On The Genre-Bending, Ahead Of Her Time Betty Padgett

On August 14th 2017 » By Andrew Winistorfer

Betty Padgett

We’re selling a limited edition reissue of Betty Padgett’s self-titled debut on COLOR vinyl. Below, we present a history of the album.

The history of soul music as a tectonic force in music was largely written by regional powerhouses. Stax in Memphis, Motown in Detroit (and later L.A.), Atlantic in New York (and Alabama, since they basically owned Muscle Shoals for a while there). But for every label that eventually muscled its way onto record shelves across America, there were dozens upon dozens of niche, regional labels that put out dozens upon dozens of albums that existed and then slipped into the ether of time. Down in Miami, one such label—Alwa—released an album in 1975 by a 21-year-old woman who lived in town and recorded all her songs in a single night in a borrowed studio. The resulting album wouldn’t make much of an impact—minus being a small regional hit, and getting an ad placement—until it was “rediscovered” in a record store in L.A. by a DJ, and reissued in 2009. That album was Betty Padgett.

Betty Padgett was born in New Jersey, but her family settled in Miami in the late ‘60s. In the early ‘70s, she was the lead of a group called Betty and the Q’s, and eventually joined Joey Gilmore and the T.C.B., which had opening gigs for a who’s who of ‘70s soul and funk groups on tour through Miami, like the Impressions and KC and the Sunshine Band.

When Padgett was 21, she was invited to record the sessions that became her debut LP, Betty Padgett. Recorded in a single night and often on single vocal takes, it never charted, and was hardly heard outside of Florida. It’s lone semi-hits, “Sugar Daddy Pt. 1 & 2” were reportedly featured in a Pepsi commercial in the ‘70s, though that’s impossible to verify since there’s not tons of regional Pepsi commercials on YouTube. Padgett would record a couple other albums over the years, but none would have even the impact Betty Padgett did.

Listening to the album in 2017, it’s hard not to think that one of the reasons the album was never the hit it might have been is because it runs a gamut of styles, some of them before their commercial breakthroughs. The aforementioned “Sugar Daddy” songs are disco before disco broke big, all roller skating beats, and sugar sweet choruses. A downright funny song, it boasts a witty sense of humor. She turns Frankie Valli’s “My Eyes Adored You” into a reggae jam, and “Gypsy of Love” rides latin rhythms into the stratosphere. “Rocking Chair” and “Tonight Is The Night” are island jams ready for placement on any beach playlist. The fact that those songs are alongside traditional soul ballad fare like “Love Me Forever” and “It Would Be A Shame” is almost downright radical. There’s no unifying style on this at all; both to its strength and its detriment.

“Betty Padgett is an album that stands as a testament to there always being unknown music to be discovered.”

Betty Padgett remained obscure until 2009, when DJ Sureshot discovered the album in a discount bin the back of an L.A. record store. He went home, played it, and couldn’t believe an album as freewheeling with genre and as interesting as Betty Pagett could be so unknown. The label Love N Haight reissued it then, and it’s back out again via our pressing. It’s an album that stands as a testament to there always being unknown music to be discovered; that any trip to the record store might yield an amazing album you’ve never heard of.

Andrew Winistorfer

Andrew Winistorfer

Andrew Winistorfer is Vinyl Me, Please’s Classics and Country Director, and an editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need In Your Collection and The Best Record Stores In The United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 20 VMP releases, and co-produced Nat Turner Rebellion's Laugh to Keep From Crying. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

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