Many critics have wondered why Betty Everett hasn’t had more hit records than she’s already had, and they usually attribute it to lack of a good, strong producer. If that was the cause, then the problem is over, because Betty’s second LP, Happy Endings (F-9480), was produced by Gene Page and Billy Page, two of the hottest producers in the business today. The Pagebrothers wrote many the tunes on Happy Endings, including the title track. They rounded up some of the finest studio musicians anywhere, and they provided the professional, unsensational kind of setting Betty needs to do her finest work.
Betty Everett fits into what has become an almost classic mold: born and raised in the South, and her first musical experiences were in the church. Although her adult life has been spent in a much more secular world, the church still provides her primary frame of reference. In other words, Betty Everett is a pretty straight-laced lady who has seen enough of the blues to sing ’em right!
Betty grew up in the deep blues town of Greenwood, Mississippi. A Sagittarian, she began singing in her mother’s church when she was six years old; she also played the piano.
Betty Everett doesn’t sing in church today. “I could, but that would be like straddling the fence. I don’t believe in that—going to church on Sunday, singing in the choir, and then going back the same night to a nightclub to sing the blues. When I get through with my recording career, I’m going back the church. I also want to study piano some more.”
Likewise, Betty would prefer that her hit songs weren’t laced with sexually-oriented lyrics. She likes lyrics to be straightforward, with a message appealing to almost any age group. Ironically, her biggest hits have not been her favorites, for this same reason.
Betty’s career has had its ups and down. She originally started singing the blues because, back in Greenwood, a blues singer came through town frequently, and she fell in love. As Betty puts it: “He didn’t come to Greenwood enough for me! Then I thought, ‘Well, maybe if I get out there and do what he’s doing, maybe I’ll see more of him.’” That’s exactly what she did!
Her family moved to Chicago when she was 17, and she soon went on the road with Muddy Waters. She says she didn’t last long at that because she was too shy and too young. At one point, Ike Turner wanted to hire Betty (this in pre-Tina days), but, very inexperienced in the worldly-wise life of most r&b musicians, she called a relative and asked to be taken home. “Come pick me up, these people over here’s crazy!”
It was in a Chicago club called The Hideaway that Betty Everett was first noticed by record company people. After a couple of tunes on the One-Der-Ful label, she signed with Vee Jay. Her first record was “You’re No Good,” followed quickly by her million-selling smash, “The Shoop Shoop Song.” This was in 1964, about the time of the first Beatles album.
At the insistence of a Vee Jay promotion man, Betty recorded an album with Jerry Butler, which included their hit, “Let It Be Me.”
Since Betty signed with Fantasy she has recorded several singles, some of which were included on Love Rhymes (Fantasy 9447), her first album for the label. Betty worked with several producers on that album, including Calvin Carter, Willie Mitchell, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and David Axelrod.
The critical reaction to Love Rhymes was excellent. Claude Grant raved in Essence: “Love Rhymes contains eleven of the most beautifully performed tunes I’ve heard on one album in quite some time. What makes this one so uncommonly good is that Betty seems to sing whatever she likes without concern for a category. . . . The power and beauty of Betty Everett’s voice shines brightly. She puts mucho variety in her material, and whatever she sings, she sings.” Dan Nooger wrote in the Village Voice: “The best moment of the album belongs to Charlie Rich’s ‘Who Will Your Next Fool Be’. . the purest Ray Charles blues, and Ms. Everett more than holds her own on that legendary turf. Anyone who can pull that off can sing, baby.”