As the noted orator Snoop Doog once said “with my mind on my money and my money on my mind.” Money must have been on Betty Jean Champion’s mind when she was a kid in Arcadia, Louisiana and it took on a whole different meaning when she began recording for Money Records in the ’60s. She not only got a record deal, but a new name to go along with it, as Betty Jean Champion became Bettye Swann.
Some people say that Swann was a member of a group called the Fawns that recorded for Money in 1964. Swann herself has denied this, saying that she was in a group in Arcadia at the time. In any event, she moved to Los Angeles in 1963, and began her solo career the following year.
Swann took on a DJ named Al Scott as her manager. She began her recording career at Money with the first of a series of singles that were produced by Arthur Wright. The first single, “Don’t Wait Too Long” was penned by Swann herself and was a minor hit in 1964. The following year there were two more singles, “The Man That Said No,” and “The Heartache is Gone.” A breakthrough was on the horizon for Swann, but it would take her two more years to get there.
In 1967, Money released “Make Me Yours,” again written by Swann, and again produced by Wright. The record went to #1 on the Billboard R&B chart in July of that year. At the same time it raced up the pop chart, making it to #21 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. There were three more singles for Money that year, “Fall in Love With Me,” “Don’t Look Back,” and “I Think I’m Falling in Love,” but none of them had nearly the success that “Make Me Yours” did. Swann wasn’t done yet however.
In 1968 Bettye Swann moved to Georgia, dumped her manager, and signed a new deal with Capitol Records. The label teamed her with producer Wayne Shuler. Her first single for the label, “My Heart is Closed for the Season” didn’t do much business, but in 1969 Swann had a hit for Capitol with her cover of Hank Cochran’s “Don’t Touch Me.” The single went to #14 on the R&B chart, and #38 on the pop chart. “Don’t Touch Me” was included on Swann’s second album, The Soul View Now; Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me?. The album also spawned a minor hit with “Little Things Mean a Lot.” Swann left Capitol and released a one-off single for Fame Records called “I’m Just Living a Lie” in 1971.
Eventually Swann wound up on Atlantic Records. Her first single for the label, “Victim of a Foolish Heart,” was a Top 20 R&B hit in 1972. Swann’s next Atlantic single was a stellar performance of the Etta James classic “I Would Rather Go Blind.” The B-side of the single was also of interest because it was a cover of a Merle Haggard song called “Today I Started Loving You Again.” The Haggard cover demonstrated once again that Swann did well with country-soul interpretations. The B-side of her next single, 1973’s “Yours Until Tomorrow,” was also a cover of a country song, this time Tammy Wynette’s “Til I Get it Right.” The following year Swann was back on the pop chart, albeit in the lower reaches of the Top 100 with “The Boy Next Door.” The record featured another interesting flip side, but this time it wasn’t country, but Philly Soul for Swann on “Kiss My Love Goodbye.”
In 1975, Swann had her last chart success with “All the Way In or All the Way Out.” After that she faded from the music business.