Oct 7, 2014

Bettye LaVette "What Condition My Condition Is In"

In 1968 Bettye LaVette went into the studio to record a second set of sides with Detroit producer Ollie McLaughlin for his label Karen Record. Backed by Dennis Coffey, Ray Monette and Bob Babbitt they cut the Popcorn Wylie and Tony Hester song "Get Away" with it's intention of it being the hit side of an upcoming release on McLaughin's Karen label.

For the b-side they recorded "What Condition My Condition Is In." Written by Mickey Newbury, the song, which was actually titled "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)" was a country hit for Jerry Lee Lewis in 1967 as a honky tonk oddity. A year later the song went into the Billboard top 10 as a bubblegum psychedelic tune by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition.

McLaughlin was confident in Bettye's ability to turn the song into a smoldering and funky Rhythm and Blues track and claim the song her own. Detroit radio DJ's must've thought so too because though the a-side was ignored, "What Condition My Condition Is In" hit the top 10 on the charts of the legendary Detroit R&B station WCHB in February of 1969.

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