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Original Demo: “Bette Davis Eyes” Bluegrass

Original Demo: “Bette Davis Eyes” Bluegrass

The third best-selling song of the 1980’s sung by Kim Carnes was a originally a pop ballad appearing on Jackie DeShannon’s 1975 album New Arrangement.

Written by Songwriter Hall of Fame inductee DeShannon and her writing partner Donna Weiss in 1974, the song was inspired by the 1942 film Now Voyager.

The song was heard by Carnes and her producer Val Garay in 1980 when Weiss brought over her catalogue to pitch songs for Carnes’ next album. Weiss had her own demo version of the song (now likely lost to the ages) and played it.  Despite liking the lyrics and melody, Carnes thought it wasn’t quite the whole package yet.

Keyboardist Bill Cuomo came up with new chords to put around the melody line and lyrics and worked with Carnes and Garay until just the right groove was created – and the rest is history.

This is a great example of never giving up on your songs!


Jackie DeShannon “Bette Davis Eyes” (1974)


Moral of the story?  Don’t get all hung up on the production!  Write a great lyric and melody – and be patient!


Interview with Producer Val Garay Includes Original Demo Version by Weiss



Kim Carnes Version “Bette Davis Eyes” (1981)


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  1. I heard Val Garay say on radio interview Weiss brought him the song betty davis eyes and that she made the demo of her melody of it not jackie deshannons. also that Totos drummer played on the Weis demo as well as Leon Russel on the piano. All of the credit should go to Carnes and her band as well as lyricist weiss.

  2. Donna Weiss also made her own demo of the song, which sounded like a Leon Russel track with Bob Dylan-like phrasing by Weiss. It is rumored that Toto’s drummer played on her demo.

    Kim Carnes heard and learned the song from this demo not from the Deshannon record that was made.

    I personally think Kim C had a lot to do with the melody you hear on her record of Bette Davis eyes. A million miles from Deshannons.

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