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candi_jewell_trio(Candi pictured with the Jewell Trio)

Going back right to the beginning, what was it like growing up in Hanceville, Alabama, in the 1940s?

It was cotton fields and we had to eat from the fields and my mother used to can a lot. She would take all the stuff that we had for summer (fruit etc) that we could get from the crops and put it in food jars and can it. We had a canning room where there were just shelves and shelves and shelves of tomato soup, corn and peas that she would keep for the winter time. My dad was a coal miner in the winter time and a farmer in the summer. But he was also an alcoholic and a gambler. So we didn’t have a lot. Dad would take his money and would just gamble it away or drink it up. He even had a whisky still. He had to go to jail for about a year and a day because they found his little whisky still in the back, away in the woods at the back of our house. So Daddy was locked up for a little while and we just had to make it the best way we could, which was really hard that year. It was really hard.

So was making music a way that you entertained yourselves in the evenings?

The only thing we had music-wise was church. We didn’t have much other than church. We would go to church on every Sunday. We didn’t miss a Sunday. My mother would have us in church and they would sing. And that’s how I started getting tones from the way they sang. My sister and I used to go out in the backwoods and pray when we were just little tots. We asked God to deliver us from this place so that we might be able to be successful.  Our goals were always way, way above everyone else in that community. We wanted bigger and better things for our lives. If we got a glimpse of a magazine, or got a glimpse of anywhere we wanted to be that, we weren’t satisfied with the way we lived. I think it all has to do with what you believe in your heart what you want to do in your life with your life. I think that’s when you get that push to go forward and do better for you and that’s what we did and we’ve accomplished a lot. My sister is a schoolteacher now with a masters degree. She’s retired, and I became a professional singer.

She sang with you in the Jewell Gospel Trio.

Yes, she did, she sung for quite a while. She was 19 and then she got married to a professor and became a schoolteacher.

What experiences did you have touring the gospel circuit as a young girl in the 1950s?

If you can picture how people were with the Jackson Five, when Michael was little, that’s how they were with us. We gave kids so much hope when they saw us. We were like forerunners or innovators, if you will, to a lot of young people and we allowed them to see that it could be done. I think we did a great job in being role models even at a young age.

Candi_with_CC(Candi with her second husband, singer Clarence Carter)

At what point did you realise that you wanted to sing secular music?

I had gotten married. The marriage did not work. I got married at 18. I got pregnant. I didn’t really want to get married. I got pregnant and I was so bored that I left the Jewel Trio from Nashville and came back to Hanceville to try and resume my life and finish high school. Can you imagine the culture shock? After hanging with Lou Rawls and Sam Cooke, the Staple Singers and Aretha Franklin. And to leave all that, and to go back to the colony, go back to Hanceville? Nobody had a car, you had to walk everywhere you went. So here comes this guy with a little flashy car and at least could buy me a hamburger and so we were hung around together. Before you know it we had gotten into things that we shouldn’t have done and I got pregnant. My mother made me marry him ’cause that was her way of life. I said: “Mama, I don’t love him” and she said “well, you should have thought about that when you got pregnant.” (Laughs). He knew I didn’t love him so he treated me so badly. You know he was really abusive so I stayed with him and played piano for the church and sang and got a choir going. I then had three more children. I always had the philosophy that I didn’t want to have four different kids by four different men. If I’m going to have children, let me have them by the same guy. And that’s what I did. I stayed there for seven years and then I just left. After that I couldn’t support my children. I left him and went to Cleveland Ohio and started singing at a nightclub. They looked at me as an artist. I didn’t pay very much attention to my talent ‘cos I was so used to it. They thought it was great and eventually I moved back to go to school with my sister – she came through and she picked me up and put the kids in different homes and I started to get back on my feet and that’s how I met Clarence Carter. He wanted me to open for him and he took me to Rick Hall. And that was the beginning of my new life.

When you were at FAME you had a big hit with Tammy Wynette’s ‘Stand By Your Man.’ Did you always have an affinity for country music?

I love country music. Still do. It tells such a story and has such sweet chord changes. But it’s not complicated: you can just put feelings in every line that you sing and that’s what I love about it, it just tells a story. My daddy finally got able enough to buy us a little radio. We had three stations that we could get: country, gospel and blues and if you listen to my style that’s what it is.

You left FAME for Warner’s in 1974. Rick Hall produced your first album and then you hooked up with Dave Crawford. What was it like working with Dave and can you recall how your classic song ‘Young Hearts Run Free’ came about?

I knew Dave before I signed with Warner’s. Dave had moved to LA and he was shopping, trying to get a deal with somebody. He was there every day but they didn’t have an artist for him. The contract that I signed with Warner Brothers was contingent with Rick only if we had a hit, so it was already stipulated in the contract that if this record is not a hit then they would release me to Warner’s directly. It didn’t become a hit and I believe they did it on purpose. It only sold like 30,000 and we’d sold like hundreds of thousands of records before and this just didn’t do anything. They didn’t really promote it. It was a good album, it was a really good album but disco was coming in and Warner Brothers figured that I might be able to give them a great big beautiful hit if they could get me away from Rick, ’cause music had changed. So they rang up and said “Candi, we are releasing Rick from the contract. We want you to sign with us directly” and I said “really? Who’s going to produce me?” He said: “I got a guy here, his name is Dave Crawford and he’s dying to produce you.” I said “I know him.” They asked me how did I know him and I said we just played around the studio a lot in Atlanta because I’ve been knowing him and he’s the one that put me in the studio so I said yeah, I’d be delighted to work with him. Because he was the one that did ‘Precious Precious’ for Jackie Moore. She was his cousin. I loved the way that he had done those chord changes and stuff and so they said “okay, we’re going to give you guys a shot.” So they signed him up and asked him what did he have in mind that he said, “oh, don’t worry about it, we’re going to get us a hit” and he came up with ‘Young Hearts Run Free.’