Miss Betty Wright
“Listen – Clean Up Woman MP3″
“Listen – All Your Kissin’ Sho Don’t Make True Lovin’ MP3″
It was a cool weekend in the Funky16Corners household, with a large number of necessary errands getting taken care of, including a long overdue haircut. I keep driving 45 minutes to the barber shop where I’ve been getting my haircuts for the last 10 years, mainly because I don’t want to explore the old man/hillbilly barber shops in the area where I live (though there are those that’ll tell you that all barber shops are “old man barber shops”).
I like to go there, in spite of the fact that the actual haircuts have been marked by a certain fluctuation in quality and precision, because I know what it’s like there. They know me (the toupeed barber who usually cuts my hair has never known my real name and instead hails me by the wholly ironic name of “Tiny”) and like every barber shop I’ve patronized since childhood (the age of enforced crew cuts) – excepting the period of 1988 to about 1993, when I didn’t cut my hair at all (the Deadhead years…) – they eschew any attempts to glam up the operation. No hairspray, no “product”, and absolutely no blow dryers. The fanciest thing you ever get is when they take the time to trim your eyebrows and – got in himmel– ear hair.
So, anyway… the whole gang got to hit the bookstore, I got a fresh new pair of kicks (size 15 EEEE in da hiyouse y’all) and we managed to fit in lunch at our fave Thai joint, wherein spring rolls and Fried Rice Four Seasons (with the pineapple, and the Thai sausage…mmmmmmmm) were consumed. All the kind of things that generally cannot be accomplished during the week.
I also got to take the time to dig in and clean up my record room/bunker, after which I managed to digitize stuff for the next few months. I still have to do the scans, but I happen to have a couple of things still sitting in the hopper from my last turntable sesh, so, as they say, no sweat.
One of those things was supposed to be a Betty Wright album track( from the LP ‘I Love the Way You Love Me’) , but – as happens from time to time – I was beaten to the punch by the good folks over at the Feel It blog (always a good read). Fortunately for one and all, I happened to record a couple of tunes from that very album, so all was not lost.
This will become especially evident when you realize that the back-up track I speak of is one of the finest, funkiest, ass-jiggling-est tracks to come out of the Miami scene during the classic funk era, that being Miz Wright’s ‘Clean Up Woman’.
You’ve come to expect a certain level of obscurity here, and ‘Clean Up Woman’ is as un-obscure a funk record as there is, but it is also undeniably fine, of an exceptional quality in not only meeting and exceeding a certain funk quotient, but also in performance (you go Betty!) and songcraft.
From the very first guitar chord, through the rolling bass line and on into the first horn blast, it is nigh impossible to remain stationary. The likely beginning is the head bob/roll, then the rhythmic slap of hand upon thigh, then ultimately to rise from ones seat, getting a dip in the hip and allowing the backbone to slip and before you know it you’ve gotta go now, out on the floor (per Rex Garvin and his Mighty Cravers) and your sliding, jiving, dipping and diving as if possessed by a ghost from the Soul Train line.
Betty’s voice is backed by a very heavy crew, including the mighty Little Beaver, Snoopy Dean, Benny Latimore, the Memphis Horns and none other than the tune’s co-writer, and no slouch himself in the record making thang, the extra groovy Clarence Reid.
Wright got her start early (she was not yet 20 when she hit with ‘Clean Up Woman’) having recorded for Atco as a teenager – where much of her material was also written by Willie Clarke and Clarence Reid – before moving on to Alston (another Atlantic distributed label) where she would wax a half-dozen albums through the 70’s.
So, start your week off with a righteous groove (I’ll also include a link to the tune that Feel It posted since they have since taken down the links), try not to let the man get you down and prepare for more to come later in the week.
PS The Asbury Park 45 Sessions will be back on March 30th, and yours truly – as well as most of the crew from the first night – will back behind the decks. I can assure you that much high quality funk and soul will spun and grooved upon, and it behooves you (if you are within motoring distance) to be there doing the grooving. More info to come soon.
PSS I’ve had a couple of request recently for one of the old podcasts, which I may repost (at least the mix, I don’t think I have the zip file anymore) this coming weekend.
PSSS IN another bit of confluence, Oliver over at Soul Sides has up a post about Sister Rosetta Tharpe, an artist that has consumed a lot of my listening time over the last few months (and who is deserving of your investigation, but only if you are intrigued by a mixture of gospel, blues guitar, jazz and proto-soul, which of course you are).