Tuesday, November 8, 2011


One of my favorite quotes, attributed to Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, is "well behaved women rarely make history." Betty Mabry definitely took this to heart! Don't know Betty Mabry? She's better-known as Betty Davis, badass soul and funk singer of the 1970s, friend of Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix, a former girlfriend of Eric Clapton and Miles Davis' second wife (not to mention his muse in the period that resulted in Bitches Brew).

Betty was born in 1945 in Durham, North Carolina, and as a youth shuffled her time between Durham and Pittsburgh, PA. Her grandmother had a rather large blues record collection, and Betty listened to folks like B. B. King, and Jimmy Reed constantly.

At the age of sixteen, Betty decided on a modeling career and moved in with her aunt in New York City, enrolling in the Fashion Institute of Technology. She made many trips into Greenwich Village, hanging out with folkies (who undoubtedly appreciated Betty's knowledge of the blues), getting modeling gigs (she was one of the very, very few black models in the 1960s to sign with the prestigious Wilhemina agency) and also hanging in a club uptown known as The Cellar. Another denizen of the club was soul singer Lou Courtney, who reportedly produced an independent single with Betty - "The Cellar" (though I've never seen a copy, or even seen this 45 listed anywhere except in a Wikipedia article - and we all know how inaccurate they are). Apparently, Courtney also introduced Betty to some of his friends on the New York recording scene, and shortly thereafter cut this 45 for Don Costa and his DCP International label, which was then riding high with Little Anthony and The Imperials. This was her first officially released single.

The record basically announces Betty to the world, and she guarantees that you ain't never seen nothin' like her before, because she's in total control - with lyrics like "All of you girls, you'd better hide your guys/'cause I'm-a gonna get the first one that catches my eye" and "I'm a woman who can get a man/and I'm gonna steal him if I can". She not only knows that she can get any man she wants, but if that man just happens to have a girlfriend (or wife), well, she'd just better get out of Betty's way.

The attitude that Betty projected was completely at odds with the mores of the early 60s - Betty was a woman who was fiercely independent, sexually open, and there wasn't a man on the face of the earth that she would submit to.

I don't really need to go into the rest of Betty's career and life - there are many, many good articles on the web about this legendary woman, and I suggest you read as many as you can, as well as tracking down her funkier-than-hell LPs from the 1970s (which have been reissued by Light In The Attic Records - along with her unreleased 1979 LP). Betty's still around, living quietly in Pennsylvania, despite rumors that she died of a drug overdose (which must have been started by one of her enemies - Betty was very anti-drug).

If you're already familiar with Betty Mabry Davis, I don't have to tell you that this record is a fascinating blueprint for what came later. So, for those of you who have never heard the genesis of a truly one-of-a-kind funkateer's career, here it is.

Betty Mabry - Get Ready For Betty (DCP International 1109) - 1964

1 comment:

  1. I love and own this record, sadly I never converted the songs to mp3. Thanks for that link to the track... have you done the b-side for this record as well?