Betty & Charles

Betty Johnson and Charles Warren came to Malaco in the autumn of ’68 via a Texas entrepreneur named Ray Rush, and it is likely that they came from the western part of the state. Over a fortnight’s recording the duo laid down some really excellent deep soul, both as a duo and as individuals. After Rush’s cheque for the sessions bounced, Couch and Stephenson brought them back to Mississippi for further dates, so impressed were they with the uninhibited gospel fire of their voices..

But despite the business foul-ups the tracks themselves turned out remarkably well. Both Johnson and Warren arrived with strong self-penned material and Paul Davis and George Soule chipped in with good songs as well. The first cuts to appear on disc were “Someone For Everyone” and ListenThat’s Why I Call You Mine which were issued on Capitol 2413 in February 1969, again courtesy of Wayne Shuler. But despite his enthusiasm the first Betty and Charles 45 sank without trace. This was a pity as the topside has an undeniable mid paced charm, and the vocal interplay between the singers is as good as anything cut by Peggy Scott and Jo Jo Benson, whose SSS International hits were also cut in Mississippi. Betty Johnson’s great untutored wailing was especially effective on the similarly paced flip “That’s Why I Call You Mine”.

Shuler placed their next 45 on Capitol’s subsidiary label Crazy Horse the following year, although the matrix numbers for ListenCan’t Find Love and “Somebody’s Foolin’” indicate the songs were mastered at the same time as the first disc. The top side is a simply magnificent piece of deep soul – easily the best song Jerry Puckett ever wrote. Both Charles and Betty give it their considerable all, and it’s obvious why the disc has become a classic of the genre. The uptempo flip simply can’t compete with the emotional weight of that side, despite it’s similarities to Peggy and Jo Jo’s “Pickin’ Wild Mountain Berries”.

And that was the last the world heard from Betty and Charles until Japanese specialist company Vivid Sound released an LP called “Soul Chant” in 1979. Along with Malaco cuts from the Fiesta’s and the Patterson Twins there were seven tracks from the duo. The only unissued duet included the splendid mid paced “It’s All Over” on which they gave one of their most committed vocals. But the great surprise of the album was the excellent quality of the solo sides. Warren’s Red Indian tinged “Soul Chant” had a lively party atmosphere, but much better was the sanctified ListenI’m Praying. Deep soul fans were astonished at the passion and he generated – superb horn charts too. If the song had been released as a 45 it would have been highly sought after for sure.

Charles Warren was a good singer but on her solo efforts Betty Johnson showed she was in a completely different league. She came across really rough and tough on “Soul Girl” with some hard edged singing, her musical heritage clearly being those big voiced blues and R & B singers of the previous generation. This became even more obvious on the wonderful blues ballad ListenNo Good Man featuring some guitar licks from Puckett and a correspondingly heartfelt vocal from Betty. Simply superb.

Perhaps the best news is that further deep burrowing in the Malaco vaults for the Soulscape CD has unearthed a few more cuts. Betty’s version of “Never Too Busy”, best known for the Malaco 45 by Mighty Sam McClain, seems to have been the first cut of this fine tune. ListenSunshine Man is a different vocal cut to the backing track for “No Good Man” and may just be even better. What a treat! Betty turns in another fine performance on the uptempo “As Long As We Believe In Each Other” as well. A different version of “That’s Why I Call You Mine”, taken at a much slower pace and allowing the vocalists much more space, entitled “Loving And Kind”, completes the extant session tapes.



ListenThat's why I call you mine / Someone for everyone ~ CAPITOL 2413
ListenCan't find love / Somebody's foolin' ~ CRAZY HORSE 1321


Soul Chant ~ VIVID SOUND 1016 (1979)


Soul Chant ~ SOULSCAPE 7006 (2007)


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