A smidgen of our interview with Fitzroy speaking with Candy Staton from issue 56
Candi became a musical child prodigy in the gospel world recording at a very young age with some pretty impressive future secular performers. Meeting many hurdles in her personal and professional life, and as each decade unfolded, Candi gave us memorable and pioneering recordings with her voice of distinction. As much as she is revered, her story is enlightening and typical of the preconceived ideas we have of the artist we adulate from afar.
Tell us about life growing up in Alabama with your sister Maggie and Naiomi Harrison whom you formed the Jewell gospel group as teenagers and touring the gospel circuit.
It was a family affair, my mother had separated from my alcoholic and gambling father . My oldest brother Sam moved to Cleveland Ohio and got married and asked us to relocated. Bishop Jewell had a church on Kinsman Avenue which we regularly attended on Tuesday nights, where they would have a contest I guess the American Idol of its time. Aged five my sister and I had a vocal group called the Golden Echoes and we knew how to sing together and made an impact. Bishop Jewell who had a chapel at the school was so exited that she teamed us up with her granddaughter Naiomi Harrison who was 9 at the time, I was 11 and my sister was 13. With our mothers blessing we attended the chapel and would perform to screaming kids. As we rehearsed more songs Bishop Jewell named us The Jewell Gospel Trio and took us around her 30 churches she used to oversee. We were hardly in school but got tuition from Bishop Jewell and Naiomi’s father Lorenzo decided to get us a recording contract. Our first song was done in LA and we went on the road with other singers and our music was being played on the radio. We then signed to Nashville records and recorded 7 records and were hailed as being the bomb of the day so everyone was interested in us. We worked with The 5 Blind Boys, Lou Rawls, Aretha Franklin, The Staple Singers and became a top of the line group till I was about 17. As teenagers we learned and saw that things weren’t right with the finances. My sister got married and I left after a while, graduated and married a local boy and started having children. I thought my singing career had ended and stayed married for 7 years. Sam Cooke and Lou Rawls started singing secular music and I went to one of their concerts in Alabama. They both said they could get me signed to Capitol Records which planted a seed for me to do that, but my husband was very jealous and controlling. I’d lead a sheltered life, he was abusive and I was very afraid of him and didn’t know how to get away from him. My brother was a bully and so he made sure my husband didn’t get in the way so I finally managed to get out and recorded a song called “Upper Hand” in Birmingham Alabama, which didn’t do anything but its now pretty hard to get. Apparently it goes for a lot of money apparently as there were only about 1000 copies made. My second record was with producer Rick Hall of Muscle Shoals after meeting Clarence Carter at a club in Birmingham. Clarence asked me to open for him and introduced me to Rick who was looking for a new vocalist as Etta James had just left him. The first night he heard sing three songs “I’d Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart”, “Never In Public” and “For You” during that session at Muscle Shoals studio. He decided to shop a record deal and thats how I got started.
Wow ok that’s some introduction, so after your solo career took off you did a cover of Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man” which was kinda funky with a Gene Chandler “Duke Of Earl” flavour. You also covered Elvis Presley’s “In The Ghetto” which I discovered a version with you and Elvis singing alternate lines and its amazing. I don’t know how they managed to do it but its really good. I’ll send it to you
I didn’t know about that..how real..Sounds a bit like what they did with Nat King Coles and Natalie..That’s amazing..Thanks I look forwards to hearing that.
Sorry we digressed slightly, how did you come to record “In The Ghetto”?
I was pregnant at the time and I was married to Clarence Carter now and he was doing a follow up studio session after recording a huge hit “Patches”. I was present and Mack Davis the writer of “In The Ghetto” was present with myself and Rick Hall just observing. I was minding my own business reading a magazine when Mack said to Rick he had an idea that a woman has never sung “In The Ghetto” and suggested I do it. Rick wasn’t too keen and asked what would Clarence say, Mack said “I ain’t telling him”. After speaking with Clarence cause they didn’t wanted to interrupt his session, they called me down and said lets do it. They asked the musicians to change the key of the song and I found the right key, they canned it and then went back to doing Clarence’s session and thats how I got to record that song. On my next session they put it on my record.
That’s kinda cool(It is ain’t it?) Moving along to 1976 you’re now working with Dave Crawford on “Young Hearts Run Free”. I happen to know it was a bitter suite record for you, expressing an experience you had with someone you shouldn’t have been with. It was also abusive but the song became an number on US hit. I spoke with Linda Clifford who got no credit for writing “Runaway Love” which was based on her personal experience, so my question is did you know at the time of penning the song it would have so much impact?
I didn’t know it would last this long but I knew it was a hit when I heard it. David told me he had written a song for me that would last forever and I couldn’t understand what he meant . He looked kinda rough having fasted for 30 days before he wrote the song and I told him he was wasting away, but he said he’d eat once we did the session. It was a like spiritual thing as once I heard the music I got what he meant.
You also did a cover of “Nights On Broadway” and ended up working with Patrick Adams on the “Chance” album. I really like “Rock” but the big one was “When You Wake Up Tomorrow” and also a silent sleeper was “Me & My Music” both co written by Patrick. What was it like to work with him?
It was great and I really enjoyed it. The reason why David didn’t do the next album was because he was unpredictable especially in his emotional state. David was angry that “Young Hearts Run Free” became so big as he wished he’d sung it being an aspiring singer. Warners contacted him to produce the “Chance” album and he refused and cut his own album. Warners would take it, in-fact no one would and it got shelved after he tried to put it out himself and really it was a wasted moment which made me angry. He called me a couple of years later to go back in the studio and I couldn’t trust him and refused so that how Patrick came in. Also Bob Monaco came in as a producer who worked with Chaka so some of my stuff sounded like hers, so to be honest it was a time where my fans were unsure of my direction. David and I did record “Victim” about three years later and had that come out after “Young Hearts” we would have had a smash hit. We did get some attention on it but nothing like “Young Hearts”.
You went back to your gospel routes and recorded “You Got The Love” with Source in 1986 but it got remixed in 1991. This catapulted you into the mainstream again , but I’d like to know what you thought of Paul Simpson and Adeva’s “Musical Freedom” which was lyrically based off that song?
Ha Ha I didn’t think much about it. The Gospel message should be preached by whoever puts it out. “You Got The Love” has a great message as we all get there wanting to throw our hands up in the air. We get discouraged and disappointed as human beings as its a sore spot in all of our lives. It’s an emotional area where we know someones trying to get money from us or we gotta face our bills or some of our friends talk negative of us. So when we get moments like that we “throw our hands up in the air and say lord I just don’t care..’you got the love’ I need to see me through”. If we didn’t have the love of god to see us through I don’t know what we’d do.
To be honest I really liked Paul Simpson and Adeva’s take on it because they made it about musical freedom. Did you know there is a version with your vocals on it using the “You Got The Love” accapella on Paul Simpsons production?
No I didn’t right..I’d love to hear that too.
Candi Staton is appearing at Under The Bridge in Chelsea SW6 15th of June 2016 and Fitzroy of The Soul Survivors Magazine will be djing. For tickets click this link Tickets to see Candi