Album: Greatest Hits (1970)
Charted: 2 4
  • "Patches" was Clarence Carter's most famous song, but it was originally recorded by the R&B group Chairmen Of The Board and released as the B-side to their 1970 single "Everything's Tuesday." Chairmen Of The Board lead singer General Johnson and his songwriting partner Ronald Dunbar wrote the song, which tells a heartwrenching story about a boy who grows up on a family farm in Alabama. Nicknamed "Patches" because his old clothes were patched together, his father asks him from his deathbed to take care of the family, which he does, working the fields while continuing his education.

    Carter really was from Alabama, but he didn't grow up on a farm and never worked the fields. His delivery was so convincing that many listeners thought Carter was telling the story of his life, which was even more remarkable considering he was blind. Carter said that he sometimes felt like a fraud after receiving letters from fans praising his dedication to his family and citing him as an inspiration. Said Carter, "I heard it on the Chairmen of the Board LP and liked it, but I had my own ideas about how it should be sung. It was my idea to make the song sound real natural – I guess I tried a little too hard for some people!"
  • The song's co-writer General Johnson wanted the Chairmen Of The Board's version to be released as a single. Though his record company liked the song, they saw no potential for it as a single as it had no beat. The song is very unusual in that much of it is spoken. This turned out to be an advantage, and it punctuated the story and made the song stand out on the radio. The spoken interludes (or "preaching" as he called it) were a staple of Carter's music.
  • This won the 1970 Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Song for Ronald Dunbar and General Johnson.
  • Carter recorded this song at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The previous year, four of the FAME musicians who played on Carter's previous work left to form Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, so Carter did this song with their replacements, which included Junior Lowe on guitar, Jesse Boyce on bass, and Freeman Brown on drums. While many Soul classics by Carter, Wilson Pickett and Etta James came out of FAME around this time, their biggest hit of the era was "One Bad Apple" by The Osmonds.
  • Clarence Carter, known to his fans as Dr. CC, had a difficult childhood. He was blinded at a young age, and attended the Alabama School for the Blind at Talladega. He taught himself to play the guitar by listening to Lightnin' Hopkins records. Carter had three hits that went gold in the States: "Slip Away," "Too Weak To Fight" and "Patches."
  • While Carter didn't write this song, he claimed that he could certainly associate with it, since he came from a poor family and knew kids who had to support their families through farm work. Carter's grandfather died when his mother was still in high school, which also helped him relate to the song.
  • It was FAME Studios owner Rick Hall who asked Carter to record this song. Carter didn't want to do it, but Hall convinced him. According to Carter, when he recorded it, he didn't even know the lyrics, so some stood behind him and whispered them to him when he did his vocal. When the song became a hit, Carter was hoping he could record more Chairmen Of The Board material, but Rick Hall didn't like recording songs written outside of the FAME stable, as they were far less profitable.

Comments: 10

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn September 18, 1962, Dickey Lee performed "Patches" on the Dick Clark ABC-TV weekday-afternoon program 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was at #8 on Billboard's Top 100 chart, two weeks later it would peak at #6 {for 2 non-consective weeks} and it spent 14 weeks on the Top 100...
    Between 1962 and 1976 he had six records on the Top 100 chart, after "Patches", his next two biggest hits both peaked at #14, "I Saw Linda Yesterday" for 3 weeks in 1963 and "Laurie (Strange Things Happen)" for 1 week in 1965...
    Besides the above three, his other three Top 100 records were "Don't Wanna Think About Paula" {#68 in 1963}, "The Girl from Peyton Place" {#73 in 1965}, and "9,999,999 Tears" {#52 in 1977}...
    Dickey Lee, born Royden Dickey Lipscomb, will celebrate his 81st birthday in three days on September 21st {2017}...
    And from the 'For What It's Worth' department, exactly eight years later on September 18th, 1970 Clarence Carter's completely different record titled "Patches" was in it's first of two weeks at #4 on the Top 100, and that was also it's peak position on the chart.
  • John from Windsor, OnYou get the impression from the Muscle Shoals documentary that Rick Hall wrote the song.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn July 12th 1970, "Patches" by Clarence Carter entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #90; and on September 13th, 1970 it peaked at #4 (for 2 weeks) and spent 14 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #2 on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart...
    Between 1967 and 1973 he had fifteen Top 100 records, with two reaching the Top 10, his other Top 10 record was "Slip Away, which peaked at #6 (for 1 week) on September 30th, 1968...
    Mr. Carter will celebrate his 79th birthday come next January 14th, 2015 (and a sad personal note, I'll be turning 70 the next day!!!)
  • David from Birmingham, AlIn the excellent 2013 documentary "Muscle Shoals," FAME producer/owner Rick Hall says that even though he didn't write "Patches," it was pretty much his life story. His father did indeed die when Hall was a young man, in a tractor accident.
  • Jim from West Palm Beach, FlThe story of a poor black share cropper trying to raise a family in the rural south.
  • Camille from Toronto, OhWow. A heartbreaking, soul-filled song brought to life by Clarence Carter. Me, my brothers and sisters and mom listened to this on the car radio all the time in the early 70s. Very memorable.
  • Rick from Belfast, MeThis was one of my fav songs to hear on AM radio when I used to help milk cows on a farm......yes, AM radio did rule at one time....LOL.....good song
  • John from Beltsville, MdThe video over to the right is just plain goofy.
  • Brad from Barry, TxI first heard this song on the CD "Golden Years: 1970" which consisted of new stereo recordings. I actually preferred this newer version, done in 1990, to Carter's original recording from 1970.
  • Don from Muscle Shoals, AlClarence Carter recorded this song (and Slip Away" in Muscle Shoals Alabama at FAME Studios. I heard Rick Hall, the owner, say that when Clarence recorded the he had to have someone whisper the words of the song in his ear. Being blind it was tuff for him to memorise the words. Another fact about Clarence was that he recorded at Muscle Shoals in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s.
see more comments

Lip-Synch RebelsSong Writing

What happens when Kurt Cobain, Iron Maiden and Johnny Lydon are told to lip-synch? Some hilarious "performances."

Tom Keifer of CinderellaSongwriter Interviews

Tom talks about the evolution of Cinderella's songs through their first three albums, and how he writes as a solo artist.

Jimmy WebbSongwriter Interviews

Webb talks about his classic songs "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," "Wichita Lineman" and "MacArthur Park."

Frankie ValliSong Writing

An interview with Frankie Valli, who talks about why his songs - both solo and with The Four Seasons - have endured, and reflects on his time as Rusty Millio on The Sopranos.

Maria MuldaurSongwriter Interviews

The "Midnight At The Oasis" singer is an Old Time gal. She talks about her jug band beginnings and shares a Dylan story.

Matthew Wilder - "Break My Stride"They're Playing My Song

Wilder's hit "Break My Stride" had an unlikely inspiration: a famous record mogul who rejected it.