Betty PadgettView in iTunes
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Although sweet-voiced South Florida R&B diva Betty Padgett has been an active performer and sporadic recording artist for decades, she's made only scarce and fleeting impressions on the radar of even devoted soul and funk aficionados, at least until recently. Born in Newport, NJ, and raised in Florida from sixth grade onward, she followed the well-worn path from church choir to concert stage. Immersing herself in the booming Florida funk scene of the early '70s, she started an all-female group, Betty & the Q's, and signed on in 1971 with a Fort Lauderdale funk outfit, Joey Gilmore & the T.C.B. Express, with whom she would tour, locally and internationally, for the next 17 years. After a hometown gig in 1974, she was approached by local soul legend Milton Wright, who helped launch her solo career by co-writing and arranging the material that would become her debut LP, recorded in a single evening when Padgett was a mere 21 years old. The resulting album was a surprisingly mature and accomplished mix of mellow soul, uptempo funk, and sultry steady-rocking reggae, but the standout cut was "Sugar Daddy," a two-part disco groover that was pressed as a 12" and became sizable regional hit, featured in a Pepsi commercial and reaching at least as far as Belize, where Padgett toured in support of the album. Nevertheless, the album (alternately referred to by the name of its single and its singer) was not a great success, and Padgett remained largely confined to the regional circuit, where she would ride out the disco era and beyond, sharing stages with the likes of Gwen McRae, Joe Tex, Denise LaSalle, and Bobby Bland, releasing albums only intermittently -- 1981's disco-fied Sweet Feeling, 1998's 30 Second Man, 2004's Closet Lover, and 2006's Never Coming Home -- over the ensuing decades. Curiously enough, history caught up with Padgett in 2009, when groove-oriented label Luv N' Haight decided to reissue her first record (and the "Sugar Daddy" 12") after it was "discovered" by a crate-digging L.A. DJ, thereby giving the album its first high-profile, national release. ~ K. Ross Hoffman