Born Bessie Regina Norris on December 21, 1953, Wright was the youngest of seven children to Rosa Akins Braddy-Wright and her second husband, McArthur Norris. Wright began her professional career at the age of two when her siblings formed the gospel group, the Echoes of Joy. Wright contributed to vocals on the group's first album, released in 1956. Wright and her siblings performed together until the mid-1960s.
In 1965, following the group's break-up, 11-year-old Wright, who was already using the name Betty Wright, decided to switch musical styles from gospel to rhythm and blues, singing in local talent shows until being spotted by a local Miami record label owner, who signed her to her first label in 1966 at twelve. She released the singles, "Thank You Baby" and "Paralyzed", which found Wright local fame in Miami.
In 1967, the teen was responsible for discovering other local talents such as George and Gwen McCrae, helping them sign with the Alston Records label, part of Henry Stone's TK recording and distribution company. A year later, Wright released her debut album, My First Time Around, when she was still 14 and scored her first hit single with Judy White's "Girls Can't Do What Guys Do". While still in high school in 1970, Wright released the sensual "Pure Love" at the age of sixteen.