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Freddie North

Freddie North Biography

Freddie North scored the first hit version of “She’s All I Got,” the country-soul standard co-written by Gary “U.S.” Bonds and Swamp Dogg. North brought “She’s All I Got” to number ten on the Billboard Black Singles chart and 39 on the Hot 100, just prior to Johnny Paycheck turning it into a number two country smash. For North, it was the culmination of a decade working behind the scenes as a demo singer, A&R man, and DJ, but his chart success didn’t last long. “You and Me Together Forever” became a minor R&B hit, peaking at 26, before he faded from the spotlight, eventually retiring to pursue a career in the ministry.

Freddie North was born Frederick Carpenter in Nashville on May 23, 1939. He was the son of a gospel singer and he started following in his father’s footsteps as a child. During his teenage years, he began performing in R&B vocal groups, with his outfit the Rookies cutting a single called “Money Money Money” in 1958. Atlantic’s EastWest subsidiary gave it national distribution credited just to Freddie Carpenter. After that single, he split from the Rookies and adopted the name Freddie North, releasing “Okay, So What” with Buddy Killen in 1960. He managed to promote the single on American Bandstand but the single stalled. In 1961, he cut a couple of songs with Billy Sherrill that were licensed to Sam Phillips’ Phillips International.

As North worked at getting his recording career off the ground, he appeared on WLAC-TV’s R&B show Night Train and took side gigs as a demo singer for country music publishing houses. He kept recording for various companies — there was a side on Capital, and 1964’s “The Hurt” for R.I.C. — but he opted for a job at Nashboro in 1965. He quickly worked his way into the promo department, but when the opportunity to record for Nashboro’s fledgling A-Bet subsidiary arrived in 1967, he leaped at the chance. Produced by Bob Holmes, “Don’t Make Me Look So Bad” was his first release for the label, followed by “I Have a Dream.” North took control of his recordings in 1969, with the bulk of these sessions showing up on the Magnetic North LP in 1970.

Nashboro opened another subsidiary called Mankind in 1971, one that was intended to release deep Southern soul in the vein of FAME. Jerry Williams, Jr. — who’d later become known as Swamp Dogg — co-wrote “She’s All I Got,” which was North’s first release on Nashboro. He finally had a hit with “She’s All I Got,” reaching ten on Billboard’s R&B chart and 39 on its Hot 100. A full album called Friend followed, featuring the single “You and Me Together Forever.” Peaking at 26 R&B, it would turn out to be the last hit North would have. He returned to producing his records in 1973 and recorded steadily for Mankind until 1977, never having success. Nashboro ceased operations in 1979, and by that point North had retired from secular music. Reviving his birth name of Freddie Carpenter, he joined the ministry, working at Nashville’s Edmondson Chapel MB Church before eventually settling in as the pastor of East St. Louis’ Bethel MB Church in 2001. North remained a recluse, as did his music, with Ace releasing What Are You Doing to Me: The Complete A-Bet Recordings Plus in 2017, late into the digital era. In addition to putting North’s recordings into circulation, the CD contained notes by Tony Rounce that filled in previously hard-to-find biographical details on Freddie North. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

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