At Stiff Records, nothing was sacred; often the label's slogans and unorthodox promotion were as memorable as the truly inspired music they released. With teenage Rachel Sweet, whom they marketed as a "jailbait" country singer (and later as a leather-clad child abductor), it would seem that their perverse humor had finally gone too far. One listen to her albums, however, and all questionable images and in-jokes fall into the background; "the little girl with the big voice" made some terrific music, holding her own on a roster that had no shortage of talent.
Akron-born Rachel Sweet began her singing career at age six, doing everything from singing commercial jingles to touring with Mickey Rooney and opening for Bill Cosby's Las Vegas act. Between 1976 and 1978 she recorded a few failed straight-ahead country singles for the local Derrick label ("Any Port in a Storm," "Paper Airplane," and "The Ballad of Mable Ruth Miller and John Wesley Pritchett") and a handful of demos for songwriter Liam Sternberg, who shopped them to Stiff Records. Stiff signed the young singer and debuted her on The Akron Compilation. She recorded her first album, Fool Around, with backing from the Rumour in 1978. She promoted the album on the Stiff package tour (The Be Stiff Tour) using the Records as her band. The album didn't sell particularly well, but it did receive a fair amount of critical praise.
The attention was short-lived, though, and Protect the Innocent, released through Stiff/Columbia, went virtually ignored the following year. She switched to Columbia in 1981 for ...And Then He Kissed Me, an uneven album that nevertheless featured the Top 40 hit "Everlasting Love," a duet with Rex Smith. After one more album, 1982's Blame It on Love, Sweet retired from the music business to pursue an education, returning sporadically, most notably to sing the title track to John Waters' Hairspray, as well as Cry-Baby. Her focus later turned to acting. ~ Chris Woodstra