Friday, March 13, 2015

The Many Shades of Leon Russell: Love's Supposed To Be That Way

Today, we feature a song by husband and wife team Leon and Mary Russell. I selected “Love’s Supposed to be that Way,” as it is the only cut on their 1976 “Wedding Album” that was co-written by the couple. As far as the back story, Leon Russell began dating singer Mary McCreary in 1974 and they were married the following year. This is the first of two collaborations before they divorced in 1980. In addition, the couple produced two children.

As for McCreary, she began her career singing in a gospel group, The Heavenly Tomes. This group widened their horizons and styles and became known as Little Sister in the late 1960s. They took the name because one of its members, Vaetta Stewart, was the sister of Sylvester (Stone) and Freddie Stewart of Sly and the Family Stone. Little Sister performed as back-up singers for Sly Stone’s entourage and later recorded a couple of singles on their own for Sly’s Stone Flower Records label.

In 1972, McCreary left Little Sister to focus on a solo career. It was sometime after this that Russell made her acquaintance, and the rest they say is history. The “Wedding Album” was the first release for Russell’s new label, Paradise Records. Earlier that year, Russell and his longtime partner in Shelter Records, Denny Cordell, had irreconcilable differences, and Cordell took sole ownership of the label.

Although it was not a colossal success, the “Wedding Album” did moderately well as it peaked at #34 on the Top 200 Albums chart. This was considerably better than Leon and Mary’s follow-up LP, as “Make Love to the Music” only made it to the 142nd slot. “Love’s Supposed to be that Way” was issued as a flip side of the couple’s single “Rainbow in your Eyes.” Although both songs captured the changes in the music scene of the mid 1970s, neither side charted.

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