The 1965 classic "Rescue Me" is widely regarded as the greatest record Aretha Franklin never made. The song in question was instead cut by singer Fontella Bass, who like Franklin channeled the power and passion of her gospel roots to create some of the finest music of soul's golden age. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, on July 3, 1940, Bass was the daughter of gospel vocalist Martha Bass, a longtime member of the renowned Clara Ward Singers. Her grandmother Navada Carter was also a professional gospel performer, and it was inevitable that Fontella follow suit, making her church choir debut at age five. Nevertheless, during the mid-'50s she rebelled against tradition, sneaking out of the house to sing secular R&B at local fairs and nightclubs. By 16, Bass was the house pianist at the St. Louis nightspot the Showbar, and in 1961 she joined local blues great Little Milton Campbell, later marrying the band's trumpeter, fledgling jazz titan Lester Bowie. Bass first earned notice for her vocal on Little Milton's 1962 hit "So Mean to Me," soon followed by her Bobbin label solo debut, "I Don't Hurt Anymore." But when Campbell and his pianist Oliver Sain parted ways, Bass exited along with Sain, who named her lead vocalist of his Oliver Sain Soul Revue. Her second single, the Ike Turner-produced "I Love the Man," followed on Turner's Prann label in 1963. Bass then cut "Poor Little Fool," a duet with Tina Turner issued on the Vesuvius imprint. And when she wasn't performing with Sain and his group, she moonlighted as a solo act, playing gigs across East St. Louis under the alias "Sabrina."