BetteBack Interview: Alex Harvey Talks “Delta Dawn,” His Favorite Version, Bette Midler And More

Daily Review
Country song goes to town
November 2, 1973

Alex Harvey wrote “Delta Dawn,” as a country tune, but Helen Reddy and Bette Midler put their own interpretations on it and made it a pop hit.

Harvey is a top songwriter, but wasn’t known as a performer in the Bay Area until r e c e n t l y . He did “Delta Dawn” with a country touch during his recent gig at the Boarding House in San Francisco.

On stage Harvey reminds us of Mac Davis, except Harvey’s act is more polished. He was backed by a guitarist and bass, which harmonized with Harvey’s plucking.

He was born and raised in Brownsville, Tenn where his father had a country store.

‘My daddy had a jukebox,” he said, “and it had a bunch of Jimmy Reed records that stayed in there for about 11 years. That’s all I listen to now. My mother never missed a Grand Ole Opry show on TV, so I was influenced by country music. Every Sunday I went to a Southern Methodist Church. About a mile from us was a black church, and I used to listen to their choir, so I was influenced by both black and white church music. Then I got a degree in music at Murry State University.”

Harvey has been through some changes.

“Last year I had a rock band,” he said. “I’ve always had a band until this year. Now I’ve started all over again with a trio.”

“Much of the music I do on stage now will probably be on the album I’m working on,” he said. We did Delta Dawn on a previous album, and we might just do it again on this one. I started recording three and a half years ago in Nashville and did part of my first LP there and then did the rest of it and my others in Los Angeles. I’m doing this one In Nashville, I want to get back to recording in Nashville and Muscle Schoals. You almost have to have been brought up in the South to play some of the stuff I play.”

Harvey has three albums out on Capitol.

“After the album I’m going on a tour of England in March. I have been on two other European trips and I had a hit single there. I like p l a y i n g overseas because they really get into country stuff.”

“I love playing the Boarding House,” Harvey said. It’s a good mellow place. I’ve played there twice, once with Bette Midler and the next recently with the Pointer Sisters. “Delta Dawn” has been recorded some 50 times but the version I like the best is Bette Midler’s. In LA she took four encores on that song and it was the middle, of the performance. It makes me feel good for her, but not because it’s my song. When I ‘write something, I’m done with it. If one of my songs sells a million for someone and that means I’m independent – then I’m happy. To buy a Cadillac or all those
things when you have a lot of money – I don’t even think of that.

“I minored in drama when I was in school. I still read for parts all the time. I have a part in a movie coming up called “Betty,” for which I’m also writing the score. I’ve never been on the screen before, but I did read for the
part Kris Kristofferson got in “Bloom In Love.”

The name Alex Harvey will pop up again, so remember where you read about him.

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