Our Top 10 Clarence Carter songs list takes a look at an American Blues/Soul singer and record producer. Carter has been blind ever since he was born in 1936. After graduating with a degree in music from the Alabama school for the Blind in 1960, he began his musical career with his friend Calvin Scott under the moniker of Clarence and Calvin. Their debut release was “I Wanna Dance But I Don’t Know How” on the Fairlane label. In 1962 after the release of another singe titled “I Don’t Know “(School Girl) they signed to Duke Record after which they renamed themselves the C and C boys and released four uncommercially successful singles. They struggled to achieve success over the next few years after “Step by Step” failed to chart in 1965.
The duo’s unsuccessful career came to an end after Carter went solo after Scott was seriously injured in a car accident. His luck changed here after he released “Tell Daddy” which reached number thirty-five on the US R&B chart. He was also credited as a writer on Etta James’ “answer record” “Tell Mama.” After signing with Atlantic Records in 1967, he went on the have a string of hits starting with “Slip Away”. This was followed by “Too Weak To Fight.” In Christmas 1968 he had a hit with “Back Door Santa” which featured Candi Staton as one of his backing singers. He would soon marry and have a son with her before they divorced in 1973.
Over the next couple of years Carter would continue to have several chart topping hits such as “Snatching It Back,” “The Feeling Is Right,” “Doin’ Our Thing,” and “I Can’t Leave Your Love Alone.” He had his biggest hit in 1970 with a cover of Chairman of the Board’s “Patches”. This sold over a million records, received a gold disc, and won the Grammy Award for best R&B song in 1971. However, his next couple of releases were not as successful and at the end of 1971 he left Atlantic. He would go on to release three albums after signing with ABC Records in 1975.
Carter’s career went into decline with the rise of disco in the late 1970’s. He experienced a minor resurgence in 1985 after signing with Ichiban Records and releasing songs such as “Strokin” and “Dr C C.” The former was considered too explicit for radio airplay but managed to gain popularity by being played in jukeboxes in bars. Although not exactly the most popular artist in the world today, Carter has consistently continued to make albums and still maintains a cult following.
# 10 – Doctor C.C.
Kicking off this Top 10 Clarence Carter songs list we have a track from Carter’s later eighties period. It is the title track of his seventeenth album released in 1986. By this point he had developed a different kind of sound. No longer was he a classic soul crooner but was now having a dab at being an easy listening singer-songwriter. Whilst it is far from his classic period, it is notable as being his final era of having any kind of mainstream success, as none of the many records that he has made ever since have had any chart success.
# 9 – Too Weak To Fight
Continuing with our top 10 Clarence Carter songs list we turn to the song ” Too Weak To Fight.” The song was recorded at Fame studios with producer Rick Hall and songwriters George Jackson and John Keyes. It was released in 1969 and taken from the album The Dynamic Clarence Carter. The song is about how the woman Clarence loves has absolute power over him. At just two minutes and twenty seconds, Carter packs in a lot of emotion here. In a way it is somewhat disturbing, suggesting that he could possibly be in some kind of domineering relationship.
# 8 – Snatching It Back
This was Carter’s third top forty hit that he wrote with George Jackson taken from 1969’s album Testifyin. It was also recorded at Fame studios where Jackson worked as a staff song writer. The song is about a woman who would not requite the love that Carter had for her and the original lyrics were much more sexually explicit in nature. Rick Hall insisted that Carter and Jackson toned it down so it would get more airplay.
# 7 – Mother-In-Law
This track is a cover of the Ernie K Doe song from 1961, recorded and released in 1973. The original was number one on both the mainstream and R&B charts. Unfortunately, this version did not reach the same heights, reaching number eighty on the mainstream charts and the higher position of twenty-four the R&B charts. It was released as the B side to the next entry on this list which is…
# 6 – Sixty Minute Man
This is a cover of a song originally released by Billy and the Dominos that was issued in 1951. The original is considered to be a crucial contributor to the development of Rock n Roll in the sense that it was one of the first R&B numbers to cross over to the pop charts. There have been several other recordings of it by the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Nancy Sinatra.
# 5 – Patches
Here is a cover of a song originally by the Chairmen of the Board. It won the Grammy Award in 1971 for best R&B song. This version got to number four on the Billboard Hot 100, number two on the R&B chart and number two on the UK singles chart. Carter initially had reservations about recording the song as a black man but was persuaded to do so by Rick Hall. It is the title track of Carters’ third album released in 1970.
# 4 – Back Door Santa
At number three is this seasonal hit from 1968. Carter wrote it along with Marcus Daniel. It released as a single in ’68 and was included on the compilation Soul Christmas. A closer look at the lyrics, however, shows that the song is not quite as much about the festive season as it would suggest, being instead about something of a more adult nature.
# 3 – Slip Away
Just off the stop spot is a song that was written by William Armstrong, Marcus Daniel and Wilbur Terrell. It was featured on Carter’s 1968 album This is Clarence Carter. It reached number two on the R&B chart, number six on the pop chart and number twelve on the Canadian chart. It has been covered by Dottsy and Gregg Allman.
# 2 – Tell Daddy
Although the reaction song “Tell Mama” by Etta James is more well known, at number one on this list the original Carter track released in 1966. It was his first hit reaching thirty-five on the US Billboard. The James track on the other hand was much more successful, charting at number ten on the R&B charts. Nonetheless, this is a smoking version of the song with the horns playing as funky and soulful as you can get while Clarence lays down a brilliant rock and roll soulful vocal.
# 1 – Strokin
Here we have a track that to date was Carter’s last big hit released in 1986 also taken from Dr CC. Written at a time long after the man’s heyday, it was not quite a comeback hit due to the fact it was banned from radio and television due to its overly sexual lyrical content. However, as previously stated in this article’s introduction, the record company managed to make it something of a hit by getting it played in jukeboxes in bars. The song’s popularity however was fueled by its association as a party song. Every wedding band, bar band and club band went to this one when they wanted to ignite the crowds. And let me tell you…… it always worked.
Top 10 Clarence Carter Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2020
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