Bettye Crutcher’s name may not be famous among everyday music fans, but her influence and that of other female songwriters at the Southern soul factory Stax Records was massive. Crutcher arrived at Stax in 1966 with a set of influences that didn’t include the blues. In the booklet accompanying the new Stax box set dedicated to the songwriters, Crutcher says, “All of my songs were really pretty because my favorite artists were Nancy Wilson, Keely Smith, Sam Cooke, Johnny Mathis. And I’d heard the blues all of my life, but it wasn’t my favorite music.” In that way, she brought something different to the mix, a certain refinement honed by a pop sense. Nevertheless, she was convinced to pen a blues song for Johnnie Taylor, who made a hit with her “Somebody’s Sleeping in My Bed”.
The new Stax music set, Written in Their Soul: The Stax Songwriter Demos, releasing on 23rd June via Craft Recordings, is devoted to the work of songwriters like Crutcher and so many more. She was a prodigious music creator, yet she faced many challenges as a woman. “These guys just didn’t want to accept a girl coming in there doing what they were doing. So far as respecting me, these guys would treat me, well, like I was their mother. I could be in Topeka, or I could be in Europe, and these guys would look out for me like you wouldn’t believe. But when it comes to going to the studio to cut a demo or a song— I really was going to have to win them with my work; they were not going to give me any edge. If a producer had a hot artist, they wouldn’t even listen to my songs.”
Still, Stax was home, and Crutcher loved it. “YOU COULDN’T WAIT to get back to Stax every day! It was just like family.” “Just the Way You Loved Me” leans into Crutcher’s refined sweeter inclinations with a catchy melody and lyrics longing for more romantic love from her partner. The track plays like a soul-pop hit that someone like Dionne Warwick would have scored big with. Dig in and enjoy the incomparable Bettye Crutcher, and discover more underappreciated song creators in Written in Their Soul: The Stax Songwriter Demos, with its 146 demos; 140 are previously unreleased.