Soul Serenade: Dusty Springfield, “Just a Little Lovin’ (Early in the Mornin’)”

Soul Serenade

Dusty Springfield - Just A Little Lovin'Before I begin, for any of you that are using rdio, I have started putting together a fairly extensive playlist that will serve as something of a companion to this column. Some of the songs have appeared here, others will appear in the future, and some are just songs that I like. If you’re interested, you can check it out at Soul Serenade on rdio.

By 1968, Dusty Springfield was dissatisfied with her career. Though she’d had a number of hits, she found herself relegated to the British touring circuit, which meant playing a lot of hotels and cabarets. In an effort to kickstart her career she signed with Atlantic Records, largely because it was the label of Aretha Franklin.

A dream team was assembled, material was chosen, and American Studios in Memphis was booked. Among the cast were producers Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin, and engineer Tom Dowd. Material for the album came from a who’s who of songwriters. In the case of “Just A Little Lovin’ (Early In the Mornin’)”, the songwriters were Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who had hits with “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” among many, many others. The musicians were the Memphis Cats, led by Reggie Young and Tommy Cogbill, who knew a thing or two about hit making themselves. Clearly failure was not an option on this project.

The resulting album, Dusty In Memphis, is regarded as a classic in the canon of pop music. The big song on the album was “Son of a Preacher Man,” written by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins, which became a top ten hit in the US and internationally. “Just A Little Lovin'” was the b-side of the single. Aretha Franklin had originally turned down “Son of a Preacher Man,” but a year later, she hit paydirt with her own version. Dusty Springfield, always cursed with an inferiority complex, decided that Aretha’s version was better and modeled her own performances of the song on it from that point forward.

For her tenth studio album, the great singer/songwriter Shelby Lynne decided to pay tribute to one of her favorite singers, Dusty Springfield. In January, 2008, Lynne released the very fine Just A Little Lovin’. The album included covers of four songs from the Dusty In Memphis album, among them Lynne’s version of “Just A Little Lovin’ (Early In The Mornin’).

  • grayflannelsuit

    Dusty is easily my favorite female vocalist ever. Never a bad note, and even the more trite arrangements are lifted by her immense talent.

  • breadalbane

    I know this is heretical, but while I like “Dusty In Memphis” just fine, I personally find I get more enjoyment out of her earlier material. “Memphis” is just a hair too slick to really hit home with me –with the earlier stuff, there’s a certain amount of tension that’s created by Dusty doing her absolute best vocally, as she single-handedly tries to (and often succeeds at) making the British session musicians backing her sound nearly as soulful as the Motown/Atlantic/Scepter sessioneers they’re mimicking.

    But is “Dusty In Memphis” still a very good — even great — album? Of course!

  • kshane

    What’s interesting about those early Dusty albums is that she produced them. No, her name was never listed as a producer, because in those days, a woman would never receive a producer credit. Dusty in Memphis was the first album for which she worked with outside producers, but what producers they were! Come to think of it, how many women get producer credits these days?

  • breadalbane

    The lack of producer credit for Dusty on those early albums has little, if anything, to do with her being a woman. It was simply the rigid British system of the day: artists were artists and producers were producers. If a producer allowed an artist input into the production process, fine…but the producer was still ‘responsible’ for the finished product.

    Look at The Beatles, who towards the end of their career were the biggest band in the world and were essentially producing themselves. George Martin wasn’t even present for great swathes of The White Album … but as producer of record with EMI, he gets the credit. (Not that he wasn’t a first-rate producer!)


    Claudine Clark is the first female recording artist I can think of to get a producer credit on a significant hit (“Party Lights”), circa 1962. But that was a fluke — it was supposed to be a B-side, which is why she was ‘allowed’ to produce it. Ultimately, the B-side got ‘flipped’ by DJs to become the hit.

    I can think of lots of current female artists who produce (or co-produce) their own material — but yes, it’s awfully tough to think of female producers who freelance for a variety of artists. Susan Rogers and Trina Shoemaker are the only ones I can think of off the top of my head….

  • kshane

    I am not saying that you are incorrect about the British system, but to say that it had nothing to do with her being a woman is simply incorrect, and flies in the face of quite a bit of expert commentary to the contrary. It was, if anything, a combination of things.

  • breadalbane

    Ken, I’ve read the ‘expert’ commentary, and disagree with it. Or at least certain aspects of it.

    Dusty being a woman certainly made it more difficult to get respect from the male musicians, staff producers, arrangers and engineers she was working with. And it also undoubtedly made the act of being the de facto producer more challenging. THAT, I’m not disputing for a minute. I was only commenting on the credit issue — the strictures and codes of the time made it extremely difficult for ANY British artist to receive credit for production of their work. (And actually, Dusty did receive production credit alongside Johnny Franz on a handful of mid-60s tracks, mostly EP cuts.)

  • johnny

    I think she was 1 foxy hot lady dam women you were just hot