It’s so hard to fathom why some talented folks decide to chuck it all in favor of more humdrum lives. Such is the case with the great Betty Harris, who recorded a bunch of outstanding soul sides in the 1960s, then mysteriously disappeared. The cut above was her last, and it’s a Microkhan favorite—an odd-yet-catching meditation on the vagaries of fate, featuring Harris’s trademark semi-growl.
Contrary to frequent rumors, Harris did not become an interstate trucker. Instead, she settled into a life of Nutmeg State motherhood, before mounting a comeback in 2005. A great piece on her journey back to the limelight is available here, via the Hartford Advocate. Our favorite tidbit:
Harris concerned herself with raising her two children. She went by her married name and dropped completely out of music. Living in Florida, she kept her vocal chords in shape in church and at community functions. She moved to Hartford eight years ago, seeking better educational opportunities for her daughter Christina. She started giving vocal lessons at the Artists Collective.
Right around that time, Nashville entertainment attorney Fred Wilhelms negotiated a settlement with one of Harris’ old labels. The artists would finally see some of the royalties they were owed. But when he tried to find Harris, he came up empty.
Four years ago, Christina moved away to college and Harris got her a computer. One day, Christina called: “Mom, you’re famous.”
Her daughter had found several Betty Harris tribute websites created by soul fans. Then Harris looked at eBay and found her old 45s going for up to $50 a pop. She shelled out $20 for a CD compilation of her own music, the UK-released Soul Perfection Plus. (“One dealer in Georgia, after I sent him my picture with my order, never cashed the check,” she laughs.)
Realizing she still had a fan base, Harris joined a Southern Soul e-mail list and announced her whereabouts. She also cleared up some Internet rumors. Some sites said she had started as a maid for Big Maybelle, roadied for James Carr, and was now a truck driver. In reality, Harris had gotten some early vocal tips from Maybelle, recorded a duet with Carr, and had been married to a trucker.
The big lesson here: The Tubes are not always the most reliable source of information about vanished artists.