The Clarence Carter story is one of triumph over adversity. Clarence Carter was born in Alabama, on January 14 1936. Sadly, shortly after his birth, doctors discovered that Clarence Carter was blind. This was a huge blow for the Carter family. They worried what the future held for young Clarence Carter?

As the time came Clarence Carter to go to school, he had to move to Talladega. That’s where he attended the Alabama School For The Blind, and West Side High School. However, by the time Clarence was attending West Side High School he had discovered how he would make a career…music.

Clarence Carter first took an interest in music when he was nine. So when Christmas came, Clarence’s grandmother gave him a guitar. It turned out that Clarence was a natural, and when he left high school, he headed to Alabama State University. 

In 1960, Clarence Carter graduated from Alabama State University a degree in music. It was then that the twenty-four year old decided to pursue a career in music. 

It wasn’t as a solo artist though. Clarence was part of a duo with Calvin Scott. As Clarence and Calvin, the pair released a string of singles between 1962 and 1965. Their debut single was 1962s I Don’t Know (School Girl), which they released as Clarence and Calvin. After that they became the C and C Boys, releasing four singles for Duke Records. Commercial success eluded them and in 1965 they left Duke Records. Down but not out, Clarence and Calvin headed to Rick Hall’s Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals. 

There they recorded Step By Step, which was released on Atco Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records. Step By Step failed to chart. Worse was to come. Calvin Scott’s wife shot him, resulting in Calvin having to retire from music temporarily. This inadvertently lead to Clarence’s debut solo single.

In late 1966, Clarence Carter signed to Rick Hall’s Fame Records. His first solo single was Tell Daddy, which reached number thirty-five in the US R&B charts. The followup Thread The Needle reached number ninety-eight in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-eight in the US R&B charts. Then when She Ain’t Gonna Do Right was released later in 1967, it failed to chart. This lead to Atlantic Records’ Jerry Wexler suggest that maybe, it would be best if Clarence Carter’s next single was released on Atlantic Records?

This proved to a masterstroke, when Looking For A Fox reached number sixty-two in the US Billboard 100 and twenty in the US R&B charts. After the biggest hit of his career, Rick Hall chose Funky Fever for the followup. However, it stalled at just eighty-eight in the US Billboard 100 and forty-nine in the US R&B charts. The DJs flipped over the Funky Fever, and it started climbing the charts. Eventually, it reached number six on the US Billboard 100 and two in the US R&B charts. This was enough to earn Clarence Carter a gold disc. It was then that all thoughts turned to Clarence Carter’s debut album.

This Is Clarence Carter was released in 1968, and was recently reissued by Kent Soul with the followup album The Dynamic Clarence Carter. These two albums feature some of the best music Clarence Carter recorded for Fame Records.

This Is Clarence Carter.

After enjoying the most successful single of his career, Rick Hall wasted no time in putting together Clarence’s debut album, This Is Clarence Carter. 

Already Rick Hall had amassed plenty of material. It had been recorded at Fame Studio, with the legendary Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and horns. So it was a case of choosing the best of the material Clarence had already recorded, and then going into Fame Studio and recording some new material for This Is Clarence Carter. 

Eventually, twelve tracks were chosen, including the singles She Ain’t Gonna Do Right; Thread The Needle; Looking For A Fox and its B-Side I Can’t See Myself (Crying About You); Slip Away and Funky Fox were included. Other tracks included covers of Jimmy Webb’s Do What You Wanna Do; Clay Hammond’s Part Time Love and Claude Putman’s Set Me Free. Along with Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham’s Slippin’ Around; Rick Hall and Quin Ivy’s I’m Qualified. The other track, Wind Up, was another Clarence Carter composition. He was already shaping up to be a talented songwriter, and had written the arrangements for several of the new songs on This Is Clarence Carter. 

The new songs were recorded at Rick Hall’s Fame Studio. Accompanying Clarence Carter were the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and horns. Rick Hall produced the songs, which had to be recorded quickly. Atlantic Records wanted to build on the success of Funky Fever. Once the recorded was complete, Atlantic Records scheduled the release for later in 1968. However, before that, critics had their say on This Is Clarence Carter

Before This Is Clarence Carter was released in 1968, it was well received by critics. Clarence Carter had the ability to breath life and meaning into the lyrics. That was the case regardless if  it was a ballad like Do What You Gotta Do, Part Time Love, the soul-baring Slip Away or uptempo tracks like I’m Qualified and Wind It Up. Critics thought the versatile and talented Clarence Carter was destined to become Southern Soul’s next big star.

Rick Hall had high hopes for This Is Clarence Carter when it was released. Sadly, the album stalled at just forty-nine and stayed in the charts just two weeks. However, This Is Clarence Carter was just Clarence’s debut album. Maybe his luck would improve with the followup The Dynamic Clarence Carter?


The Dynamic Clarence Carter.

After the release of This Is Clarence Carter, Rick Hall and Clarence Carter began thinking about the followup to Funky Fever. Eventually, the settled on Too Weak To Fight, which Clarence, Rick Hall, George Jackson and John Keyes cowrote. On the flip side, was Back Door Santa. When Too Weak To Fight was released in time for Christmas 1968, the album reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 100 and number three in the US R&B charts. This gave Clarence another gold disc. Then Back Door Santa reached number four on Billboard Christmas chart. Clarence Carter enjoyed two hits as 1968 drew to a close. This should’ve been a time celebration. However, there was a problem.

The cupboard was bare for Clarence Carter. He had used up the supply of songs he had recorded for Rick Hall. There was nothing left for a new album. So as 1969 dawned Clarence and Rick Hall began to think of the followup to This Is Clarence Carter.

With no new material, a decision was made that Clarence Carter should record an album of recent hits and cover versions. This included a cover of Etta James and Ellington Jordan’s I’d Rather Go Blind; Don Covay and Otis Redding’s Think About It and Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s You’ve Been A Long Time Coming. One of the covers that caused raised eyebrows was The Doors’ Light My Fire seemed. However, Jimmy Hughes’ Steal Away seemed the perfect song for Clarence to cover. So did Obie Burnett McClinton’s Let Me Comfort You and Charles Chalmers and Donna Rhodes’ Look What I Got. Other covers included Tom Hall’s Harper Valley Pta and Weekend Love, which had been penned by Larry Chambers, George Jackson, Melvin Leakes and Raymond Moore. The other two tracks on what became The Dynamic Clarence Carter, were Too Weak To Fight and the Clarence Carter composition The Road Of Love. These songs were recorded at Fame Studio.

The twelve songs that became The Dynamic Clarence Carter were recorded at Rick Hall’s Fame Studio. Accompanying Clarence Carter were the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and horns. Rick Hall produced The Dynamic Clarence Carter, which was released in February 1969.

Despite the lack of the new songs, The Dynamic Clarence Carter was well received by critics. They felt that Clarence Carter brought something new to each of the songs. That was the case with a heart-wrenching cover of I’d Rather Go Blind that opened The Dynamic Clarence Carter. Rick Hall slows the tempo, and Clarence takes the song in a new direction. That’s just a taste of what’s to come.

Clarence delivers emotive readings of Think About It and You’ve Been A Long Time Coming. There’s a wistful quality to The Road Of Love; before Clarence reinvents The Doors’ Light My Fire as a ballad. Jimmy Hughes’ Steal Away seems almost tailor made for Clarence as he delivers a needy, hopeful vocal. It’s followed by one of the album’s highlights, Let Me Comfort You. This  slice of country soul features an impassioned vocal from Clarence Carter. One of the most powerful songs is Too Weak To Fight, which gave Clarence a hit single. It’s easily one of the album’s highlights. However, it’s the sultry sounding Weekend Love which closes The Dynamic Clarence Carter. Although it was lacking in new material, this mixture of a familiar songs and cover versions was the perfect showcase for Clarence Carter.

Record buyers agreed, and The Dynamic Clarence Carter reached twenty-two in the US R&B charts. This was a vast improvement on his debut album. However, that wasn’t the end of the commercial success.

By the time The Dynamic Clarence Carter was released in February 1969, Clarence was enjoying another hit single. Snatching It Back reached number thirty-one in the US Billboard 100, and number four in the US R&B charts. Clarence Carter was on a roll, and thanks to Rick Hall, was well on his way to becoming one of the stars of Southern Soul.

Over the next two years, commercial success and critical success came Clarence Carter’s way. He enjoyed another six hit singles before 1970 drew to a close. By then, Clarence Carter had enjoyed the biggest single of his career, Patches, which reached number four  in the US Billboard 100, and number two in the US R&B charts. This was just one of seven top ten US R&B singles that Clarence Carter enjoyed between 1968 and 1970. They all had one thing in common, they were produced by Rick Hall at Fame Studio.

Rick Hall transformed the career of Clarence Carter. With Rick Hall’s guidance Clarence Carter became one of the stars of Southern Soul. The most successful period of Clarence Carter’s career was between 196 and 1970. During that period, Clarence Carter produced some of the best music of his career. This includes the first two albums of Clarence Carter’s career, This Is Clarence Carter and The Dynamic Carter. They’ve been reissued by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records, complete with five bonus tracks. These two albums are a tantalising taste of Clarence Carter, who triumphed over adversity to became one of the stars of Southern Soul during the late sixties.








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