Good midweek to the FMF family. I trust you got your Latin Jazz Funk on, and Pucho Brown showed you how to do a cover right with the last post. I’m still taking in all the latest vinyl scores I got over the weekend, and also a nice little package I got from DJ Save1 out of Rhode Island. He hooked me up with a few sweet sides: The Hidden Cost “Bo Did It” on Marmaduke, The Dynamic Corvettes “Key to My Happiness” on Abet, and The Detroit Night Riders with “Getting Funky” on Mutt. Good looking out my man. I’m trying to arrange him to come down to be a Asbury Park 45 Sessions guest, so look out for that in the future. Speaking of that, it looks like Vincent from FuFu Stew will be making an appearance at the Sept. 14 installment of the Sessions. **Not to be missed, as Vince’s quiver of 45 gems is heavy. While I’m on the subject, the new flyer for Sept. will be designed by SF artist Alex Valdez, which is exciting as well. Ok, that being said, let’s travel to North Carolina via Brooklyn and Harlem, NY, with Judy Clay and “You Busted My Mind” on Sceptor records.
Judy (Guions) Clay was born in St. Paul, North Carolina, relocating to Brooklyn, NY in her teens. As with many of these soon to be Soul singers, she got her start in the church. Adopted by Lee Drinkard (the sister of Cissy Houston and mother of Dionne Warwick) while singing in a Harlem choir, she soon was a part to the Drinkard Singers of Gospel fame. Three records were released, and in 1961 she went solo, putting out the side “More Than You Know” on Ember. In fact, she would go on to do sides for Lavette, Scepter, Stax, and Atlantic. She was part of the first male/female interracial duet, a song with Billy Vera, (“Storybook Children”) to ever appear on a major label. She never really charted well with all her singles (there were a few that did actually chart), but was said to have possessed one of the greatest Soul voices, reminiscent of the great Mahalia Jackson. After releasing a string of records on Scepter (home to her sibling Warwick), she was let go on her contract and snatched up by Atlantic producer Jerry Wrexler to Stax for the aforementioned duet with Billy Vera. As groundbreaking as that duet was, the times got the best of the situation, and executives from major television stations refused to air their appearance at the famed Apollo theater. Another blow to this woman’s career, which seemed like she could never really get a break. Her next move was a duet with famed Stax man William Bell, which yielded Clay the best hit of her career (finally!), “Private Number”, in 1968. Known to not take any BS from anyone, her fiery disposition was an object that stood in the way of her success. A reunion with Vera was thwarted when she refused to do another Apollo appearance over money, and it seemed like that jump start the duet with Bell gave her career was fading fast. She continued to tour and record (there is a great Muscle Shoals solo project she did) until the late 70’s. She became a back up singer and has singing credits with the following artists: Donny Hathaway, Patti LaBelle, Wilson Pickett, Booker T. & the MG’s, Ray Charles, Mongo Santamaria, Eddie Harris and Les McCann and Yusef Lateef, among others. In 1979 Clay had an operation to remove a brain tumor shortly after that, and vowed never to sing secular songs again, returning to her native North Carolina and the church.
“You Busted My Mind” is a sweet little piece of Southern Soul. The horns play a major part in this scorcher, as a response to Clay’s calls of a scorned woman. This side is upbeat, and the beat itself reminds me of a faster rhythm of “Knock on Wood” by Eddie Floyd. She’d been hurt (maybe this song mirrored what was going on in her life at the time?), and her beautiful voice was telling everyone that would listen. The song was arranged and produced by Tommy Kaye who’s produced stuff by The Shirelles, ? and the Mysterians,Three Dog Night, Link Wray, Jay and the Americans ,and many others in his long sordid career. Kaye was head of A & R at Scepter at the ripe age of eighteen, where he went on to lead a hard life in the music biz which left him broke and hurting, finally passing away in Upstate New York in 1994. It’s hard for me to comprehend why a woman with such great talent, a superb voice, and a decent career, just couldn’t make it. Maybe it was the times, an ignorant nation caught up with the color of someone’s skin mixed in with a woman burnt by the shady side of the music business that contributed to Clay not staying in the spotlight. Who knows? What I do know is that the music she’s left us is a definite reminder of what Soul music is supposed to be. I’ll finish up with a quote from her son. “It was raw and effortless,” Leo Gatewood says of his mother’s singing. “She was pure Soul. You can call the music what you want, but she was probably the most soulful person I’ve ever known–because my definition of Soul is not just singing on the off-note. It’s singing from the soul, and that’s what she did.” Keep Diggin’!