Betty Everett

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The Independent Online

Betty Everett, singer: born Greenwood, Mississippi 23 November 1939; died Beloit, Wisconsin 19 August 2001.

Betty Everett's "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)" is today a fixture of "Golden Oldie" radio stations everywhere. Recorded in 1964, its infectious arrangement and the breezy interplay between Everett and a group of young girls as they debate exactly what it is that draws her to her boyfriend – she has no doubts, authoritatively rebuking them for not paying attention – has ensured its enduring popularity.

Written by Rudy Clark and produced by Calvin Carter, who was at that time best known for his work with the blues musician Jimmy Reed, the song proved to be her greatest success, reaching No 6 on the US charts. Perhaps surprisingly, its greatest popularity in Britain came 26 years later when a cover version by Cher, taken from the soundtrack of her film Mermaids (1990), found its way to the top of the charts.

Born in Greenwood, Mississippi, an area best known for its local blues scene, Everett began playing the piano at nine and regularly sang gospel songs at her local church. Whilst still in her late teens she moved north to Chicago and began to make her presence felt in the city's clubs where she was given the opportunity to perform alongside both Magic Sam and the legendary Muddy Waters. She briefly sang lead with an otherwise all-male doo-wop group named the Daylighters and enjoyed a minor hit with "Why Did You Have to Go?".

Having decided to try her luck as a solo act, she joined the Cobra label and cut several sides including "My Life Depends On You" (1957). A move to One-derful Records followed and local success with "I've Got a Claim On You" brought her to the attention of the fastest growing label in Chicago, Vee-Jay.

Today Vee-Jay is chiefly and perhaps unfairly remembered as the label that released the Beatles' first US hits, but they were instrumental in the careers of Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker and the Four Seasons. Everett was a positive addition to their roster; they teamed her with Calvin Carter and the two recorded "You're No Good" (1963). This version limped into the US Top Sixty but when covered a year later by the Merseybeat band the Swinging Blue Jeans it went on to become a smash hit.

Following the success of "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss)", she found herself paired with Jerry Butler, a fellow Mississippian whose restrained brand of R&B had earned him the nickname "The Iceman". Their superb rendition of "Let It Be Me" became a Top Five hit in 1964 and was followed by another fine duet, "Smile" (also 1964). Her solo numbers, including "I Can't Hear You" and "Getting Mighty Crowded" (both 1965), fared less well though the latter became her first UK chart entry.

The collapse of Vee-Jay Records in 1965 saw her move briefly to ABC for a year. She then joined Uni and recaptured some of the earlier magic with "There'll Come a Time" (1969). Further chart entries followed but she was a spent force. "True Love (You Took My Heart)" (1978) was her final entry on the soul/R&B charts.

Late last year Everett participated in an American television special, Doo Wop 51, saluting the great a capella groups of the late Fifties and early Sixties. Partnered by her old friend Jerry Butler, she reportedly brought the house down.

Paul Wadey