blue) and great stage presence and seemed destined for stardom. 

In 1968 she recorded one final 45 as Connie Little, backed by the B.G. Ramblers. On this record she was moving to a Janis Joplin-ish soul/rock belter. The record included a cover of the Otis Redding song "Don't Mess With Cupid" and "Bad Girl", originally recorded by the Crickets as "I'm Not A Bad Guy" - but the song (with gender change) is credited to Connie and released on the Ramblers' own label Rambo IV which only seems to have lasted for one 45. A couple members of the B. G. Ramblers and Connie wanted to form a band that played heavier rock and funk, so Connie and the band became Ruby Jones. After playing the midwest (OH/IN/MI/IL/WI) circuit the band was signed on to Curtis Mayfield's Curtom label and released one LP. The LP was not very successful, probably because its a litlle too raw and also because their sound, and look, probably confused the radio stations who expected a certain sound from Curtom. For more info about Ruby Jones, see the entry under than name. 

At some time around 1971/2 Ruby Jones performed with Black Oak Arkansas and this lead to Connie/Ruby joining BOA and her most famous moment on record, singing the female part of BOA's biggest hit, a remake of Lavern Baker's "Jim Dandy". She spent a few years as a member of BOA, but finally she formed her own band and became Ruby Starr and Grey Ghost. Ruby Starr released three LPs on Capitol, none of them becoming hits, although the group had a solid fan base in the Midwest and played a lot of opening/lead in shows for national bands.

After the Capitol contract expired, Ruby settled in Milwaukee and continued to perform in a new band called Lucy Grey aka Grey Starr, who recorded a couple of LPs for local distribution. In the early 1990s she relocated to Las Vegas and perfomed club shows at the Stardust and other venues as Ruby Starr. After a year or so in Vegas, she started to have bad headaches and was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer. With a bad prognosis, she returned pretty much unnoticed to Toledo, where she passed away on January 14, 1995. 

Other than the Black Oak Arkansas and Ruby Jones Curtom recordings, none of Connie's/ Ruby's above mentioned recordings have been reissued or are available, except for Youtube postings.. 

 

Discography:
Homework / Gonna Get Over You - Raymier 1000
Boogie Rock / Comma-Long - Town and Country 1001
Boy For Me / Billy - Elmor 307
Bad Girl / Don't Mess With Cupid - Rambo  IV 100,  June 1968