James Carr, “You’ve Got My Mind Messed Up”

Though James Carr is probably best known for cutting the first (and some still say, best) version of Chips Moman and Dan Penn’s soul standard “Dark End Of The Street,” Carr, a troubled man who would not last long in the limelight, found his first real success in April 1966 with “You Got My Mind Messed Up,” written by O.B. McClinton, a student at Mississippi’s Rust College who would later find some success as a country singer known as the Chocolate Cowboy.

Carr was a Memphis contemporary of Otis Redding, borrowing generously from the Stax star’s vocal and production style. If “You Got My Mind Messed Up” sounds familiar, that’s because it bares a close melodic resemblance to “That’s How Strong My Love Is” as Robert Gordon points out in a 1992 article about Carr for L.A. Weekly. Redding’s 1965 soul smash was actually written by Carr’s friend and manager, Roosevelt Jamison, and previously recorded by O.V. Wright and released on the startup label, Goldwax.

In the early ‘60s, Jamison was an aspiring singer and songwriter who scouted talent for Goldwax and also worked as a hematologist. In a story with much of the typical aplomb of music business origins, Jamison introduced Carr to Goldwax’s Quinton Claunch one night at midnight on the label owner’s front door step. After hearing demo tapes in his living room, Claunch was convinced and signed the singer to a deal with the Memphis label.

“Messed Up” was Carr’s third single for the label, released in April 1966, and, as Jamison tells Peter Guralnick in Sweet Soul Music, would be the song that would begin to “make James’s dreams come true.”

Most of Carr’s early sessions for Goldwax were produced by Chips Moman, who would turn out to be another integral player in the singer’s career. The Georgia-born producer, songwriter, and guitarist had left Stax in 1961, subsequently opening a new studio in Memphis called American Sound. But Moman during this period was mostly “out on a wet one,” as Gordon so aptly describes in his book, It Came From Memphis. Some accounts place Carr’s early sessions at Sam Phillips’ new studio, Phillips Recording Service, which the legendary producer opened in 1960 at 639 Madison Avenue. In Roben Jones’ Memphis Boys: The Story of American Studios, Spooner Oldham recalls the late 1966 session for “Dark End Of The Street” being cut at Hi Studios.

One surety about “You Got My Mind Messed Up” is Reggie Young’s guitar playing. Moman had begun assembling a house band for American that would become famous as the Memphis Boys, including Young on guitar, along with bassists Tommy Cogbill and Mike Leech, drummer Gene Chrisman, and keyboardists Bobby Emmons and Bobby Wood. On “Messed Up,” Young’s guitar recalls Steve Cropper’s spiky licks, while the horns sound a lot like Stax’s Memphis Horns, which as Guralnick points out, they were.

“Baby, you got my mind messed up,” sings Carr. “Somebody just gotta help me.” Sadly, for Carr, who suffered from bipolar disorder and had social anxiety and motivation problems, the words would prove to be all too true.

As the ‘60s continued, Carr was increasingly difficult to work with, failing to produce material in the studio. By 1969, Goldwax was out of business and, though he left behind some great recordings, the man who some had once called the “world’s greatest soul singer” was on his way to being a might-have-been in soul music history.

“You’ve Got My Mind Messed Up”

Said I wasn’t gonna
Tell nobody else
But I just can’t keep it
All to myself now

For as long as I’ve
Been running around
I finally met a little girl
That really got me down now

Baby, you’ve got
My mind messed up
Little girl, little girl
You sure got my
Mind messed up now

I go to bed alone
And I can’t sleep
Sit down at the table
Ooh, Lord, I can’t eat

Somebody, please, please
Help me now, oh, oh, oh

Sugar plum dancing on in my mind
Every day you’re with me
Seem like Valentine’s now

I walked a rainbow, Lord
And I chained the moon
Walk around the world
And get back before noon

Baby, you’ve got
My mind messed up
Darling, sure got my
Mind messed up now

Eyes wide open, Lord
And I can’t see
Anywhere the woman go
She can lead for me

Somebody just gotta
Just gotta help me
Oh, oh wee, oh, now

Baby, you’ve got
My mind messed up now
Sure got my mind
Messed up now

You my love
With all of my heart
I’ll do anything
You want me to do

For you
I’d climb the highest mountain
Baby, for you
I’d swim the deepest sea

Anywhere you go
You can lead for me

I, I love you
Oh, I love you
I, I love you, baby

Written by O.B. McClinton