Transcript: Transcript Candi Staton: From Gospel to Disco: The Unstoppable Rhythm

thank you so much for joining me today. If you’re a regular listener, you probably don’t need me to tell you that this show always features artists from the 60s 70s and 80s. I just love to get behind the songs and discover how each artist actually made his or her mark. Well, no exception this week, because today’s guest is someone you all know from her biggest hit. It’s 83 year old Candy Staton who’s been singing since a child. And she’s not finished yet. I found it so good to connect with you.


I know. It’s great to hear your voice. Sandy,


You’ve crossed so many musical genres. How have you managed to be so versatile?


Well, you try to keep up with the times you’ve watched people. You watch the clothes they wear, you watch the styles, you watch all the things that are going on around you. And you just pick up on it. So you try to keep up with what’s relevant. And that’s why I get into so many different types of music.


There are not many people who can sing so many different styles of music. You just have a natural flair for whatever you try.


Yeah, do. I learned that very early, you know, the thing that I never wanted to do was to imitate anybody. They popped out like, you know, I grew up with Aretha and the Staple Singers and Sam Cooke and all of those wonderful artists, Lou Rawls, it’s an all of those people. And I made sure if I even started to halfway sound like them, I will change. I had the ability to do that. But somehow I just could change I could sing like me.


So how would you describe Candy Staton? And who is this me?


Well, I’m a very loving, I’m a kind person bent over backwards for people. Um, domestic, you know, I do things around the house. I’m just a down to earth person. We all human, we go through the same things. I mean, every one of us get up in the morning and put on our clothes the same way. And I had to learn that singing to audiences I would have to talk myself in the dressing room. I have to talk myself down from being nervous to go out and face those people and I would say to my candy that got up this morning. They put on their dresses and their pants. They did their faces. They ate breakfast. They did everything you did. So what are you afraid of? That just a bunch of people that wants to be entertained? They love your music. Sing to them.


I’m surprised to hear that you did experience nervousness.


Yeah, I do have butterflies. I always get butterflies after the first time they leave my way and that’s the good thing. No, by the time I get from the dressing room to them microphone I’m nervous but the moment I open my mouth and sing my first song I’m done being nervous. Then I begin to take authority and do my show and have a good time.


you know, I can be young a lot of people be a mom at home, Grandma at home, I can be normal. When I go to stores go shopping. I’m just, you know, just a normal person to hanging out with my family and stuff. But when I hit that stage, I change. I don’t know what it is. I just change and I become someone else.


So what are your friends and family? What do they say about you when they see this change? Come over you on stage?


Sandy, they pay me no attention. Really? Family is the hardest. To give you honour. Always just mom. I’m like, How did I do? You always do? Good. Oh my god, I get so I guess you know what I am thinking about you. Let’s go here. So they always compliment me. That was a good show, mom, now where we want to eat. So I don’t pay him any attention saying you’re just mom just bombed them always.


I guess you had to learn not to pay them any attention. Otherwise, they could have brought you right down. Oh, no, they couldn’t cuz I’m mom. I’m still mom. I don’t care if I just didn’t show up and still shut out. I’m still the boss.


So you command that respect? That’s terrific. Yeah,


it’s been really fun. You know, my journey is very colourful journey. I’ve seen a lot. I’ve done a lot. I’ve been through a lot, you know, and they’ve always been there for me. All my five kids. They’ve been there for bank kids no more. But they are always there for me. And when I had breast cancer, you know, I was I went through chemo. They were there. They were very concerned. They were always there for me. What do you need? What do you want? Do you want me to stay up here with you? Are you afraid? Then they come alive.


So wonderful. Well, I’m sure they love you very deeply. They do. And I’m very glad to hear that you’ve come through that bout with breast cancer. What advice would you have to women who are experiencing same?


I tell you what, if you feel like they feel a tumour, if they feel a lump, or anything, don’t don’t, don’t take that lightly. That’s where a lot of people make mistakes. And they just you know, well, we’ll go away it’ll go away. You know, and they don’t want to know a lot of people don’t want to know that they have it. You know, they rather that glass over right. And sometimes it’s too late. I did a lot of prayer in I’m a very spiritual person.


has the experience made you stronger?


Oh, yeah. revitalized me. I didn’t think that I could ever get because nobody in my family ever died from cancer. Nobody ever had it. And I was just so sure that I would never get it. But I did. It came from stress. Where are you? And, you know, I had some abusive marriages. And I’ve been through a lot of personal things that were not good for me. And I stressed out and I would worry and then I had on the road and my kids at home with strangers. You know, people keeping my children when they were very young. I worried about that. And then I used to drink a lot. You know, I used to just be almost I wasn’t like an alcoholic and because I didn’t want to think when I got finished with my shows. I didn’t want to think what was happening to my kids. I wanted to go to sleep. So I would drink too much. And then I found that I couldn’t go to sleep without it. And I had to get myself off of that. I got off the bike or Hong Kong Turkey. I just said I can’t take no more this I can’t. I can’t do this no more. So in the 80s when, in the first first part of the ages on 81 I just I fasted and prayed and asked God to take days away from my mouth and he did not have a drink since it’s been a long time.


I’m so glad that you’ve come out the other side of that. Me too. If I could just take you back Ghandi you started out singing with the gospel trio. But you got a lucky break with Clarence Carter right?


I had left my first husband, I had four children by him. He was very abusive. And I got up enough courage. I had a nervous breakdown before I could leave him he was so he was and that’s a book by itself. But I had to go through with him and forge children and I only had a high school education. So it wasn’t like I was looking for a second law career. I put my my brother in law and my sister who had both had grand Edgewood College and my brother in law. In Nashville, we were in Nashville, Tennessee that came and got me from my mother’s house. I put all my kids, family members home, they took them for me until I could get on my feet. And I was gonna I was gonna go to nursing school Vanderbilt in Nashville. I was getting ready to go and register. But before then let me back up. While I was still with this abusive husband, I was doing secular music. My brother Sam took me to a club called out the 2728 club in Birmingham, Alabama. And the club owner, he asked him to let me sing. He said your sister can’t sing. So he said, man, I’m telling me my sister can’t sing. He said, let her sing. I know that two songs, because I had been singing gospel all my life. And I didn’t know how to entertain that second group of people. So he said, you know, he had his fingers crossed was so funny. I looked around and he Oh, Jason was oh, Jay had his fingers crossed that I would make embarrass you. And the band. And I had one of the most popular songs out at that time was called to write woman by Aretha. And I can play piano. And also I told him what key to play it in. And they said, okay, so they’re looking at each other. Crazy, you know, who is this? I got up there and told the song up. I mean, the people were screaming and clapping and I had to do it twice. Because I didn’t know anything else.


I’m the kind of woman that likes to treat a man right. stayed home every night. Kind of man and likes to run around. My brother had to take me to the music store and give me some more records so I could learn some more songs. And so he hired me, actually hired me for the weekend. And Clarence Carter was coming in. He had a review here girl that would open for him. And so Oh, Jay told him he said, Man, I got a singer. Yeah, I’m not I want my singer to sing for you. She goes for you this time. He said, No, no, nobody else was for me. He said, I got my own resume. And you know I do. He said, You’re gonna like this one. And so I came in and I had a rehearsal on that Friday morning. They got out in on that like Thursday night. We rehearse me on Friday morning. And I did the two songs. I said look, I don’t know but two songs. So he said what are those two songs do right woman and tell mama? And so I said well do you know those songs? They said yeah, we know no sounds. So he got up there and played not I rehearsed We’re and I said do you know some cocktail mama? And he said I think I can handle that one cuz he wrote it he wrote tell daddy and Rick took it recall took it and may tell my editor James and so he said I think I can handle that when he started laughing and the band started laughing I knew nothing about it so he played it just like the record and I sung it just like the record.


After the performances were over, he said if you ever lead that crazy man that you’re married to, you got to draw all my gods and that was my way out. That’s when I decided to leave him. I knew I had a job. So I put all the kids in different homes, but I went to Nashville. And I saw a big black car St. Claire’s car to come into town. We went backstage and he said, You know what? Rick Hall has lost Etta James she just would like, and he’s looking for female art. And Rick took me in the studio the same night we cut three song. That was my big break. He signed me that night. And I was on my way.


She certainly was on her way hang in as she continues her story.


I’m chatting to the wonderful candy station, who started finding true musical success in the early 70s Thanks to the father of Muscle Shoals music producer, publisher, songwriter and studio owner recall. Kenny was married to clarence carter during this time. But despite her success, she says she found it very lonely at the top, you’re actually crowned the first lady of southern soul. And it was just around that time when you left soul to become a disco princess.


That’s ironic, isn’t it?


So you kind of achieved what you wanted in that genre. And you took off to join the disco craze. Tell me about that?


That was the thing out at the time. That was the dance music scene. And I got a manager I signed with Warner Brothers at the time. It was Rick took me with him. And so we gave one record Warner Brothers and they didn’t do well. And I don’t think they wanted it to do well cause he put in the contract. If this record doesn’t do well, she’ll just be with us. That was one of the stipulations so at that time, the kind of music I was singing you know the blues the tipline circuit type music that you do the little tiny clubs, I was about ready to leave them anyway and that’s all my chance and I loved it and Rick let me go they signed me directly and that’s when young hearts run free came out.


We didn’t do Young Hearts for the disco. We just did an up tempo song. But fortunately, they had just opened the disco era in that, you know, office in Warner Brothers. They had just opened a new office, a new genre of music and Warner Brothers. And I was their first one. So they were really putting a lot of money behind. So it was just the timing?


Yeah, it was just the right timing.. They were like, Oh, they were elated. Wow, this is a record. That’s what they said. This is a hit record. And they started on it. The promotion people got together, they will. Oh my god. I’ve never seen so many promotion, man go on date going into every radio station you could find. And at that time, you had to walk them in, you know, to the radio stations.


It was certainly a huge hit, wasn’t it?


Oh, it was massive. And still is. Even now in Europe. They’ve never stopped playing it.


Did you write it?


No. Oh, gosh. I wish it was written about me though. It was written about you. Yeah, it was written about me. A David Crawford who was also a friend of mine even before we recorded together. He was from Atlanta as well as I was I had moved to Atlanta at the time. And we I used to go with his studio and we sit down and play, you know, just make up stuff and play because he was he was a really good piano player. He was a great keyboard player. He’s great for the caravans gospel keyboard player had that gospel feel we would sing and he said, Man, I wish I could put you behind a microphone and make a record with you asked me to David and you know, that was years before he went to California and I went to California and met him. And he was trying to get an artist from Warner Brothers to do something. And there I walked in. And they call me and said I have a guy here by the name of David Carver. And he wants to record somebody. Do you know him? I said, I know. I’ve been following him for a long time. He said would you be interested? I said I do. Oh, I will be overwhelmed. He said okay, well we’ll put you guys together and see what happens. And that’s how it all began. It was a massive hit.


Have you ever heard that expression is so lonely at the top. People are afraid of you. They’re afraid to get next to you. They think you have it all. But too don’t you most lonely person. I guess you’re just lonely and you just you know, you just you don’t have anything inside. You just give it all out to people and audiences and when you go home go back to the hotel. Is that how you were feeling? Yeah, that’s how I was feeling. This guy was a promoter that I met. And he started talking to me and we started dating and I thought it was okay, you know, but he ended up being the worst guy in the world. He was a con man. The same kind of con man that Aretha got.


You don’t have very good choice in men? No, I didn’t.


Because I mean, never did. I never did but I do now. I guess it took me all this. To really get wisdom concerning man. I always said I never wanted to be like, my daddy. Never wanted a man like my Daddy. And every last one of them was just like, my daddy. Isn’t that crazy? Yeah, it is. It is. And I met this man. And he just kind of took over my life. And I was trying to get away from him. And he was threatening my life and my kids lives. And he was telling me that if I loved him, what do you do? And I was so scared. I had so much fear,


Candy, I’m really interested in this. It’s lonely at the top bit. Because at the time when young hearts run free came out, you were sailing on top of the world, you had everything. You had a smash hit disco record, you had five lovely kids, why were you lonely?


There was something missing. After all, the glamour and, and all of the people telling you how wonderful and you go home to an empty house, kids have this problem have their friends and they have their friends coming over and they go out and they do things and you’re left alone. And there you are wondering what to do next before the next gig, you know, and you just get lonely. And I was young at the time. I had needs and you know, and the guys would nobody really ain’t, you know, in my calibre, you know, they were all I was Clarence, you know, Clarence Carter. I was like, I don’t want any of these guys, because I see what they do. And so here’s this promoter comes up, and he’s talking trash. And I mean, I’m smiling and laughing and he’s funny and making me laugh. And so we end up being together, but then you don’t know him. So after you find out you make the wrong choice is too late. So they don’t really show you this their real self until you say I do. And that’s when you find out.


Yeah. So in the years that passed since that time, did you manage to resolve that lonely at the top feeling?


Not really. Not really. I never did. I never did it just out. I always felt like I needed a companion somebody to be with me when there was nobody else around and, and it was instilled in me as a child. My mother instilled in me, you don’t live with people, you marry them. And she was a very religious lady. And she said Don’t dare live with people. It’s wrong just to live with a man over your children. If you got to live with a man then you need to marry him. Because that’s not a good example to teach your children and that was the kind of teaching I got from home and I guess it’s stuck. So I didn’t waste any time getting married. I married the wrong people who jumped in too soon. Yeah, jumped into war far too soon. Yeah, but it but you know what? Instead of regretting it it taught me so much it made me stronger. It made me stronger made me wiser.


Yeah, well they say don’t say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.


Nights on Broadway in 1977 That was also a huge hit for you too. It picked it number six on the UK Singles Charts. And of course we loved it here in Australia too. Can you share a little bit about that song?


I’ve always loved that song. I love the song. I used to just sing it around the house and I said, If I ever have an opportunity, try to record that record. And I did. I was doing that. Doing an album and mentioned it. And in doing the same session also like listen to the music. I love that one as well. So I covered both of those.


Were you a big fan?


I’ve always been a big fan. Yeah. I think they have a great music.


You had that other massive hit, didn’t you? You’ve got the love. Yeah. How did that one come around?


I don’t know how it got to be, you know, let me just say this. I did that song for diet commercial and went to Chicago. And this guy was he was about 1000 pounds. His name was Ron high. He’s passed away. And I was over in I was doing gospel music at the time, I was on sabbatical from secular music with TV. And I’ve done two TV shows for them. I’ve been there for about 25 years doing shows and stuff and on TV. And I was a gospel star on TV. And so I was doing a conference and NASA and Dick Gregory who was a comedian had this company and he had this diet call out Bahamian diet. And he had tried it out on himself. And, and it worked. He wasn’t drinking anything except the ingredients from the diet. And he lost he was like 300 pounds, and he lost to be about he lost down to around 160 150 pounds. And that’s all he was doing. And he was healthy doing it. So I he picked this guy, you know, to make a commercial about losing weight, and the guy was doing good. losing the weight that got him over there. I don’t know how they got him over that. But the cost we had that he was they had to break the door down in New York to get him out the door. And they had to do a fork lift to put him on the plane. They had to clear the first class. Two seats to like to even get him on me it was he was just big. He was whopping.


So the song was for this commercial?


Yeah, there was one commercial. And they asked me to do the song this we have a song we’d like for you would you do it for us? I said, Sure. Just let me let me give me the song. And so we went came to Chicago, we did the song, that song laid dormant. They did the video but the guy just reneged. After he lost down to 300 pounds, he decided he wasn’t going to do it anymore. So he started back eating as always, and he gained even more and he died. But the song state laid dormant for 10 years.


I had forgotten about the song and I forgot how amazing it was. And then there was this person from the office who wanted to do the vocal without music. And he took it to London. And there was this song playing and the guy said you know what? That just might be a song we can put let’s see if we can put the voice over this. This this track. That’s how it started. And people run into the DJ booth saying Where can I buy that wreck? They printed 500 and sold in the for like 180 pounds. And they went just like that so they knew they had a hit and So,


you must have been so shocked. I didn’t know it was out! By then three full months and it had reached top 10. By the time I knew it was out over there, and musicians going over there do shells, came back to me and said, you know, you got to hit record in London. I said, Really? What hit record? There’s something about love. I don’t know what it is. I didn’t you know, I know you’re on the charts. So then a DJ called me into how do you like what do you think about your your success? What do you ask? What’s it What are you talking about? And he said, You got the love. I said, you got the love. You got the love. You got a got to think and I see. So that sounds familiar. And that’s it. Could that be? The song I did is a combo. How did you get to Europe? They cheated me out a lot of money with that song. They really did.


Despite all of this, optimistic Candy didn’t let it get her down. She picked herself up and went on to her next success.



Welcome back. Singer Candi Staton has been married six times and has five children. To say her life has had its ups and downs is a bit of an understatement. From abusive men to shoddy managers and multiple record companies. Candy successes have always been hard won. Yet today. Her musical legacy endures with many younger writers choosing to cover her songs. It’s something she’s extremely proud of.


I’m always excited. Yeah. I love it. I’m always excited to hear somebody doing something I watched. I’m on Instagram you know watch Instagram a lot and there are people who have done you got the love with just an acoustic guitar. There are choirs that have done it you know and children that have done it they do it at soccer games and it’s just like a it’s just like a national anthem over in Europe and I’m so amazed at what that song has done it it has been such a blessing to me.


Florence in the machine did you got the love but not only that song candy. So many people have done other songs of yours. Jason Isbell did hard on a stream, Christina Aguilera, best thing you’ve ever had. Uh huh. Even Susan today, she covered evidence. It’s amazing how many people have reinvented your music?


Oh, yeah. Yeah. And I’d love to see it. I am so amazed when I hear it as they say, well, when this girl’s name she did you got the love. And just don’t know. So shewas she did it too. But if so many people I can think of, but it was like, I’m like, What do you think about her? The band was so angry. When they when they heard the song. They got our song. They got out the way they asked him like, Hey, chill, you know, that’s nice. I own 50% of the problems you don’t care? No. So I make money when they do but it must feel really good to be bringing these songs to the young generations now?


It is it is and what a better song that you know what we’re going through right now. You got the love is just a perfect song for right now. Because we all sometimes feel like throwing my hands up in the air. I know I can count on you. Sometimes I feel like saying Lord, I just don’t care. But you’ve got the love to see us through. And it’s such a you know, it’s just just great for this time. And when I was going through cancer, I used to walk the halls I see people in wheelchairs when they would be four stages of cancer. And that board stage they would didn’t have hope. And I would just be singing that song going down through the hallways to my next appointment.


Can you give me the chorus now?


Oh, sure. All right, right. Sometimes I feel like though in my hands a pin. I can count on you. So many times I feel like say just talk How to love and need to see me.


So, Candi, what have you learned through the whole cancer experience, man,


I just learned to be more compassionate. And I wish I could just hope people you know, when I go to I went to I went to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. This is a place about 30 miles 40 miles from my house. And so I went there when I first found out that I was so sure I didn’t have it. I had up to three biopsies and then believe the first two, I only had one centimeter it never got to two, so I was able to just nip it really quickly.


Candi was very lucky. She’s now in remission but just prior to her diagnosis, she produced one of the album’s she’s most proud of it’s a retro soul set called Unstoppable


When that album came out, I was with 30 Tigers. And we had the whole staff we had everything ready to just make that number one record all the money everything we needed. And I was diagnosed with breast cancer and couldn’t do anything with it. So that’s what stopped it this great song on that album. And I believe eventually it’s going to be.


Well it certainly describes you Candy Staton. Unstoppable.


We did that before I was diagnosed with breast cancer. And we had a team ready to go. But after I found out that I had breast cancer, I had to stop the whole thing and get treatment. And so that lasted 18 months, and by then the momentum was gone. But it’s a great album. I wish people wouldn’t listen to it. It’s some very good songs on that album. We just didn’t have time to promote it.



Was it disappointing for you?


Of course. Of course. We worked hard on that record. We work hard we did everything we possibly could do you know, but we weren’t hard and anytime you work that hard and all this happen. You’re thinking why now, but you know, everything happens in its own time.


That’s fine. And for a reason. Yes. When you were doing that sounds like you were having a whole lot of fun.


I was having fun. Yeah. I loved it.Speaker 1


Having recovered now Candi’s out on the road again. And she’s just completed a tour of the UK and has another album in the pipeline.


I’m about to cover so Mick Jagger’s Shining the light on my roots album I’m getting ready to release


so this is your first album since the unstoppable


yes this will be the next one is called the roots album I’m going back and do some gospel music will be on it as well as some secular music from Mr. Music some you know inspirational music will be on it


the cover of the Mick Jagger one Why did you decide to do that?


I love it I love the song and while we were in London we did some of the music we did the music most all of the music they’re in their vocal but we’re getting ready to finish it now and put it out



Even at 83 years old you’re still be making music and still have the energy and vitality that you have. What do you put that down to Candy?


I keep my energy. I pray a lot. And I just believe that I can do all things to crisis. I say that over and over all the time and I try to take care of myself. That’s what I do.


You try and eat well and get enough rest. Yes. How long are you gonna keep doing this for?

Speaker 8


I don’t know, as long as I’m able, when it gets to the point where I’m not able, you know, to get out and do these things. I’m just gonna sit home and play with my grandbabies.


Do you feel your 83 years of age because you sound a whole lot younger!


That’s what they tell me.


Do you feel it? Yes, I do. Since cancer. I have my good days. I have my bad days. Sometimes I feel weak when I get up in the morning. Cancer is no joke. I would not wish that on anyone. I was just blessed to get through it. I’m just blessed to be here. And we’re very blessed to have you. You’re in your sixth marriage now. And I believe very happy with that man in your life now too.


things are wonderful in my life right now.


So it’s with our own gratitude in mind that Candi decided to include a song on the latest roots album called in God’s hands. She’s dedicated it to the late country singer Laurie White, who lost her battle with cancer recently at the age of 52.


Hi. I guess that’s where we all live, don’t we, in God’s hands, Candy Staton, we wish you all the very, very best for the future. And thank you for the enormous contribution you’ve made to music and your fabulously positive outlook on life. We can all take something from that. Thank you so much for your time with us today. Thank you so much and lots of love from us to you.


Thank you for having me. Take care yourself, you’ll be blessed. Bye now. Bye bye.


Look out for the upcoming Roots album. It really is Candy Staton and like you’ve never heard her before. Thanks so much for joining me today. I hope you’ve enjoyed candy state and story. I look forward to being back with you again, same time next week. But meantime, if there’s an artist that you’d like to hear from, you know what to do, don’t you just send me a message through the website, a breath of fresh And if you’d like to catch up with any of my back episodes, head for your favourite podcast platform, or of course you can listen to them through the website. Thanks again for your company. I’ll look forward to being back with you again same time next week.