We continue with Dionne Warwick week..
I Say a Little Prayer For You
In 1958, Warwick, Myrna Utley, Carol Slade, and Warwick’s sister Delia, who by this time had begun to be known professionally as Dee Dee Warwick, formed their own group, which they called “The Gospelaires.” Their first performance together was at the Apollo Theater, where they won the weekly amateur contest. Various other singers joined The Gospelaires from time to time, including Judy Clay, Cissy Houston, and Doris Troy, whose chart selection “Just One Look,” when she recorded it in 1963, featured backing vocals from the Gospelaires.
After various personnel changes (Dionne and Doris left the group after achieving solo success), The Gospelaires eventually became the recording group, the Sweet Inspirations, which had some chart success, but were much sought-after as studio background singers. The Gospelaires and later the Sweet Inspirations performed on many records cut in New York City for artists such as Garnet Mimms, The Drifters, Jerry Butler, Solomon Burke and later Dionne’s recordings, Aretha Franklin, and Elvis Presley.
Warwick recalled, in her 2002 A&E Biography, that “a man came running frantically backstage at The Apollo and said he needed background singers for a session for Sam ‘The Man’ Taylor and old big-mouth here spoke up and said ‘We’ll do it!’ and we left and did the session. I wish I remembered the gentleman’s name because he was responsible for the beginning of my professional career.”
The backstage encounter led to the group being asked to sing background sessions at recording studios in New York. Soon, the group was in demand in New York music circles for their background work for such artists as The Drifters, Ben E. King, Chuck Jackson, Dinah Washington, Ronnie “The Hawk” Hawkins, and Solomon Burke among many others. Warwick remembered, in her A&E Biography, that after school, they would catch a bus from East Orange to the Port Authority Terminal, and then subway to recording studios in Manhattan, perform their background gigs and be back at home in East Orange in time to do their school homework. The background vocal work would continue while Warwick pursued her studies at Hartt.
While she was performing background on The Drifters’s recording of “Mexican Divorce,” Warwick’s voice and star presence were noticed by the song’s composer, Burt Bacharach, a Brill Building songwriter who was writing songs with many other songwriters, including lyricist Hal David. According to a July 14, 1967, article on Warwick from Time, Bacharach stated, “She has a tremendous strong side and a delicacy when singing softly — like miniature ships in bottles.” Musically, she was “no play-safe girl. What emotion I could get away with!” And what complexity, compared with the usual run of pop songs.
During the session, Bacharach asked Warwick, if she would be interested in recording demonstration recordings of his compositions to be used to pitch the tunes to record labels. One such demo, “It’s Love That Really Counts”—destined to be recorded by Scepter-signed act The Shirelles—caught the attention of Scepter Records President Florence Greenberg. Greenberg, according to Current Biography 1969 Yearbook, told Bacharach, “Forget the song, get the girl!”
“I’ll Never Love This Way Again”