BETTYE CRUTCHER-LONG AS YOU LOVE ME.

BETTYE CRUTCHER-LONG AS YOU LOVE ME.

For Bettye Crutcher, getting a foothold in the male-dominated world of Memphis songwriting wasn’t easy. Her songs already been rejected by Willie Mitchell at Hi Records. Willie told her he’d already got Don Bryant signed to Hi Records. Don had already established himself as a successful and prolific songwriter. Undeterred, Bettye promised herself that one day, she’d make a living as a songwriter. That was her dream. Unlike many songwriters, Bettye never really thought about being a singer.

Bettye did however, enjoy brief recording career. She released Long As You Love Me in 1974, which was recently released by Ace Records. By then, Bettye Crutcher had established herself as a successful, award-winning songwriter. However, Bettye’s journey to becoming a successful songwriter was long and not without a few twists and turns.

Following the disappointment of being turned down by Hi Records, Bettye returned to her day job as a nurse. After all, she was a single parent with two children to feed. Disappointed but undeterred, Bettye realized that Hi Records weren’t the only record company in Memphis. Far from it. Hi Records were big, but Stax Records were bigger. So, Bettye headed to McLemore Avenue with her portfolio of songs.

At Stax, Bettye met David Porter He’d already established a reputation as a succesful songwriter. With Isaac Hayes, David was enjoying the hottest streak of his career. David listened to Bettye’s songs, but felt that although they were good, they were just lacking slightly. Bettye realizing she needed to up her game, headed home and got to work. Just a few days later, she’d written her first hit. This was Who’s Been Sleeping In My Bed, which gave Johnny Taylor a million-selling single later in 1967. Despite this, other songwriters at Stax weren’t exactly rushing to write songs with Bettye.

Quickly, Bettye discovered that songwriting at Stax was very much a male-dominated environment. Granted Carla Thomas and Deanie Parker had written songs, but mostly, it was something of a “boys club.” It was also difficult for an outsider to make inroads at Stax. Songwriting partnerships had already been formed. Then there was the fact that some producers were also songwriters. They wanted their songs on an album. It wasn’t as if they were going to give a newcomer a break. Unable to make inroads at Stax, Bettye continued to work as a nurse. She’d then head home, spend time with her family and later, head to McLemore Avenue, Stax’s headquarters. Gradually, Bettye’s persistence started to pay off.

Eventually, some of Stax’s songwriters realised Bettye wasn’t just persistent, but was a really talented songwriter. In 1968, she cowrote Cold Feet for Albert King with Al Jackson Jr. Betty penned The Ghetto for The Staple Singers with Bonnie Bramlett and Homer Banks. This wouldn’t be the last time Bettye worked with Homer Banks.

Soon, Bettye had written songs for Sam and Dave, Albert King, Jeannie and The Darlings, Young Holt Unlimited, Carla Thomas, The Madd Lads and Johnny Taylor. With an impressive track record, Al Bell, president of Stax decided to pair Bettye with Homer Banks and Raymond Jackson. This new songwriting team Al Bell called We Three.

The We Three songwriting partnership hit the ground running. Having written just three songs, they hit the jackpot with Who’s Making Love. It gave Johnny Taylor a two-million selling single. That was just the start. We Three wrote Carla Thomas’ I Like What You’re Doing To Me, Chuck Brooks’ Love’s Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down, The Staple Singers’ We’ll Get over and Booker T. and The MGs Slum Baby. For three years, between 1968 and 1971, We Three were one of Stax’s top songwriting teams. Then in 1971, Bettye stopped writing with Homer Banks and Raymond Jackson. She decided to work with different songwriters.

After Bettye’s departure from We Three, Homer and Raymond recruited Carl Hampton. This looked like a masterstroke, after they penned (If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want To Be Right. Then tragedy struck. Raymond Jackson died in a fire in 1972. By then, Bettye was working with Mack Rice, Marvell Thomas and Bobby Manuel, who was one of Stax’s studio engineers. William Bell, The Staple Singers and The Soul Children were all beneficiaries of Bettye’s songwriting skills. So were artists who weren’t signed to Stax.

This included Quiet Elegance, one of Hi Records’ groups. The B-Side to their 1972 single I Need Love, was Mama Said, penned by Bettye and Bobby Manuel. At last, Bettye had a song released on Hi Records, who turned her down five years earlier. Then in 1974, Bettye and Lester Snell penned From His Woman To You, for Barbara Mason. This was the reply to Shirley Brown’s Woman To Woman. Bettye and Lester also cowrote the B-side When You Wake Up In Georgia, and co-produced the track. That wasn’t the end of Bettye’s work with Barbara Mason. She and Barbara penned His Woman To You, which featured on Barbara Mason’s 1975 album Loves The Thing. By the time Loves The Thing was released, Bettye was also a recording artist. She’d released her debut album As Long As You Love Me.

Ever since Bettye had left the We Three songwriting partnership, she’d written extensively with Mack Rice. For As Long As You Love Me, Bettye and Mack penned As Long As You Love Me, A Little Bit More Won’t Hurt, Sunday Morning’s Gonna Find Us in Love, Up For A Let Down and So Lonely Without You. Mack, Bettye and Arris Wheaton cowrote Passion and Sugar Daddy, while Bettye, David Porter and Ronnie Williams penned Call Me When All Else Fails. Bettye wrote When We’re Together and Sleepy People. These tracks, which became As Long As You Love Me were recorded at the Stax and Muscle Shoals Sound Studios.

By late 1973 and early 1974, when As Long As You Love Me was recorded, the practice was for the rhythm tracks to be laid down in Muscle Shoals Sound Studios by the Muscle Shoals Sound Rhythm Section. Strings and horns came courtesy of The Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Bettye laid her vocals down at Stax’s McLemore Avenue studios. Ten tracks were recorded, with Mack Rice and Bettye producing what became As Long As You Love Me.

Sadly, As Long As You Love Me, Bettye Crutcher’s debut album wasn’t a commercial success. Like several other albums Stax released by Stax in 1974 they, they never really supported the album. There wasn’t even a single released from As Long As You Love Me. Maybe this was the first sign of the financial problems that would be Stax’s undoing beginning to bite? Whatever the reason for the lack of support As Long As You Love Me received, both Bettye Crutcher and Stax suffered as a result of this decision. Promoted properly, As Long As You Love Me could’ve been the start of Bettye’s career, rather than the start and finish of her career. You’ll realize why, when I tell you about As Long As You Love Me, Bettye Crutcher’s 1974 debut album. 

Opening As Long As You Love Me is the title-track. The first thing you notice is that it isn’t the usual “Stax” sound. Gone is the raw sound, replaced by a much smoother, but still deeply soulful sound. Keyboards join the bass-lead rhythm section. Along with woodwind as the scene is set for Bette’s tender heartfelt vocal. Delivered with emotion and sincerity, harmonies accompany her while lush strings add the finishing touch, to a beautiful, soulful song.

When We’re Together is one of two songs Bettye wrote herself. A choppy and dramatic backdrop accompanies Bettye’s sultry vocal. The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section add a funky backdrop and piano, while strings sweep. Wah-wah guitars, honky tonk piano and pounding drums provide the backdrop for Bettye’s slow, sensual and seductive vocal, as she showcases her songwriting and vocal prowess.

Just a wistful, meandering keyboard joins melancholy strings and subtle cymbals on Passion. A bass wanders alongside Bettye’s needy vocal. Pizzicato strings and harmonies accompany her tender vocal. Memories come flooding back. Good times seem better than they were. She needs him more than ever. Lovelorn, a sultry horn and harmonies accompany her needy, vampish vocal on this paean to love.

Stabs of keyboards, swirling strings and rasping horns combine with the rhythm section on A Little Bit More Won’t Hurt. They create an emotive, dramatic backdrop for Bettye. Her slow, seductive vocal defiantly delivers the lyrics: “don’t leave me with this feeling… A Little Bit More Won’t Hurt.” Meanwhile, a wah-wah guitar, growling horns, keyboards and dancing strings provide a slow, sensual backdrop for Bettye’s coquettish, flirtatious vocal.

Driven along by the bass, percussion, keyboards and cascading strings combine on Sunday Morning’s Gonna Find Us in Love. They set the scene for Bettye’s tender, languid vocal. Horns rasp, strings sweep and harmonies accompany Bettye’s husky vocal. It veers between heartfelt, joyous and frustrated. Quivering strings, punchy harmonies and rasping horns accompany Bettye, providing seductive, but soulful and hook-laden accompaniment to one of Bettye’s best vocals on As Long As You Love Me.

From the get-go, Sugar Daddy is a delicious track. It’s a horn driven track where the rhythm section and percussion get busy. Strings dance, as Bettye delivers a kittenish, flirtatious vocal. As if realizing this is one of the highlights of As Long As You Love Me, the band up their game. Horns blaze and growl. Strings sweep and swirl. Filling in the gaps are the flourishes of keyboards. Taking centre-stage, where she belongs, is Bettye Crutcher, the star of the show.

Wistful describes the piano that opens Call Me When All Else Fails. The same goes for the strings and Bettye’s vocal. Full of regret and longing, she looks back. Remembering the good times, she realizes her partner isn’t happy. She decides to let him go, but adds: “I’ll be there when all else fails, to make you happy…Call Me.” There’s a sense of pathos when Bettye delivers these lines, that someone would wait, just in case things shouldn’t work out? Heartbroken, strings accompany her, as Bettye delivers a pleading vocal tinged with pathos, bravado and insecurity. 

Up For A Let Down literally glides into being. Just keyboards and the rhythm section, complete with a pounding bass, are joined by Bettye’s vocal. Tender and tinged with melancholia describes her vocal. The arrangement has a real sixtes sound. Cascading strings, sweeping harmonies, rasping horns, keyboards and the rhythm section join Bettye as she successfully looks back to the sixties for inspiration. 

So Lonely Without You has a laid-back, mellow sound. That’s down to the keyboards, understated rhythm section and Bettye’s breathy vocal. Enveloped by equally heartfelt harmonies and swathes of lush strings, a slow, sensual and sultry track unfolds.

Sleepy People closes As Long As You Love Me. It too, has an understated arrangement. This allows Bettye’s vocal to take centre-stage. Her vocal is confident and strident, as the arrangement flows along. Guitars chime, strings sweep and the rhythm section provide the heartbeat. They’re joined by a myriad of percussion as Bettye’s vocal fills with concern and emotion. Like the arrangement, it grows in power as Bettye breathes life and meaning into the lyrics she wrote.

That Bettye Crutcher’s debut album As Long As You Love Me wasn’t a commercial success, meant that Bettye’s career was over before it had even began. With Stax failing to promote As Long As You Love Me properly, they let Bettye down. If Stax had got behind As Long As You Love Me, it could’ve been a commercial success. It’s certainly not lacking in quality. Far from it. 

Bristling with bravado, emotion, sadness, sensuality and sexual electricity As Long As You Love Me features ten tales of love, lust, deceit and heartbreak. Love gone wrong and love lost. Ten tales of loving the wrong and sometimes, right men. Men who cheat, lie and leave her hurt and heartbroken. These are mini soap operas, lasting three minutes long. Powerful paeans to love and relationships, this is music for those who’ve had been hurt and had their heartbroken. Each of the ten tracks were written by Bettye, whose vocals are variously heartfelt, heartbroken, sassy, coquettish and flirtatious. Accompanied by swathes of strings, horns and harmonies accompanied Bettye breathes life, meaning and emotion into the lyrics, lyrics which she wrote. Bettye cowrote eight tracks and wrote two others. These ten tracks should’ve been the start of Bettye’s solo career. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Her career was over before it had even began.

Released in 1974, As Long As You Love Me, Bettye Crutcher’s debut album proved to be her only album. There was no followup. Certainly not on Stax. A year later, Stax Records was declared insolvent. Bettye worked at Stax as a writer until the doors closed. She continued to work throughout the seventies, but slowed down, when she realized she could live off her royalties. 

Later, discerning soul fans discovered Bettye Crutcher’s As Long As You Love Me. Somewhat belatedly, soul connoisseurs realized that Bettye Crutcher’s debut album As Long As You Love Me was a hidden gem. A cult classic, As Long As You Love Me had at long last received the recognition it deserved. Things were about to get better for Bettye Crutcher.

Next to discover the delights of Bettye Crutcher’s As Long As You Love Me were hip hop producers. On As Long As You Love Me, which was recently rereleased by Ace Records, were a ready supply of samples. Like so many other artists, this gave Bettye Crutcher’s career and finances a boost. Now nearly forty years after its release, As Long As You Love Me, Bettye Crutcher’s debut album, is a hidden musical gem, of the soulful variety. At last, Bettye Crutcher’s As Long As You Love Me is receiving the recognition it so richly deserves. Standout Tracks: Passion, A Little Bit More Won’t Hurt, Sunday Morning’s Gonna Find Us in Love and Sugar Daddy.

BETTYE CRUTCHER-LONG AS YOU LOVE ME.

4 Comments

  1. Kirk Dudley

    Those guys we the truth during their time. I loved Homer and Raymond. I learned how to produce from watching and doing sessions with them. I did not see Betty that much. Homer Banks projected the spirit of the producer into my spirit. My experience at Stax was the foundation of my writing and producing career. I would love to see Betty again, i know Homer and Raymond is gone. Oh yes Raymond was a good guitarist very simple style while doing session work. He taught me the simplicity of session work. I am very honored that I got the opportunity to be on the seen with those great people. I was the bass player that did the session on Marjie Josef album in 1969 at Stax.

    • Hi Kirk,

      Thanks for your comments. It sounds like you learnt a lot during your time at Stax, and it’s stood you in good stead during a long and successful career.

      These days at Stax must have been amazing, with all the wonderful music that was being written, recorded and produced. Stax had so many great songwriters, musicians, arrangers and producers who played their part in the success the various artists and bands enjoyed. Guys like yourself, Homer Banks and Raymond Jackson all played a hugely important part in the music’s success.

      The music released on Stax is still cherished by people all over the world. Especially here in Britain, where Stax has a huge following and always has. I’ve a lot of the the Stax recordings and have the three box singles box sets (28 CDs) is sitting beside me. These box sets feature some of the best soul music ever recorded and you should be proud that you played your part in the sound and success of Stax.

      You must have been pleased to catch up with David Porter after forty-seven years. I hope life is treating him well. He played such an important part in the Stax story. It sounds like it’s time for a Stax reunion, and for you all to catch up.

      I tried to trace Bettye Crutcher for you. If you have access to Facebook and search for Bettye, there’s a lady who looks a lot like her. You should try sending her a message. It would be nice if you could you catch up with her. If need any more help get back in touch.

      Regards,
      Derek.

  2. Kirk Dudley

    Hey Betty you mite not remember me but I was the light skinned 19 year old guy that did session with Homer And Raymond at Stax in 1969 that was the year Margie joseph did an album at stax and I played bass on it so did Cornell macfaden play drums. I came to Memphis on Monday 12-11-17 to see David porter I had not seen him since 1970. I got a chance to see him and it made my heart glad to know he is doing good. I wood like to see you when I come back. If all goes well I will be back this Friday. My phone # is 334 669 0992 I am a writer, producer, singer and guitarist. Hit me up lets talk. Kirk God bless you and yours.

    • Hi Kirk,

      I’m glad the David Porter is well. It would nice to catch up with him after all these years.

      I tried to trace Bettye Crutcher for you. If you have access to Facebook and search for Bettye, there’s a lady who looks a lot like her. You should try sending her a message. It would be nice if you could you catch up with her. If need any more help get back in touch.

      Regards,
      Derek.

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