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Interview with BETTYE CRUTCHER


Bettye co-wrote three songs for the album. Bettye: “I was born in Memphis. I guess I was writing, when I was about seven or eight. I wrote little poems, and that was kind of an outlet for me. I was never an athlete kid, so writing has always been a friend of mine. As I got older, I wrote just as a hobby, and a friend of mine came by one day and said 'I can't believe you're writing like this and you're not doing anything with it'. I said 'when the stack pile gets too high, I just throw it out'. 'I dare you to take some of this material to the audition', and that was like the last thing you want to hear, 'dare' (laughing).”

“I set an appointment at Stax, and David Porter auditioned. He said 'are you sure you're not already signed with anybody', and I said 'no'. They had this guy there, and his name was Raymond Moore, and David said to him 'we've been trying to get you to write like this for a year' (laughing). My songs at the time were very sweet and pretty, because the artists I listened to most were Nancy Wilson, Dionne Warwick, and I loved Sam Cooke. David said 'I really like the way your songs are structured, but you're gonna have to write songs that work for our artists here at Stax. Well, he shouldn't have told me that (laughing), because I went and wrote a song for Johnnie Taylor. They had been looking for songs for him, but nobody could come up with anything that really suited him or his style… so I wrote this song, Somebody's Sleeping in My Bed” (in '67).

Bettye was part of a writing team called We Three. "There were two young writers, Homer Banks and Raymond Jackson, who were kind of writing together. Homer is like a think-tank and he's the idea man. He would always come to me to finish the song, because he always wanted a female point of view, which I really liked about him. Finally we just kind of started writing together, the three of us. Then Raymond Jackson got burned up in a fire, so that was the end of We Three, but we did a lot of writing. There was a time, when East Memphis Music separated from Atlantic, when we released twenty-seven albums in one year. During that time we wrote so many songs. Every artist in the roster had to have songs. We didn't have a publishing catalogue, so that was the year that restarted the East Memphis catalogue.”

Among the hundreds of songs Bettye has written or co-written there are releases on Albert King, Barbara Mason (From His Woman to You), Carla Thomas, William Bell (My Whole World Is Falling Down, A Penny For Your Thoughts), the Temprees, J. Blackfoot, Etta James, Ann Peebles, the Mad Lads, the Staple Singers (Love Is Plentiful), Little Sonny, the Sweet Inspirations, Delaney & Bonnie, Otis Clay, Ted Taylor (I'm Gonna Hate Myself In the Morning), Sammy Davis Jr., Brenton Wood, Sam & Dave, Darrell Banks and, of course… Johnnie Taylor ( Who's Making Love, I Could Never Be President, Stop Doggin' Me).

But Bettye has an album of her own, too, Long as You Love Me (on Enterprise/Stax in '74). “That's the only one I've ever done. Everybody had been encouraging me to do an album, and I really love that song, Long as You Love Me. Mack Rice said he wanted to work with me, and we got together. I basically had written the songs, and Mack came along and worked with me on the album, so I just kind of gave him writers on those songs.”

After Stax, Bettye went into another venture. “Actually I had a small antique business. I came to England and everywhere else and got antique. Actually I still did an album on Ben E. King. Then I did material for B.B. King and some others. I still love antiques today, but I don't have a shop here anymore, but I'm always fond of looking at something wonderful.”

IT'S WORTH A WHIPPIN'

“I've been knowing Shirley for a long time. I met her before Woman to Woman.”

Long as You Love Me is one of Bettye's songs that appeared on Shirley's debut album. It's a sunny and light, slow-to-mid-tempo song with a Caribbean feel to it. “ They wanted some material from everybody to put on her album, and that was one of the songs they chose. I wrote it at the time, when I was really in love.”

A mid-paced funk called So Glad to Have You is credited to Bettye, Mack and A. Wheatonn. Wheatonn? “I don't know who he is, but I know he didn't write that song.” Passion is an atmospheric, almost tender slowie, which Shirley sings in high register, but restrained. “That song was written the same time as Long as You Love Me. They were love songs.”

During that time they also cut Bettye's intense deep soul song titled It's worth a Whippin', which didn't make the album, but was released as Shirley's third single on Truth, but, alas, to no chart action. Later Margie Alexander covered the song for Chi-Sound/U.A. in 1976.

Heikki Suosalo


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