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Caroly n Crawf ord continued from the ba...

Caroly n Crawf ord continued from the ba... image Caroly n Crawf ord continued from the ba... image
Parent Issue
Day
30
Month
July
Year
1975
OCR Text

Caroly n Crawf ord continued from the back cover of the SUN visual cüunterpoint to her own vocal acrobatics. In this interview, Carolyn talks about her life growing up in Detroit, her experience in the music industry, and some of her philosophy on life. SUN: You were born in Detroit. What part of it did you come from? CAROLYN: I went to Balt Elementary, to Garfield Jr. High, and came out of the 1 1 th grade at City High School. I joined a band with some friends in the neighborhood and then we started singing at a club for $10 a night per person. SUN: When did you learn to play music and sing? CAROLYN: I started out in school on the trombone. 1 was in the third grade. Then I got tired of it, and played violin, then clarinet. And my mom said, "Isn't that too many instruments for her to play?" Then I played orchestra bells, but got tired of that. Since I liked to piek things out by ear, I took piano lessons and then I started singing a whole lot. When I was small enough to talk just a little bit, my mom said she used to come in the bedroom and teil me to cool it. You know, I've been humming at the top of my lungs since I was three years old. Then I went to church every Sunday and sang the Lord's Prayer. They put me in charge of two youth choirs. Just before I turned 1 3, I went down to Tri-Sound or something, that was a subsidiary of Motown. I walked in and told them I was a singer, but the woman told me to come back when 1 was 1 3. The next time I saw her, the talent contest happened, and I shared lst place with a girl. We had to share the contest prize because thëre was a crippled girl on the show that dida nice job and they booed her, so people feit bad and moved the winning spots up. They put the girl who was 2nd up with me. So we split the prizes, and everthing was cool. We even won a contract with Motown, a four year contract, and some money, though I don't remember how much. SUN: What contest do you mean? CAROLYN: Oh yeah, in 1963. The contest was sponsored by WCHB and at that point you had to have Tip-Top bread wrappers to enter. We collected a whole bunch of Tip-Top bread wrappers, which would determine who would be in the finals. I made the finals, and had to go down to the Fox Theatre to perform in them. I wasjust 13 yearsold, turned 14 two weeks later. SUN: What did the Motown contract require you to do? CAROLYN: Just sing. They were supposed to take care of me as an artist. I can't really say anything very bad about it. The time I was there they made sure 1 worked, not as often as I could have. But I travelled, my mother travelled with me-and I went with most of the Motown acts. I toured with Smokey, the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Mary Wells, and I went on teenage tours. Diana Ross and I had a class together where you learn to sit and stand and all that shit. SUN: When did you have your first single out? CAROLYN: In 1963. 1 was 14. August, '63 -- the first tune was "Forget About Me," which I wrote. SUN: Did everybody forget about it? CAROLYN: No, Berry Gordy liked the idea that l wrote my own material. The second single was "My Smile is Just a Frown Turned Upside Down." They were playing both sides of that one on the radio. WKNR, they were cool, they gave me pretty good action around here. The records weren't bad, really. ín fact. when I got to Philly on a tour, the record wasalready known. A couple of charts were handed to us by the promo men, and the record was under number 1 5. When we were in Baltimore it was hke 10 or 11 when we got there and then moved up to number 5. At any rate, my last single for Motown was "When Someone is Good to You," which Berry Gordy wrote. That was in '65, the others in '63 and '64. SUN: When did you leave Motown? CAROLYN: In '67. They sent me a letter saying "We no longer need your services." SUN: What did you do in between your last record and that letter? CAROLYN: Nothing. I just sat arpund. We got a lawyer and did what we could. It didn't really do too much for me, but it shook Motown up a little at the time. Let me teil you, they called me up once. They called my mother and said they wanted i to teil us something, that they understood we were unhappy with the company. They said I was ego tripping and didn't even know anything about it. But really I was just interested in working. Sometimes I would go up to Motown, on Grand Blvd., and sit for a couple hours a day just to watch the entertainers. When some of the girls wouldn't show up I'd back up some of the girls, Martha and the Vandellas, like I did backup for "Girl, You've Been in Love Too Long." Smokey did most of my writing, and he was beautiful to work with. He'd cali me up, and a half hour after I got there we'd be in the studio. Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier produced the first tune I wrote. The arrangement was sort of just laid out for me because I could play the piano a little and I kind of knew where it was going and they would just build horns and things around it. I did that first record at 3 in the morning. And 1 was just a little kid down on the street. SUN: So why didn't they do an album? CAROLYN: 1 don't know. But they basically just dropped me, like I said. I got the letter in August of '67 and I was free. I believe now that it was the best thing that could have happened at the time. I don't believe my thing was to be with them. It was good for the moment and some things happened. I got a chance to at least get my name out, it helped me get a little work here in the city. But as far as what's happening now I don't think I would enjoy it as much as I do being with Gamble and Huff at Philadelphia International. I love everything that they have ever written for me, plus I get to piek out most of the tunes for myself. SUN: How many songs have you recorded for them? CAROLYN: l've cut 1 3 so far, of which four have been released on 2 45-singles. SUN: How'd you hook up with Gamble and Huff? CAROLYN: I was working here at Ben's Hi-Chapparal, out on Gratiot, in '73. I was so broke I was thumbing to work, couldn't even take a cab. fore that I started singing jazz at the Hobby Bar. Actually, I went down there to be a waitress, then started singing at S 1 0 a night again. Well any way, I was working at the Hi Chapparal. Ben Johnson, the owner, knew Kenny Gamble and león Huff. He kent ing he was going to cali Kenny in Philadelphia. But nothing happened. So one time I was working at the Latín Quarter in New Jersey and took a cab to Philadelphia International records. I didn't cali, I was on my own. I didn't wait on Ben. I went in and asked the secretary if Kenny Gamble was in, and she said he wouldn t be in that day. So I asked if León Huff was there and she said he would be soon. But he didn't show. So I asked if she told him that I was there. And she said yes. So I said look. l'll r leave my name and number, and would you kind of make sure he gets it. So she said fine. That was Friday. day I got a cali. I had come back to Detroit. León called and said that Ben had mentioned me to him and stuff. And 1 gave him the lowdown on my contract. That was the part I hated to do. I told him what the problem was. You see prior to that, in between Motown and Philly International, I had signed up with tour girls under the name of Hodges, James, Smit li and Crawford, all last ñames. But he didn't give me a negative response. It was positive. So I asked if 1 could cali him when I found out how to get out of that mess, and he said yeah, give me a cali. So I immediately started horsing around looking for a good lawyer. Things eventually got straightened out, and I went to Philly to do my session. 1 cut 1 3 tunes; my first single was "You Just Got to be More Careful Who You Give Your Love To," which I thought was a great piece of music. SUN: Why haven't they sent you out on tour, or done an album yet? CAROLYN: I don't know what they're going to do. continued on page 15, SUN section Crawford continuad from page 9 of KULCHUR section CAROLYN: I worry about the tour, cause they cancelled me one time, but that was so I could perform at the Afro-American Ethnic Festival. SUN: What was the tour to be? CAROLYN: It was supposed to be New York, Philadelphia, Washington, places I need to go. I don't know when l'm going. But I don't think they think l'm going to wait for the rest of my life. If 1 have to Hl get enough money to get on a boat or plane and go to England for 7 years or whatever it is I have to do. SUN: Do you like living in Detroit? CAROLYN: Funny you asked me that. I have trouble answering that all the time. I like it because it's my home. I don't like the things that happen around me or my environment. I think the whole thing is so pissy, they've got so many things, but nothing for the head to keep cool. Cause I remember Hastings St. I was raised on Ferry and Hastings St. 1 was riglit there. When I was a little girl I might not have known what the inside of those places were like, but I sure as heil knew they were there: the Warfield Theatrc. ihc Flame Showbar, Little Sonny's, all those places. Now where they were it's just an expressway. SUN: When did you live at Hastings St. CAROLYN: 1 must have been coming . out of Jr. High. They used to stand out on the corner and drink wine. You could leave your back door open then. Take rainbows. When was the last time you saw a rainbow in Detroit? I used to see them all the time, it used to rain and rainbows would come out. Now you don't see them. Ain't that something?