Soul And / Or Related Artists
judy clay

Judy Clay

b. Judy Guions, (a.k.a. Judith Grace Gatewood & Judy Clay, 12th September 1938, Saint Pauls, Robeson County, North Carolina, U.S.A.)

d. 19th July 2001, Fayetteville, Cumberland County, North Carolina, U.S.A.

Judy Guions was best remembered for three major contributions to Soul Music.

Firstly her participation in the Sweet Inspirations, secondly, her collaborations with William Bell at Stax Records, which realised the national chart hit 'Private Number', and also her work with the singer Billy Vera.

Born in St. Pauls in North Carolina, Judy was raised by her grandmother in Fayetteville and began singing in church.

She relocated to Brooklyn in the early 1950s, where she met, and was adopted by Lee Drinkard Warrick of The Drinkard Singers.

In her early teens, Judy became a regular performer with the Drinkard Singers, who hailed from Savannah, Georgia, during the late Thirties.

The Gospel group included Lee's sister Emily (a.k.a. Cissy Houston), along with her daughters, the young Dionne and Delia Warrrick (a.k.a. Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick).

Judy's sister, Sylvia Shemwell, was also part of the group.

Drinkard Singers

the drinkard sisters in 1958 (judy clay-centre, ann moss, larry drinkard, lee warwick and marie epps)

Judy recorded her first songs with the Drinkard Singers on their 1954 album, 'The Newport Spiritual Stars'.

Judy Clay and larry Drinkard

judy clay and larry drinkard in 1958

She left the Drinkard Sisters in 1961, and recorded the secular 'More Than You Know' b/w 'I'd Thought I'd Gotten Over You', for the Ember Records imprint.

I Thought I'dDo You Think That's Right

i thought i'd gotten over you - 1961 / do you think that's right - 1962

'Do You Think That's Right' b/w 'Stormy Weather' followed a year later.

At the Choice imprint, a year later, she released the songs 'Out Of The Depths' b/w 'You Can't Make Me Doubt Him', 'Do You Love Him' b/w 'Holding The Saviours Hand' and 'Joy Unspeakable' b/w 'Out Of The Depths'.

In 1963, she signed to the Lavette label, teaming with Little Lee for the duet 'Everyday Since You've Been Gone' b/w 'My Blue Heaven'.

One follow up single was entitled 'My Arms Aren't Strong Enough' (in 1964).

You Busted My MindYour Kind Of Loving

you busted my mind/your kind of lovin - 1964

Judy recorded a series of sides for several record labels (Ember, Choice, Lavette, Scepter and Stax) including 'You Busted My Mind' b/w 'Your Kind Of Loving' in 1966, a Northern Soul favourite.

Billy Vera and Judy ClayStorybook Children

storybook children - 1967

In 1967, she met with Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records, who partnered her with the singer-songwriter Billy Vera, along with The Sweet Inspirations, to record the song 'Storybook Children' b/w 'Really Together', (which reached number 20 on the R&B chart and number 54 on the pop charts and featured the Sweet Inspirations).

The media wrongly suggested that there was more to the duo's relationship than just the music.

Judy was pregnant, at the time, with her first child by her husband, jazz drummer Leo Gatewood.

The press presumed that the father was Billy Vera.

Atlantic later funded a Muscle Shoals Studio solo session that resulted in Judy's 1970 chart entry 'Greatest Love', which was followed by one of her final Atlantic Recordings, 'Sister Pitiful'.

Judy and Billy also recorded 'Country Girl, City Man' b/ w 'So Good (To Be Together)' in 1968, which reached number 41 R&B and number 36 pop, after which, Judy returned to the Stax Records label.

Now paired with William Bell, their recording of 'Private Number' b/w 'Love-Eye-Tis' in 1968 reached number 17 in the R&B chart and number 75 on the U.S. pop chart.

The song also reached number 8 on the U.K. Singles Chart.

'Private Number' was followed by 'My Baby Specializes' b/w 'Left Over Love' the same year, which also charted on the R&B charts.

Judy then returned to Atlantic for a few further recordings with Billy Vera, and a final solo hit, the Allen Toussaint penned, 'Greatest Love' b/w 'Saving All For You' (recorded in May 1969, reaching number 45 R&B in 1970).

After the 1970 45, Judy took to performing background vocal performances for the likes of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and others.

Stayin' Alive

stayin' alive - 1978

In 1978, Judy released a one off single, which was a live version of the BeeGees song 'Staying Alive', for the LA Records imprint.

Tragedy struck when a brain tumour was discovered in 1979, from which she made a recovery.

Judy then vowed never to sing secular music again.

She became a licensed evangelist in 1990.

At times she collaboarated with Cissy Houston's gospel choir in Newark, New Jersey.

In 2001 Judy was involved in a car accident and died a few weeks later, in Fayetteville, of complications at the age of 62.

She was survived by two sons, Todd and Leo, a brother, Raymond, and her sister, Sylvia Shemwell, of the Sweet Inspirations, who sadly passed away in 2010.

Judy Clay Resting Place

Judy Clay was laid to rest in the McKinnon Cemetery in Oakland (Robeson County), North Carolina, U.S.A.

Judy Clay

Real Player


with Billy Vera:

Storybook Children (Atlantic Records 1967)


Featuring Storybook Children & Greatest Love (Ichiban / Soul Records 1995)

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