Betty Harris – Mean Man

Download or listen to Betty Harris – Mean Man from the Sansu 45

I wanted to apologize to all who checked in on Monday for a new post. Unfortunately I had to make some real world moves, and until I start to get paid for FMF, I might be missing a beat now and again during the week for a while. My Friday night party got canceled due to circumstances that were out of my control (bar closing), so I’ve been hustling a bit to try and make some extra dough for the moment. I’m gonna do my best to really get to three posts a week, but until things get straightened out, they may be only 1 or 2 until then. Got it? This record was one I scored on the infamous $1 “Hey Joyce” day. It was a side that I needed to have as well, so it took me until then to really dig it out to review. Here’s Betty Harris with “Mean Man” on Allen Toussaint’s Sansu Records.

Born in Orlando, Florida in 1941, Betty Harris was raised in Alabama. Like so many of these great Soul singers, her start to this music game was deep rooted in the church. Her similarity to these singers was that they all left their roots to sing secular music. Some return eventually, some don’t. At age 17 Betty Harris would be taken under the wing of singer Big Maybelle. This resulted in some experience before eventually relocating to California, where she’d cut the side “Taking Care of Business” on Douglass Records in 1960. As many musicians in general did in the 1960’s, she was prodded to relocate once again. This time to New York City. She hooked up with Bert Berns for her rendition of Solomon Burke’s hit “Cry to Me” on Jubilee. This was her first taste of a Top 40 song. Her next two records did not fare as well (“His Kiss” and Mo Jo Hannah”) and she was soon off Jubille, but relocated once again to New Orleans after meeting Allen Toussaint. He scooped her up for the Sansu label. Here her Gospel filled Blues type ballads would give way to edgier Rhythm and Blues filled funkier sides. This relationship with Toussaint would finally give way to another Top 40, actually Top 20, in 1967 with “Nearer To You”, after she released a handful of Toussaint produced goodness. A duet with Lee Dorsey would follow. Harris’s career started to forge ahead, and she was slated to be a support act for Otis Redding before he was killed in the famous plane crash in 1967, and the bad luck started again. However, it as she moved ahead, she cut this very record with some studio musicians, you might have heard of them, members that would eventually become the Meters. Her relationship with Toussaint ended, but not without leaving us with a killer tune : “There’s A Break In the Road”. A Classic! She remained undercover until the 90’s, raising a family, her career forgotten (even to her) until some compilations in the UK were released, and finally Soul fans and diggers weren’t the only people who knew about Betty Harris.

This side is killer! From the horns, to the harmonizing, Betty Harris sure lives up to her potential in this Toussaint written number. The drums are all New Orleans on this dance floor smasher (in my opinion that is). Even though this guy is mean, there has got to be a reason she’s staying with him, and I can only say it’s her great voice (not to mention the backing band). If you don’t know who this backing band is, it’s members of the Meters like I said earlier. Get your groove on with this people and pay tribute to one of the best funky Soul music has to offer. Keep Diggin’!

4 responses to “Betty Harris – Mean Man

  1. Do what you gotta do, man. We’ll be here whenever you get the time to post … especially something sweet like this. Thanks!

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