Interview With Betty Harris - July 19, 2004


Betty Harris in 1963
Betty Harris in 1963.

Below is a partial transcript of a telephone interview from July 19, 2004 with highly acclaimed soul singer Betty Harris. Best known in the US for her 1963 hit, "Cry To Me" (#23/1963), Betty Harris has since then amassed a huge international following among fans of deep soul music, especially in England.

Surprisingly little information is available about this famous singer's career and life, however, and what little has been written about her over the years is mostly erroneous. While it is true that she was born in Orlando, Florida, her birth year was actually 1939, not 1941 or 1943, as is often reported.

Among Ms. Harris' most important artistic influences was Big Maybelle who was a vocal coach in her early years. It is widely believed that she was Big Maybelle's maid, which is completely false.

Betty Harris in recording session
Betty Harris making a guest appearance at Les Zygomates in Boston on Aug. 5, 2004. The show that evening was Chicago Bob Nelson and the CSB Band led by Chris "Stovell" Brown. Click here for full photo.

Around 1969-1970, Ms. Harris left the music business to raise a family, go back to school, and pursue a variety of other activities which, for the record, did not include her being a truck driver or acting as James Carr's road manager. It is actually Harris's husband who is in the trucking business, and her collaboration with friend James Carr included their touring together and recording the duet "I'm A Fool For You" (#97/1967).

She has two children, Selwyn (47) and Christina (22), and two grandchildren.

In this interview, Ms. Harris outlines her future plans, discusses her interpretation of "Cry To Me," and patiently and humorously sets the record straight regarding many aspects of her fascinating life. (Click here for a discography.)

Update: Betty Harris is co-producing a new CD slated to be released this December. This latest CD will include a recut of "Cry To Me" plus a new song she wrote, "Happiness Is Mine."

Update: Betty Harris has just put up a website. Click here for news, pictures, and performance schedule.

Update: Betty Harris has just recorded a new album, the highly acclaimed "Intuition," released on Nov. 6, 2007 on Evidence Music.



  1. Clive Anderson, The Soul Book, E. Methuen, 1975 (ISBN: 0-413-32150-9).
  2. Barney Hoskyns, Say It One Time for the Brokenhearted: The Countryside of Southern Soul, HarperCollins Publishers, 1987 (ISBN: 0-00-637219-8).
  3. In 1961, a brave group of men and women known as the Freedom Riders boarded buses, trains and planes and headed for the deep South to challenge that region's outdated Jim Crow laws and non-compliance with a US Supreme Court ruling outlawing segregation in all interstate public facilities. The Freedom Riders were met with much violence along the way, and many were arrested and killed. Click here for a fascinating account of the Freedom Riders and the lasting contributions they made to the Civil Rights Movement.
  4. Pop Walden was the father of Phil and Alan ("Red") Walden of Redwal Music fame in Macon, GA. The older brother, Phil, attended high school with Otis Redding, and both brothers were friends of Redding and served as his manager and business partner at various stages in his career. Phil and Alan started out as Phil Walden Artists & Promotions and went on to represent 45 black recording artists, including Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Percy Sledge, Clarence Carter, Al Green, Joe Tex, Candi Staton, William Bell, and Etta James, becoming one of the largest black artist management companies, second, if any, to Motown. In 1965, Redwal Music was incorporated with Otis Redding, Phil and Alan as the officers. Redwal published numerous hits including "Respect," "Sweet Soul Music," "When a Man Loves a Woman," and "Dock of the Bay." After Redding 's untimely death in 1967, Alan helped Phil found Capricorn Records and he later formed his own company and published such Southern Rock classics as Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird," and " Sweet Home Alabama ," as well as the Outlaws' "Green Grass and High Tides," and "There Goes Another Love Song."

Discography (Singles):

* Like Later Baby/I Want Your Love Tonight J&S 1626/27 1958
(The Hearts with Betty Harris singing the lead, A-side only.)
* Taking Care Of Business/Yesterday's Kisses Douglas 104 1962
* Cry To Me/I'll Be A Liar Jubilee 5456 1963
(BB Pop/Rock #23, BB R&B #10)
* His Kiss/It's Dark Outside Jubilee 5465 1964
(BB Pop/Rock #89; BB R&B #89)
* Mojo Hannah/Now Is The Hour Jubilee 5480 1964
* What A Sad Feeling/I'm Evil Tonight Sansu 450 1965
* I Don't Want To Hear It/Sometime Sansu 452 1966
* Twelve Red Roses/What'd I Do Wrong Sansu 455 1966
* Lonely Hearts/Bad Luck Sansu 461 1967
* Nearer To You/I'm Evil Tonight Sansu 466 1967
(BB Pop/Rock #85; BB R&B #16)
* I'm A Fool For You Goldwax 328 1967
(James Carr with Betty Harris, A-side only; BB Pop/Rock #97; BB R&B #42)
* Can't Last Much Longer/I'm Gonna Git Ya Sansu 471 1967
* Love Lots Of Lovin'/Take Care Of Our Love Sansu 474 1968
(Both sides with Lee Dorsey; BB Pop/Rock #110)
* What'd I Do Wrong/Mean Man Sansu 478 1968
* Hook Line 'N' Sinker/Show It Sansu 479 1968
* Ride Your Pony/Trouble With My Lover Sansu 480 1968
* There's A Break In The Road/All I Want Is You SSS International 766 1969
* Cry To Me/I'll Be A Liar (reissue) Jubilee 5658 1969
(BB R&B #44)
* Cry To Me (reissue) Virgo 6014 1973
(B-side: "Snap Your Fingers" by Joe Henderson)
* His Kiss/It's Dark Outside (reissue) Virgo 6036 1975