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Bettye LaVette @ Sony Hall

Three time Grammy nominee Bettye LaVette is no mere singer. She is not a song writer, nor is she a "cover" artist. She is an interpreter of the highest order. Bettye is one of very few of her contemporaries who were recording during the birth of soul music in the 60s and is still creating vital recordings today. To quote the late, great George Jones: "Bettye is truly a 'singer's singer'."

She was born Betty Jo Haskins on January 29,1946, in Muskegon, Michigan. Her family moved to Detroit when she was six years old. Her parents sold corn liquor and her living room was oft-times visited by The Soul Stirrers, The Blind Boys of Mississippi, and many other traveling gospel groups of the day. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Bettye did not get her start in the church, but in that very same living room, where there was a jukebox, filled with the blues, country & western, and R&B records of the time. The "5" Royales, Dinah Washington, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Red Foley, ...these were her roots.

By 16, Betty Jo had become enamored with showbiz. She decided to change her name to something more dramatic. She knew a local groupie by the name of Sherma Lavett, liked the sound of the name, and thus, Bettye LaVette was born. Singer Timmy Shaw brought her to Johnnie Mae Matthews, a notorious Detroit record producer. Bettye's first single was My Man - He’s a Loving Man, in the fall of 1962. The record was quickly picked up by Atlantic for national distribution. The record charted #7 R&B and put her on her first national tour, with Ben E. King, Clyde McPhatter, and another newcomer, Otis Redding.

After her second Atlantic single failed to chart, she asked for a release from her contract. She then recorded a single for Detroit's Lupine label, which also failed to chart. Bettye then went back to New York and became the featured singer in the Don Gardner & Dee Dee Ford Review, where their Small's Paradise shows became the talk of the town. Her association with Don and Dee Dee spawned her next big record, for the Calla label. Let Me Down Easy, written by Dee Dee Ford, was an atmospheric masterpiece. Bettye's pleading voice, set against the moody string arrangement by Dale Warren produced a record that is on many "greatest soul songs of all time" lists. It went # 20 R&B in 1965 and led to an appearance on the television show, Shindig. It also put her on a tour with The James Brown Review.

She then went back to Detroit for a one off single on Big Wheel and four singles for Ollie McLaughlin's Karen label. In 1968, Kenny Rogers heard her cover of his group's What My Condition My Condition Was In, and suggested to his brother, producer Lelan Rogers, that he record her. This led to her signing with Silver Fox, and a trip to Memphis, where she made a string of records with a then unknown studio group, who went on to become known as The Dixie Flyers. The recordings were augmented by The Memphis Horns. The first release, He Made a Woman Out of Me, went #25 R&B, even though it was banned by some stations due to its risqué content. In 1970, the follow-up Do Your Duty went # 38 R&B. She recorded a number of other songs for the label, some of which were issued on 45. The LP that was to come never did, due to a falling out between label head Shelby Singleton and Lelan Rogers.

She has appeared on National Public Radio's World Cafe, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me, and performed a Tiny Desk Concert. She has appeared in a Mississippi Public Broadcasting series, Blues Divas, and is in a film of the same name, both produced by award winning film maker, Robert Mugge. She has also appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with David Letterman, Late Night With Conan O'Brien, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Lopez Tonight, Austin City Limits, The Prairie Home Companion, The Artist's Den, Good Morning America, The Today Show and The Tavis Smiley Show.

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