Clydie King wins my heart

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I went to a little record fair at a local Eagles Club today. (There was a bored-looking guard at the door to make sure that people who came in were members of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, or at least guests. Which anyone could become by paying a dollar and signing a piece of paper.) The record that captured my heart and my five bucks, though, pretty much ambushed me. I knew before I'd heard a note of it that I had to have it.

It's an album by Clydie King, whose name rang only the faintest of bells with me. The cover has her face in profile, close-up, blurred slightly, smilling a touch uneasily, approaching a microphone that's still a good foot away from her mouth. The background is black. Her name is in the most horrible drop-shadow font ever, all in orange. The title's below that, much smaller, in a badly typeset serif font that's almost as horrible: "DIRECT ME." Down in the lower left-hand corner is the label's logo. The label is called Lizard, and its hand-drawn logo has the word "LIZARD" with a stylized cat wrapped around it. Not a lizard, a cat. The general design, her hairstyle, her makeup, etc., scream "1972."

On the back cover, there's a photo of her leaning against a wall, wearing bell-bottom jeans and a very unbuttoned shirt. The track listing includes a cover of "The Long and Winding Road," as well as songs called "Direct Me" and "Ain't My Stuff Good Enough?"; the musicians include Billy Preston and nobody else I'd ever heard of; the liner notes are by photographer/designer Chris Van Ness, who should not have done any of his three jobs. (They do, however, note that "when she was eight years old, Art Linkletter called her 'the next Marian Anderson.' But that's not really where it's at." Also that she'd sung with the Beatles, of which I can find no evidence, and CSN, and had been a Raelette for three years. They're followed by testimonials from Preston and Quincy Jones: "when she and Billy Preston did a song I wrote for the film, The Split, she wiped me out; and I guess we became kind of spiritually attached. What can I say; she's something else.")

I think anyone who knows me fairly well would realize at this point just how badly I needed this album.

I did a little research on her when I got home. Turns out she'd been a backup singer for a lot of big names, if not the Beatles; she sang on Exile on Main Street and with Lynyrd Skynyrd, and was Bob Dylan's favorite backup singer/duet partner for some years (they may have been romantically involved). She'd had a Labelle-ish trio called the Blackberries, who made an album for Motown that never got released for "political reasons" (?). It appeared that she'd been recording for Specialty Records in the late '50s--that might've been a different Clydie King, or it might've been her, given the eight-year-old Marian Anderson thing, and the fact that there seems to exist at least one single by a "Little Clydie King."

The record itself is... uh, not very good, at first listen--she's got the kind of skinny whoo-oo voice that I'm sure sounds great when she's doing backups, but doesn't carry a lot of weight on its own. But I still think it was five dollars well spent, because now I'm fascinated.

Anyone know more?

3 Comments

James said:

There are a few mentions of Clydie King in Howard Soundes' biography of Dylan (which is excellent, FWIW), but not much substantial. Yep, they were an item for a time, and Soundes also says Dylan bought a house for her.

She has a track on the Specialty box set, song title "Our Romance." I don't know if that's the single you're referring to or not.

andrew said:

also on the Lizard label was a band from near San Diego called Jamul, named for a town near San Diego. I think I read somewhere that the label was named for the founder's cat, Lizard, which is how the logo ends up being a little confused.

I know I had a Clydie King album called "Brown Sugar" am not sure it was very good or if I still have it.

641297gnzuxr said:

I realize this comment is very late, but I was just surfing the net and came across your comments about Clydie.
If you can get a copy of Joe Coccer's, video "Mad Dogs and Englishmen", Clydie's on tour with him so you can catch her doing her thing.

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This page contains a single entry by Douglas published on January 17, 2004 11:40 PM.

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