At the age of 14, she met musician Johnny Otis. Stories on how they met vary. In Otis's version, she came to his hotel after one of his performances in the city and persuaded him to audition her. Another story was that Otis spotted the Creolettes performing at a Los Angeles nightclub and sought for them to record his "answer song" to Hank Ballard's "Work with Me, Annie". Otis took the group under his wing, helping them sign to Modern Records and changing their name from the Creolettes to the Peaches. He also gave the singer her stage name, transposing Jamesetta into Etta James. James recorded the version, for which she was given credit as co-author, in 1954, and the record was released in early 1955 as "Dance with Me, Henry". The original title of the song was "Roll with Me, Henry", but it was changed to avoid censorship due to the off-color title (roll connoting sexual activity). In February of that year, the song reached number one on the Hot Rhythm & Blues Tracks chart. Its success gave the group an opening spot on Little Richard's national tour.
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