Aretha Franklin Before Atlantic: The Columbia Years
Aretha Franklin made her first record when she was 14, singing some gospel standards in the church of her father, Rev. C.L. Franklin, an easygoing Detroit pastor who was friends with Martin Luther King and just about every gospel singer you could name. One of the stars who visited a lot was Sam Cooke, who convinced Aretha that she could be a hit singing popular music. So in 1960, at 18, she dropped out of school and, eventually, was signed to Columbia Records by its top talent scout, John Hammond. Hammond, who had discovered Count Basie and Billie Holiday, among others, saw her as a potential jazz star, and recorded her with a jazz trio led byRay Bryant. Franklin recorded jazz standards like "Rock a Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody," which was a minor pop hit in late 1961.
It's likely that she knew she'd be doing other kinds of material, and apparently Columbia agreed, because the label followed it up with "Rough Lover." TBC Here on NPR