Bitter Sweet Soul - Mary Love

Bitter Sweet Soul  - Mary  Love magazine cover

Mary Love has now been active in the music business for almost thirty years and her recording career over much of this period has not been as prolific or successful as she deserved. However, she continues to produce new work and to her credit still retains a positive attitude to the possibility of future success.

Mary was born in Sacramento, Mary Ann Allen (Hal Davis came up with her stage surname in 1964), but her family moved to Los Angeles when she was still a young child. She sang in church and when she got out of High School she met and became friends with a guy from the group, The Vows (V.I.P. release later). Mary began rehearsing with the group and they worked together on one particular song in which Mary took a major vocal role. The groroguen_storiesup secured a booking at the California Club and Mary was asked to go along to perform the song they had worked on together. She did this and J.W. Alexander, Sam Cookes manager, happened to be in the club. He liked what he saw and asked her to come over to a studio on Hollywood Boulevard the next day to cut some demos. This she did and it resulted in her cutting a demo with Sam Cooke of "Talking Trash" a song destined for Betty Everett and Jerry Butler. They liked the way she worked and so she was used to cut numerous demos.

She eventually ended up cutting demos for Jobete, one song she was the first to cut being "A Touch Of Venus" which was produced by Marc Gordon. The demo version turned out so well that the song was much in demand with various artists wanting to release it. However, the winning version fumed out to be one of Marys friends, Sandy Wynns. Mary believes her demo version is still locked in the Jobete / Motown vaults, she certainly doesnt possess a copy of the cut or any other of her demo performances Her sterling efforts on demos were soon rewarded, as again with Marc Gordon producing a number of mainly Frank Wilson penned songs were cut with a view to landing Mary her own recording contract. Arthur Wright was the arranger on the work and although Mary was still very young and unschooled in studio techniques with the help and encouragement of the talented team around her the tracks that resulted were of a very high quality.

Marc Gordon secured Mary a deal with Modem Records and her 1st single "You Turned My Bitter Into Sweet / Im In Your Hands" (Modem 1006) was released in 1965. This was an instant hit, first locally and then nationally and its success led to it being released overseas. However, Mary wasnt aware of this or the fact that 2 of her later 60s singles were also released in the U.K. and was most intrigued when shown copies of her releases on U.K. King and Stateside. Mary really enjoyed this period of her life, work at Modern was undertaken in a family atmosphere. The studio personnel taught her a lot, taking time to explain the necessary studio techniques to her. Artists also helped out on each others recordings, Mary doing backups on Vernon Garrett, Lowell Fulsom and Ikettes tracks and these and other artists returning the favour. The Valentinoes (Bobby, Cecil, et al) also assisted on one of her sessions but although the Ikettes soon became Marys closest friends (Venetta Fields, Josie Joe Armstead, Robbie?) Ike and Tina themselves never used to help out in the studio, Mary only meeting them when their paths crossed on tour.

The Modern artists also swopped club names and addresses, if one artist obtained a booking at a new club within days every other outfit from the label would be on the phone pestering the booking agent for a spot. Because of this and also due to the high standard of her live performances she ended up touring extensively in the 60s and has made a good living. Her two year period with Modem Records resulted in six solo singles and one duet with Arthur Adams being released. "Bitter Into Sweet" and "Move A Little Closer" were the most commercially successful but all were very worthwhile releases and many have been reissued in the 80s/90s in the U.K. on the Kent label. "Bitter Into Sweet", "Hey Stoney Face", "LetMe Know" and "Lay This Burden Down" have all become popular with U.K. soul club crowds, however one of Marys personal favourites is the Ashford and Simpson written Dance Children Dance. "Satisfied Feeling" the flip side of her 5th release.. was her 1st self writtentrack but more soon followed.

The duet with Arthur Adams her last release on Modern is quite interesting as only one side of the record features ,Mary.The A side "Is That You"was cut first timeand by the time the decision to release the track Mary was out on tour so her friend Sandy Wynns took her place and recorded "Lets Get Together" with Arthur although the track was still credited to Mary on the label. No one would have been any the wiser if Mary herself had not given the credit due to Sandy. Marys least favourite track is surprisingly "Hey Stoney Face", she cant relate to the Iyrics at all and it took her all night to lay the track down in the studio as she kept breaking out into fits of laughter and she has never sung the track live in her life.

In 1968 Mary left Modem and signed to Josie (Jubilee) for a one record deal. This was the single "The Hurt Is Just Beginning / If you Change Your Mind", both songs being self written. Both sides of the record have stories attached to them "If You Change..." was written on tour after a show, its theme being a one night stand and how the couples feelings for each other can already have changed by the next morning The A side "Hurt Is Beginning" was Being played on the radio in California at the same time Huey Newton of the Black Panthers was on trial in San Francisco. The protectors outside the court house took their lines from the song "…Don’t let it Happen…" and built it into a chant, so a lot of people know the song by this title. Her next single is on a rare label "There’s someone for me" on ELCO, again its self written and it was released in 1971. Marys grandmother still lived in Sacramento, next door to the Elco Drugstore. The store owner, a Mr Cole heard Mary sing the song and decided to start the label as a hobby. The tracks were recorded at Ray Charles studio in L.A. with Ray engineering the session himself It proved to be the only record on the label

Next up is the Magic Disc single Joy in 1977. This was taken from the movie Peady Wheatshaw and a soundtrack albulm was also released at the timewhich included 5 tracks from the film on which Mary was the featured vocalist A single on the T K distributed label Inphasion " Turn me Turn me" followed in 1979 and also around the same time on a visit to Japan Mary cut a record with part Japenese / part English1 Iyrics, extolling the virtues of the Sweet Taste Bamboo Inn. Next| came her U- Tone single "Tit For Tat" in the early 80s and this is one of the songs which has benefited from the changes in musical styles since those days of the disco boom as it sounded much better when performed live by Mary at the Cleethorpes Weekender. Mary acknowledged the input of her U.K.backing band at the event and said they had been influential in the way it ended up sounding when she had performed it. She also expressed her pleasure in having the opportunity toperform with live back-up when compared to her last UK visit when she had to sing over backing tapes.

In 1984 another single was released, this being Save Me" which was recorded for Eddie Garons Golden Boy Records in L. A. although it was released on the Mirage label. Shortly after this Mary began to collaborate with Brad Comer who was soon to be her husband. In 1986 while I was helping Move Records of Edinburgh I was forwarded tapes of a number of tracks that had been submitted to them for possible release One of these contained a number of tracks by a group known as Co-Love The best of these being a male / female duet "Be Baby", a mid tempo number "Never Gonna Break It Up" and a ballad "Mr Man". It transpires that these were the last secular songs recorded by Mary and Brad however I dont believe they gained release anywhere (Move Records went out of business shortly afterwards).

Mary and Brad decided to move into the gospel field and recorded and released on their own Co-Love label "Come Out Of The Sandbox" in 1987. The words to the song have significant meaning to Mary as to deal with the mentality of believing in failure and disappointment and explain how everyone can shrug this off as all good things are within us. The record proved very popular in the U.K. and led to further gospel releases, an L. P. "His Servant Am 1" and a 12" "Caught Up / Standing On The Edge Of Time" on a Voices limited edition in 1988.

Then in 1990 another 12", this time featuring three tracks "Understanding / In My Life / Morethan Enouglh Love" was released, the later track being a duet with Marys son Derrick Versey. The couple are currently working on a new L.P., they continue to write new songs and Mary performs in churches in the Los Angeles area. They are both very open, friendly people, down to earth in attitude and talented. With their outlook on life they can only prosper in the future.

Marys ethos that you should never succumb to the mentality of failure should ensure that we receive new product from her well into her fourth decade of involvement in the music business.

written by John Smith

from a interview conducted by John Smith / Paul Dunn

Background info by Paul Dunn Oxford 1993


video added

Mary love - lay this burden down by mickeynold




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