Bettye Swann-The Money Masters-Vinyl.

Label: Kent Soul.

All too often, talented singers fail top to enjoy the commercial success and critical acclaim that their talent deserves. That was the case with Bettye Swann who had the potential, talent and voice to become one of the great soul singers of the sixties. She released her debut single Don’t Wait To Long in 1964, and three years later in 1967, Betty Swann topped the US R&B charts with Make Me Yours. The future looked bright for Bettye Swann, with critics forecasting that she was about to enjoy a long and successful career.

Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Bettye Swann never again, scaled the same heights. Apart from a couple of minor hit singles, commercial success eluded Bettye Swann, and her recording career was over by 1976. Four years later in 1980, Bettye Swann gave her last concert.

Following the death of her husband and manager, Bettye Swann retired from the music industry aged thirty-six. It was then that Bettye decided upon a change of name and career. 

In a sense Bettye Swann died and Bettye Barton was born. The “newly born” Bettye Swan embarked on a career in education in Las Vegas, and became a Jehovah’s Witness. Never again, did Bettye return to  soul music, and instead, dedicated her life to education and the church. 

Thirty-seven years after Bettye Swann turned her back on music, her music is more popular than ever. Bettye Swann’s fans old and new will welcome the release of The Money Masters by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records on vinyl. It features fourteen of the songs that Bettye Swann recorded during the four years she spent at Money Records between 1964 and 1968. However, the Bettye Swan story began in Shreveport, Louisiana, on October 24th 1944.

That was the date that Bettye Jean Champion was born. She was one of fourteen children,  and grew up in Arcadia, Louisiana. It wasn’t until Bettye was in her teens that she starting singing secular music. 

Bettye became part of a The Fawns, a vocal group, who sung locally. This was the start of Bettye’s musical career, and a stepping stone to greater things.

In 1963, when nineteen year old Bettye Jean Champion decided to move to Los Angeles, where she would stay with her sister. Once she had settled in Los Angeles, Bettye was spotted by songwriter Huey Harris. Realising that Bettye had potential, Huey Harris told Bettye about a friend of his, Al Scott who ran Money Records. 

Just like Huey Harris, Al Scott spotted Betty’s potential and wanted to sign her to Money Records. However, he didn’t like her name, and advised Betty to change her name. What she needed was a name that rolled off the tongue. After some time, Al Scott came up with the name Bettye Swann, which he thought was more showbiz. With her new name, Bettye Swann signed to Money Records.

Soon, Bettye Swann’ life was transformed. Not only had she a new name, but a manager. She also began writing songs, in the hope that one of them would become her first hit. After a few false starts, Bettye Swann had penned Don’t Wait Too Long, which Al Scott decided become her first single which features on The Money Masters.

Once Bettye Swann had recorded The Man That Said No, everything just seemed to fall into place. Bettye Swann was booked to appear on television, where she would sing her new her irresistibly catchy, Motown-inspired sophomore single The Man That Said No. Accompanying Bettye Swann was a full backing band and The Blossoms, who added backing vocals. This was priceless publicity and Al Scott must have thought this would boost sales. 

When The Man That Said No was released in July 1965, neither Bettye Swann’s television appearance nor Money Records’ publicity campaign helped sales of the single. It failed to trouble the charts which was huge disappointment for Bettye Swann and Money Records’ owner Al Harris. It was a case of back to the drawing board.

After the disappointment of The Man Who Said No, Bettye Swann  wrote two new songs, which featured on her third single. Both feature on The Money Masters, including the soulful sounding The Heartache Is Gone, which showcased a different sound to Bettye Swann’s two previous singles. This new sound was hailed as the new soul sound, and regarded as the future of soul. Tucked away on the B-Side was the heart wrenching ballad Our Love which features one of Bettye Swann’s finest vocals. Given the quality of both sides of her third single, Bettye Swann hoped that her fortune was about to improve. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. 

When The Heartache Is Gone was released in April 1966, it also failed to find an audience. This was another huge disappointment for twenty-one year old Bettye Swann, and couldn’t have come at a worst time. Bettye Swann had just started work on her debut album with and Money Records’ owner Al Scott. Sadly, that never happened. 

With Bettye’s last two singles having failed commercially, the proposed album was shelved. For Bettye Swann this was a huge disappointment. However, Al Scott hadn’t lost faith in Bettye Swann.

Al Scott sent Bettye Swann back into the Arts Studio to record a song that she had just written, Make Me Yours. It was Bettye Swann’s finest hour, and a song that would become synonymous with her. Fittingly, Make Me Yours opens The Money Masters and is joined by an alternate take of the B-side, I Will Not Cry. It’s another Bettye Swann composition and features an emotive, hurt-filled vocal. Just like Make Me Yours,  I Will Not Cry showcases a talented singer-songwriter whose career was about to be transformed.

Make Me Your was released in April 1967 and straight away, the single began to climb the charts. Eventually, it reached number one on the US R&B charts and number twenty-one on the US Billboard 100. After three long and frustrating years, Bettye Swann had made a breakthrough. Now came the hard bit, following up Make Me Yours. 

Having enjoyed a number one single in the US R&B charts, the pressure was on Bettye Swann to come up with another hit single. She came up with two new songs, including the uptempo and soulful Fall In Love With Me which was chosen as the single. It was paired with Lonely Love a catchy and uptempo dancefloor friendly song that was tucked away on the B-Side. Both sides feature on The Money Masters, and document the next chapter in the Bettye Swann story.

When Fall In Love With Me was released in August 1967, it charted, but stalled at just thirty-six in the US R&B charts. While this was disappointing compared to Make Me Yours, Bettye Swann had enjoyed two consecutive hit singles, and three hits in three in three years. This was the perfect time for Bettye Swann to release her debut album.

Rather than rush out Bettye’s debut album, Al Scott decided to rerecord some of the tracks. This included two B-Sides, I Will Not Cry and Lonely Love. New tracks were recorded, including The Temptations’ Don’t Look Back, Ray Charles’ I Can’t Stop Loving You and Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Cone which is reinvented by Bettye Swann. However, instead of the original recording of A Change Is Gonna Cone, it’s a Rob Keyloch remix that features on The Money Masters. However, fifty years ago the original version of A Change Is Gonna Cone closed Bettye Swann’s debut album Make Me Yours.

With the album completed, Make Me Yours was released in 1967. Sadly, despite the effort of everyone at Money Records put into the release of Make Me Yours, the album wasn’t the commercial success that they had hoped. The album passed records by, and Al Scott’s thoughts turned to Bettye Swann’s next single. 

The song chosen was a track from Make Me Yours, Don’t Look Back. It doesn’t feature on The Money Masters. However, the B-Side You Gave Me Love which was penned by Bettye Swann and Arthur Wright does.  It’s a soulful hidden gem from Bettye Swann, and deserved better than to be hidden away on a B-Side. 

Don’t Look Back was released in 1968, but failed commercially. Just a year after she had topped the US R&B charts, things weren’t going well for Bettye Swann, and her time at Money Records was almost at an end.

Bettye Swann would only released one more single on Money Records. Don’t Take My Mind. It’s a Bettye Swann composition that featured on Make Me Yours. It was paired with the soul-baring I Think I’m Falling In Love, which was written when Bettye Swann was still Bettye Jean Champion. While the original version of Don’t Take My Mind features on The Money Matters, an alternate take of I Think I’m Falling In Love from 1966 is included. 

History repeated itself when Don’t Take My Mind was released in March 1968, and failed to chart. That proved to be the end of two chapters in Bettye Swann’s career.

The money spent on promoting Bettye’s Make Me Yours album had taken its toll on Money Records’ finances. This wasn’t helped by the failure of her last two singles. Something had to give, so Bettye Swann left Money Records.

Just a year after enjoying a number one single, Bettye Swann parted company with Al Scott. Not only did Al Scott produce and manage Bettye, but they had been a couple. Mixing business and pleasure is always dangerous, and that proved to be the case for Bettye Swann. The relationship faltered, and by 1968, Bettye had a new manager George Barton.

Following her departure from Money Records, Bettye and George Barton moved to Athens, Georgia. George Barton who was twenty years older than Bettye, was a veteran of the music industry. He knew his way around the music business, and in mid-1968 Bettye Swann signed to what was one of the biggest, and most prestigious labels in music, Capitol Records.

The Capitol Records’ Years.

At Capitol Records Bettye Swann was paired with producer Wayne Shuler. He was a relative newcomer to Capitol Records, but certainly wasn’t a rookie. Wayne Shuler’s father was Eddie Shuler, the producer and owner of Goldband Records. From early age, he had taught Wayne Shuler the tricks of the trade, and when he began work at Capitol Records, he had an edge on the real “rookies.”  Especially when it came to producing soul and R&B. Given his background, it was hoped that Wayne Shuler  could get Bettye’Swann’s career back on track,

Unlike Money Records, Capitol Records’ priority was albums. That was where the money was to be made. Singles were regarded as a bonus. 

Despite this, Bettye’s Capitol Records debut was the single, I’m Lonely For You. It was released in September 1968 but failed to chart. This wasn’t a good start to Bettye’s time at Capitol Records. However, better times weren’t far away.

For Bettye’s second single for Capitol Records, Bettye covered Hank Cochran’s Don’t Touch Me. When it was released in January 1969, it reached number fourteen in the US R&B charts. Now all thoughts turned to Bettye Swann’s first album for Capitol Records

Bettye Swann’s first album for Capitol Records, The Soul View Now! was released in the first half of 1969, and  reached number forty-eight in the US R&B Charts. It looked as if Bettye Swann’s luck was changing. 

To build on the success of The Soul View Now!, Capitol Records released the Chip Taylor composition Angel Of The Morning in May 1969. However, when the single failed to chart this was another disappointment for Bettye Swann. Fortunately, Capitol Records had faith in Bettye Swann, and sent her back into the studio.

Capitol Records didn’t spare any expense when it came to recording 

her third album Ever Get Tired Of Hurting Me? with producer Wayne Shuler produced Don’t You Ever Get Tired Of Hurting Me? It was released later in 1969, but failed to chart. Little did Bettye Swann realise, that thing were going to get a whole lot worse.

Bettye Swann released just two more singles on Capitol Records. The first was Don’t You Ever Get Tired (Of Hurting Me)? It was released in September 1969, and failed to chart. Neither did  Little Things Mean A Lot when it was released in January 1970. Sadly, it was the last single that Bettye Swann on Capitol Records. 

The Fame Years.

After her departure from Capitol Records, Bettye Swann found herself without a record deal for the first time in her career. With the help of her husband and manager George Barton, she secured a deal with Fame Records in 1971. It was enjoying the most successful period in its history, and Fame Records were alway looking to add to their roster. When Fame realised that Bettye Swann was without a label, they swooped and signed the former chart topper. Sadly, Bettye’ Swann’s time at Fame Records was short-lived.

Mickey Buckins had been trying to get an in at Fame Records for some time, and eventually h is patience was eventually recorded, when he was given a job as staff songwriter and technician. Although Mickey Buckins was mainly based at Fame Records’ demo studio, this didn’t matter to him. He was just happy to be working at such a prestigious studio, and soon, formed a fruitful songwriting partnership with George Jackson. One of their songs was I’m Just Living A Lie. It seemed like the perfect song for Bettye Swann.

Bettye Swann went into the Fame studios and cut I’m Just Living A Lie, which was released in March 1971, but failed to chart. For Bettye Swann, history was repeating itself. There was no followup to I’m Just Living A Lie, and Bettye’s time at Fame Records was over.

The Atlantic Records Years.

It was nearly another year before Bettye Swann released Victim Of A Foolish Heart as single. It was well worth the wait. Victim Of A Foolish Heart had been written by George Jackson and Mickey Buckins who produced the song with Rick Hall. When executives at Atlantic Records heard the song, they knew they had a hit on their hands. 

When Victim of A Foolish Heart was released on the ‘30th’ of March 1972, it reached number fourteen in the US R&B Charts and sixty-one in the US Billboard 100. After six singles that failed to chart, Bettye Swann was back. The big question was, could she make it two in a row?

For the followup to Victim of A Foolish Heart, the song chosen was Merle Haggard’s Today I Started Loving You Again. Again, recording took place at Fame Studios, with Phil Hurtt, Tony Bell and LeBaron Taylor taking charge of production and reinventing the song. When I Started Loving You Again was released in November 1972, it reached number twenty-four in the US R&B charts and number forty-six in the US Billboard 100. Bettye Swann’s career had been rejuvenated at Fame. 

Sadly, Bettye wouldn’t return to Fame to record the follow-up to Today I Started Loving You Again. Instead, Bettye Swann was Philly bound, where she would receive a Philly Soul makeover. However, Bettye Swann wasn’t working with Gamble and Huff or Thom Bell. The Big Three were too busy, so Bettye was paired with The Young Professionals. 

Their first single with Bettye was The Boy Next Door. On its release in August 1974. which stalled at a disappointing seventy-four in the US R&B charts. For the followup to The Boy Next Door, Time To Say Goodbye and When The Game Is Played On You were chosen and released as a double-A-side. Neither track caught the imagination of the record buying public, who missed one of the best tracks from Bettye Swann’s short-lived Philly Soul era.  After the commercial failure of Bettye Swann’s latest single, executives at Atlantic Records were watching events in Philly closely.

Time To Say Goodbye was released in September 1974, bit failed to trouble the charts.  This was the  last single he Young Professionals produced for Bettye Swann and marked the end of her Philly Soul era.

When The Young Professionals failed twice to deliver a hit, executives at Atlantic Records brought onboard a new producer, Dave Shapiro. His first production was All The Way In Or All The Way Out which released in March 1975, but stalled at eighty-three in the US R&B charts. For Bettye Swann this was just another disappointment. Sadly, things didn’t get any better. 

In September 1976, Bettye Swann released Heading In The Right Direction which she hoped would rescue her career at Atlantic Records. However, when the single failed to chart, this spelt the end of Bettye Swann’s time at Atlantic Records.

Four years later, in 1980, Bettye Swann made what was the final live appearance of her career. Tragedy struck later in 1980 when Bettye Swann’s husband and manager George Barton died in 1980. 

Following the death of George Barton, Bettye Swann retired from the music industry aged just thirty-six. It was then that Bettye decided upon a change of name and career. In a sense Bettye Swann died and Bettye Barton was born. The “newly born” Bettye Swan embarked on a career in education in Las Vegas and became a Jehovah’s Witness. Never again, did Bettye Swann return to soul music. However, Bettye Swann left behind a rich musical legacy.

A tantalising taste of Bettye Swann’s musical legacy can be found on The Money Masters which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. This fourteen track covers Bettye Swann’s time at Money Records, and includes singles, B-Sides and alternate tracks. The Dance Is Over a track written when Bettye Swann was still Betty Jean Champion makes a welcome return eleven years after making its debut on The Soul Of Money Records Volume 2. Just like the rest of songs on The Money Masters, they’re a reminder of Bettye Swann at the peak of her musical powers.

Bettye Swann Bettye Swann was one of the most talented singers of her generation, and could breath new life, meaning and emotion into lyrics. They were transformed, and sometimes, familiar songs took on new meaning. Sometimes, it seemed as if Bettye Swann had lived and survived the lyrics as she brought them to life. However, despite her undoubtable talent, Bettye Swann didn’t enjoy the commercial success and critical acclaim that their talent so richly deserves. 

Over the last few years, Bettye Swann’s music has started to find the  audience that it deserves. While Bettye Swann has always been popular since her career began in 1964, a new generation of record buyers have discovered her music, and will embrace and enjoy The Money Masters, which was recently released on vinyl by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records on vinyl.

Bettye Swann-The Money Masters-Vinyl.

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