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SCHERRIE PAYNE 2002 SOULMUSIC.COM INTERVIEW
Even though a few months have passed since I saw Scherrie Payne live at the L.A. Sunset Junction street fair, I can vividly remember the dynamic energy she exuded during her performance. She revealed during the show that she had literally gotten off the plane from a quick trip to Norway prior to arriving, a feat most artists wouldn’t even try, and she was really great. Scherrie included in her show tunes associated with The Supremes (derived from her ‘70s stint with the group) such as “I’m Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking” and “Let Yourself Go,” the last two charted hits the Motown group experienced as well as some original tunes (such as “Penetrating Eyes”) and the 1969 smash “Crumbs Off The Table,” from her days as lead singer with the Invictus group The Glasshouse. The late October release of the Motown 2-CD Supremes ‘70s anthology seemed like an appropriate excuse, if one were needed, to catch up with Scherrie (who - for those who may not know – is Freda’s younger sister)…

We started off tracing a little of Scherrie’s history. It seems that not long after Freda joined Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Invictus label, she was signed too: “Initially, I was signed as a soloist and then it was suggested that we do a group – The Glasshouse. We all did lead vocals and I was the lead on “Crumbs Off The Table” which was our biggest hit. In all, we did two albums and yes, we did some national dates, mostly with other artists on the label like Chairmen Of The Board and Laura Lee, who actually also did “Crumbs Off The Table”. It’s funny because I liked her version better – it was just more funky!” Apparently, much in the same tradition they had used at Motown, H-D-H did record more on the group than was ever released and there was one particular song Scherrie recalls. “We cut the song “Want Ads” first but I didn’t think it was any big deal. Then one day, I heard it but it wasn’t my voice! The producers had given it to The Honeycone…and it became a big hit, as you know! In all, we did two Glasshouse albums and the last single I was on was “VIP”. My favorite from those records was a song called “Look What We’ve Done To Love,” which was a duet with (group member) Ty Hunter. All in all, it was a good time for me…”

The call to join The Supremes came in the wake of the departure of Jean Terrell and Lynda Laurence in 1973. As Mary Wilson points out in the liner notes for the ‘70s anthology, “I wrestled whether it was time to step down… I re-hired Cindy Birdsong and asked if Lamont Dozier if he could recommend someone… Lamont said Scherrie could do the job for me… Scherrie was incredible, a true dynamo.” In all, Scherrie cut three albums with The Supremes before the group officially disbanded in 1977; Mary cut a solo album while Scherrie and former Raelet Susaye Greene (who joined The Supremes in 1976) recorded the album “Partners” together. Twenty-five years after its release, it remains a much-loved record, one that received little promotion and exposure at the time of its release. Notes Scherrie, “It was wonderful. We got a chance to do original material and the album was co-produced with Gene McDaniels. It was kinda eclectic and we had some beautiful ballads on there. People still ask about that album and I do one song from it, “Another Life From Now” in my solo show. I still have no idea why it was never pushed but both Susaye and I were very proud of it…”

Scherrie says she and Susaye had considered continuing with The Supremes “but Motown didn’t want us to do that without any of the original members. I didn’t have proper management, you know, someone to give me a nudge, so I didn’t do much about pursuing a solo career.” There was some recording here and there – singles like “I’m Not In Love” and “One Night Only,” an album with Superstar International Records, some duets with Phillip Ingram (brother of James and former member of the Motown group Switch). Scherrie focused mostly on performing as part of ‘Former Ladies Of The Supremes” (F.L.O.S.) with other former members of The Supremes, Cindy Birdsong and Jean Terrell participating at different times. Right now, the group consists of Scherrie, Lynda Laurence and Freddi Pool (who joined F.L.O.S in 1996) and the trio do shows both in the U.S. and abroad: upcoming at the end of 2002 is a performance at Aretha Franklin’s annual Christmas party, “which came out of the blue! Of course, growing up in Detroit, I met Aretha but this was an unexpected call and naturally, we’re really looking forward to it.”

Scherrie says she learned about the ’70s anthology from Michael McKinley, the promoter of the Sunset Junction event (who has presented Scherrie for two consecutive years at the well-attended, gay-oriented street fair) and longtime Supremes fan Tony Ross, who had been lobbying for the release of such a compilation. “There are some things on there that I didn’t remember like the song “There’s Room At The Top”. I also never heard the extended version of “He’s My Man.” It just makes me happy that people still care about this music,” Scherrie says.

Surprisingly, with all that she has done, Scherrie has never recorded with sister Freda. “Of course, I have always been proud of her and what she has done and although we have performed a couple of times together – in Japan as part of a “Sisters Soul Night” and in March last year here in the U.S. – we’ve never been approached about doing an album together although it is something we’ve both thought about. I guess we’re just waiting for someone to offer us a contract to do it!” Scherrie laughs. Well, perhaps some enterprising record exec will read this and step up to the plate but meanwhile, Scherrie is working on some solo material (“I’ve started pulling out some tapes and listening to some songs”). As a witness to her soulful in-person delivery, I’m hoping we’ll hear the fruits of her solo work real soon…

About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.
  
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