Some weeks ago, in November, I played two songs from Stax's double album Boy Meets Girl, this final LP experience of soul duets. However, among the plethora of duets which Stax was experimenting with in 1968 and 1969 one singing pair is, conspicuously, missing from the said LP set, viz. the pairing up of Judy Clay and William Bell. And yet this duo proved to be most successful Stax came up with during the late '60s.
Drinkard Singers, way back in the '50s. She then stayed with several labels until 1967 when she recorded her first 45 for Stax. Roughly at the same time, she teamed up with Billy Vera (on Atlantic). And finally, in spring '68, she recorded her first two songs with William Bell which were released as Stax # 0005 in July, »Private number« with flip »Love-Eye-Tis«. The A-side of this single proved to be the biggest hit of her entire career.
Rob Bowman in his Soulville U.S.A. has told the story of »Private Number« in detail (see pp. 152 f.). Like »Love-Eye-Tis«, the song was written by William Bell (based on a personal experience) and then worked out, musicallywise, with Booker T Jones. Both planned that Otis & Carla should record the song but the untimely death of Otis put an end to that. According to Bell, quoted by Bowman, it was then by chance that Clay and Bell recorded this song, mainly because both happened to be in the studio at the same time: »She completed the session early and she needed something to record. So we said, 'Give us an hour.' We sat there and completed 'Private Number' in the studio.« Anyhow, Bell was still thinking at that point to give the song to Judy, but then someone suggested that Bell's vocals should be added to Judy's demo. »Neither one of us had any idea that it was gonna be a duet« said Bell later.
Judy Clay & William Bell: »Love-Eye-Tis« on Stax # 0005B (1968):