Glen Spreen's YouTube channel -- some good stuff here.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Great radio shows about Memphis from the WXPN / NPR "Sense of Place" series:
American Sound Studio was a recording studio located at 827 Thomas Street in Memphis, Tennessee. More than one hundred hit songs were recorded there between its founding 1967 and its closing in 1972, The music for these hits was played by the house band "The Memphis Boys", also known as the "827 Thomas Street Band". -Wikipedia
Saturday, August 16, 2014
From the site:
Friends of American Sound Studios and the Shelby County Historical Commission unveiled a Shelby County Historic Marker on Wednesday at the former location of American Sound Studios. Studio founder Chips Moman attended the ceremonies where Mayor A C Wharton declared August 13th to be “American Sound Studios Day.” The band that Moman led through over 100 hit records sat beside him in the parking lot of the Family Dollar store that occupies the site today. Reggie Young, Gene Chrisman, Bobby Woods, and Bobby Emmons listened to wrestling eminence Dave Brown read the text. Moman and band, along with bassists Tommy Cogbill and Mike Leech, played on hits for Elvis, Dusty Springfield, and Neil Diamond, among others. It’s hard to believe the same room of folks made “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” and “Midnight Mover.” It was way too late to save what was by all accounts not a nice building. But it’s gratifying to know that Moman and the Memphis Boys saw the city give them proper thanks and recognition. We should all be grateful to Eddie Hankins of Friends of American and Jimmy Ogle of the historical commission.
Friday, August 15, 2014
From the site:
Wednesday evening was a long time coming for the Memphis Boys, the band solely responsible for resurrecting Elvis Presley's recording career in the summer of 1969 with incendiary jewels including "In the Ghetto," "Suspicious Minds," "Don't Cry Daddy," and "Kentucky Rain." Mere hours after basking in the limelight of a hometown ceremony bestowing historical marker status on the location where American Studios once stood, pianist Bobby Wood, organist Bobby Emmons, drummer Gene Chrisman, and guitarist Reggie Young headed over to Graceland for a hit-packed, once-in-a-lifetime performance as fiercely independent producer Chips Moman proudly encouraged his musical comrades on from the front row.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
From the site:
“I’m looking forward to coming to Memphis and am thrilled that Chips and the studio are being recognized,” Warwick said earlier in the week via e-mail. “My time there holds a multitude of wonderful memories. Mostly, it was a time when artists really worked at music, alongside the musicians who were part of a collaborative team. (American) was one of the great old-school recording studios.”
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
From the site:
It was a moment of recognition and validation, a celebration of old songs and friends, a chance to soak up praise and plaudits. For producer Chips Moman and the Memphis Boys, it was a day long overdue.
On Wednesday afternoon, Moman and his famed group of session musicians — a unit responsible for helping create some of the biggest and most familiar hits of the last half-century — were finally given official recognition with a Shelby County historical marker on the site where American Studios once stood. Moman also will be inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame later this year.
Now the location of a Family Dollar store, there had been little trace of the funky studio that once occupied the corner of Thomas and Chelsea. But for a decade between 1962 and 1972, American was a veritable hit factory that produced more than 120 chart records.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
From the site:
"Suspicious Minds" was one of the biggest hits of Elvis Presley's career and it was recorded in Memphis 45 years ago at the famed American Sound Studio.
Though the recording studio has long since close many of the people who collaborated on making more than 100 hits on the Billboard charts will be honored Wednesday afternoon with a musical marker ceremony.
MyFOXMemphis.com will live stream the unveiling of the historical marker on Wednesday, Aug. 13, at 2 p.m.
Sunday, August 03, 2014
From the site:
“The Letter” is of course your best known song. How’d you come to do it?
It was our first recording session. We had a manager who was a deejay, Roy Mack, and he wanted to cut some songs on us for regional distribution or to sell at gigs. We were called the DeVilles, the Box tops was a name our manager thought of. Wayne Carson, who wrote ”The Letter” – it says Wayne Carson Thompson on the record, but he goes by Wayne Carson – he was a writer from St. Joe, Missouri. He was in his late twenties and we were all teenagers. He had come to the studio before and wanted to get his songs demoed. He had four songs on a tape and “The Letter” was just the one we liked the best. We didn’t have a record deal, we were just doing a little demo. And Roy Mack was probably thinking if it sounds good we could release it regionally.
We were expecting [producer and American Sound Studios owner] Chips Moman to be there, but Dan Penn showed up instead and it was a good thing he did. Chips was a great producer, but Dan was just a totally unique guy. Then Larry Uttal from Bell Records came to the studio a few weeks after “The Letter” was cut. I think he came to hear something Chips had on Sandy Posey. She’d had a couple of hits and was on Bell Records. Larry Uttal heard the tape of “The Letter” and he just flipped. And all of a sudden we had a record deal. We were still playing as the DeVilles, but after the record was released we changed the name to The Box Tops when the record started going up the charts. We were just dumbfounded.
Friday, July 25, 2014
From the site:
The 2014 edition of Elvis Week (Aug. 8-17) is fast approaching. The calendar of Presley-related events is packed, as ever, with concerts, panels, film screenings and celebrations of all kinds. And while the King will be the focus of most of the proceedings, another set of Memphis icons will also be given the spotlight.
On Wednesday, August 13, Chips Moman and the American Studios band will finally get some long-overdue recognition with the unveiling of a Shelby County Historical Marker near 827 Thomas Street. The address — at Thomas and Chelsea Avenue — is the site of the former American Recording Studio, the place where Moman and the band cut Elvis’ crucial 1969 “comeback” sessions, and recorded dozens and dozens (roughly 120, depending on the source) of chart hits between 1962 and 1972.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Sunday, July 06, 2014
From the site:
The 2014 honorees have been announced for induction into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. Among the nine luminaries who will be welcomed into the institution this fall at the Hall's third annual induction ceremony are rock 'n' roll pioneer Carl Perkins, acclaimed soul singer Ann Peebles, renowned producer/songwriters Chips Moman and Al Bell, blues great Furry Lewis, folk singer/songwriter Jesse Winchester and influential power-pop band Big Star.The inductees were announced this past week at a press conference held at Memphis' Hard Rock Café Beale Street. A Memphis Music Hall of Fame museum and exhibit currently is under construction and is expected to open early next year at 126 Beale Street, the former site of Lansky Bros., a famous clothing store known for providing outfits for such rock 'n' roll legends as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and others. Memphis' Hard Rock Café is scheduled to reopen at the same location this Thursday.In conjunction with their induction, every new honoree will be celebrated with their own tribute page on the Memphis Music Hall of Fame's website, and will receive the Mike Curb Award, the Memphis Hall's official trophy.The nine new inductees join 38 previous honorees, including Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Otis Redding, Al Green, Isaac Hayes, Booker T. and The MG's, ZZ Top, The Staple Singers, B.B. King, Sun Records founder Sam Phillips, Johnny Cash, Albert King, Carla Thomas and The Bar-Kays.
Friday, July 04, 2014
Sad to hear of the recent passing of Teenie Hodges -- the great guitarist and songwriter who played on and wrote many of the great Memphis R&B recordings from Hi / Willie Mitchell and others.
Here is a nice tribute from Rolling Stone:
From the site:
"Teenie created the groove, the pocket, as one would call it. That came from the way he played rhythmically," musician and friend David Porter told the Commercial Appeal. "That groove was what made the records for Al Green and so many others such big hits. And that sound, that feel, it came totally from Teenie's spirit. That's what the world should know about this man: his heart is in all those records."
Saturday, June 28, 2014
Sad news yesterday with the passing of Bobby Womack. The New York Times describes him as royalty and he was indeed that. Fabulous singer, songwriter, and guitarist -- just the total package. He was an integral part of the 827 Thomas Street Band in the late sixties and played on many of my favorite recordings from that era.
From the site:
Bobby Womack, who spanned the American soul music era, touring as a gospel singer in the 1950s, playing guitar in Sam Cooke’s backup band in the early ’60s, writing hit songs recorded by Wilson Pickett and the Rolling Stones and composing music that broke onto the pop charts, has died, a spokeswoman for his record label said on Friday night. He was 70.
Sonya Kolowrat, Mr. Womack’s publicist at XL Recordings, said further details about the death were not immediately available.
Mr. Womack, nicknamed the Preacher for his authoritative, church-trained voice and the way he introduced songs with long discourses on life, never had the million-record success of contemporaries like Pickett, Marvin Gaye, Al Green and Otis Redding. His sandpaper vocal style made him more popular in England, where audiences revere what they consider authentic traditional American music, than in the United States.
But the pop stars of his time considered Mr. Womack royalty. His admirers included Keith Richards, Rod Stewart and Stevie Wonder, all of whom acknowledged their debt with guest performances on albums he made in his later years.
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
From the site:
LOS ANGELES - Mark James squeezes the foot of a toy rabbit on a shelf in his West Hollywood studio, but it no longer produces a song. He tries another one. No song. A third. Again, nothing. All three creatures were built to belt out the joyous "Hooked on a Feeling," which James wrote nearly 50 years ago. But such is the nature of cheaply produced merchandise.
Above link behind a paywall – here’s another link from SESAC:
From the site:
Texas born songwriter Mark James first came to prominence penning "Hooked On A Feeling" for B.J. Thomas in 1969. Later, the band Blue Swede transformed it into a 1974 chart topper. James' career breakthrough came when Elvis Presley cut his song "Suspicious Minds," which landed him a number one hit around the world and helped resurrect "The King's" career as a recording artist. In addition to hits penned for Presley which include "Moody Blue," "It's Only Love" and "Raised On Rock," James co-wrote the classic "Always On My Mind," which was recorded by Elvis and became a signature hit for Willie Nelson in 1982. In 1983, the song earned James two Grammy's® for "Song of the Year" and "Best Country Song," as well as a BMI Award for "Song the Year." Four years later, Pet Shop Boys scored a smash hit with their cover of the track. Fine Young Cannibals, Jay-Z, Dwight Yoakam and Bill Withers are among the diverse array of artists that have recorded James' songs. His music has been featured in films such as Kramer vs. Kramer, Black Hawk Down and Reservoir Dogs. In 1999, BMI announced its Top 100 Songs of the Century, which included three songs by James. Ranked #91 on Rolling Stone Magazine's "Top 500 Songs of All Time, "Suspicious Minds" remains his most beloved and enduring composition.
Saturday, June 07, 2014
Legendary music producer Chips Moman will be in Memphis for Elvis Week events at Graceland in August, marking the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death in 1977.
Elvis Presley Enterprises announced this week that Moman, who produced Presley’s Memphis sessions at Moman’s American Sound studios in North Memphis, will be part of the Elvis Insiders panel discussion Aug. 14 at 9 a.m. at Graceland’s main stage in Graceland Plaza.
Bobby Wood, Gene Chrisman and Reggie Young, who were part of the American Sound studio band that played on the Elvis sessions, will also be part of the discussion.
Sunday, May 18, 2014
From the site:
While not as well known as Al Jackson or Roger Hawkins, Gene Chrisman was one of the old-time session guys who knew how to play on hit records. If you've never really listened hard to his track on "Son of a Preacher Man", you're in for a treat. Dig the way he plays that quarter-note hihat pattern and how he switches to a Latin rhythm on the bell later in the tune. Most amazing, IMO, is the way he doesn't start playing hysterical fills going into the chorus and he really just locks in the time without rushing. It's really hard not to rush going into that part of the tune. Frankly, I'm surprised the producers didn't ask him to play some fills there, but my guess is that it was so good they just left it alone. Anyway - now you know who Gene Chrisman is. Enjoy.
Thursday, May 08, 2014
From Scotty Moore’'s website:
The Hi Record label in Memphis got its start in 1957 when Ray Harris, Bill Cantrell and Quinton Claunch pitched a recording of Carl McVoy to Joe Cuoghi. McVoy was an older cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis and as a piano player had unlocked the secrets of the boogie-woogie style Jerry heard in his youth. Cuogi was the owner of Poplar Tunes on Poplar Ave. in Memphis where Elvis used to frequent and bought many of his early records. Cantrell and Claunch had formerly worked for Sun and Meteor records and Ray Harris had previously recorded, unsuccessfully, for Sun. Harris had been a coworker and friend of Bill Black's while working for Firestone and was inspired after attending one of the early Sun sessions with Elvis. With a $3.50 demo by McVoy of You are My Sunshine, Cuoghi was impressed enough to seek financing and partner with them to start the label.1
Check out the pics of Chips, Bobby E., and Reggie!
Monday, March 24, 2014
From the site:
The town of Luckenbach, Texas, lost its post office in 1971. It would have been the death of most places, but it was just the beginning for this town in Texas Hill Country.
When the post office closed, rancher Hondo Crouch purchased the property. "Buying" Luckenbach meant acquiring a general store, dance hall and a few other worn-out buildings. While few people lived in Luckenbach (three, according to records), it served as a place to sell produce, buy supplies or dance on Friday nights.
Crouch enjoyed sitting under the broad trees telling stories and playing tunes. In 1973, his friend and fellow musician, Jerry Jeff Walker, recorded "Viva Terlingua" in the town’s dance hall. Luckenbach was back on the map, so to speak.
A few years later, Chips Moman and Bobby Emmons heard about Luckenbach and wrote a song about the town. Waylon Jennings cut the song in 1977, and it quickly rose to the top of the charts.
Neither Jennings or the songwriters had ever been to Luckenbach. In fact, it was 1997 before Jennings paid a visit. That’s not unusual, though. The Eagles never "stood on a corner in Winslow, Ariz." The Monkees didn’t "catch the last train to Clarksville," Tenn. Neither did Stephen Foster ever venture "way down upon the Suwannee River."
Saturday, January 11, 2014
Marvelous essay about the life and career of Charlie Rich. From the site:
Along the way, Sy co-founded American Studios, the legendary soul music studio, with Chips Moman, the producer who eventually recorded the Box Tops, Dusty Springfield, and Elvis Presley’s 1969 homecoming, “From Elvis in Memphis.” It was at American that Natalie befriended a talented teenage songwriter who hung around the studio, Isaac Hayes. He was American’s first customer, recording a demo called “Laura, We’re on Our Last Go-Round.” To earn money, Hayes babysat Natalie’s young children.
In 1966, when Charlie Rich was at a nadir in his career, Sy moved him to Hi Records, a small-time local studio, and Natalie brought Isaac Hayes in so Charlie could take a shot at one of his songs, “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby.” As Natalie recalls, the backing band was composed of legendary session players from Stax and Hi—the Memphis Horns, Andrew Love and Wayne Jackson, along with Tommy Cogbill on bass and Willie Hall on drums. Hayes sat next to Charlie at the piano and taught him the song before they recorded it in one take. For “Pass on By,” Sy Rosenberg himself blew a meandering trumpet solo in the background.
Monday, December 16, 2013
Picture of Bobby W., Reggie, and Allen Reynolds at the Nashville Musician’s Hall of Fame Grand Opening. This was taken several months ago but it’s still great to see them up and running again! Check out the life-sized photo taken in the sixties during Elvis’s sessions at American.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Here are a few links about Robert Gordon’s book Respect Yourself – The Rise and Fall of Stax Records.
Links to two excellent interviews:
Article about Stax written by Robert Gordon:
Brief excerpt from the above article:
The success of Stax had everything to do with its new location, an old movie theater on an unassuming corner, McLemore Avenue and College Street, in South Memphis. The neighborhood was transitioning from white to black and most of the label's early stars simply walked in the front door and were given auditions by the open-minded and open-eared founders. The new location had been discovered by guitarist Chips Moman, who was then Jim Stewart's right-hand man. In less than a decade, he would be running one of the most successful labels of all time, American, where hits were recorded on everyone from Elvis to Neil Diamond, Dusty Springfield to Herbie Mann. It's likely Moman was drawn to the area because Hi Records, then having instrumental hits with the Bill Black Combo (and later home to Al Green), was located about a mile away, also in a converted movie theater.
Mike Freeman, member of the Shelby County Historical Commission, reports that the commission recently voted to approve an American Sound Studio marker at Chelsea and Thomas. According to Mike, the dedication ceremony date should take place in the Spring of 2014.
By the way, Mike has a new blog with lots of great posts about Memphis music. Have a look!
Memphis historian Mike Freeman has a great Flickr site – lots of photos related to southern history and with plenty of music-related collections. Pictures of American Studio site can be found here:
Saturday, December 14, 2013
An oldie-but-goodie featuring Spooner being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:
From the site:
Celebrated for portraying the title role in Always … Patsy Cline at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Barnett befriended Gibson when she was an aspiring singer in her 20s. Now she’s now honoring the Country Music Hall of Fame member by surrounding herself with studio all-stars like guitarist Harold Bradley, pianist Hargus “Pig” Robbins, harmonica player Charlie McCoy, steel guitarist Lloyd Green and drummer Gene Chrisman.
Friday, August 30, 2013
Reopening of Musician’s Hall of Fame in Nashville – Gene, Bobby, and Reggie are in the photo above.
From the site:
After closing over three years ago to make room for the Music City Center, the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum reopens today. In a reception last night, founder and CEO Joe Chambers thanked the many supporters in the room, especially for their assistance in restoring many instruments that were damaged in the 2010 flood.
Saturday, August 24, 2013
Sunday, August 11, 2013
From the site:
This week, Sony put out a box set titled Elvis at Stax, a three-CD package documenting Presley’s July and December 1973 sessions at the South Memphis studio. Its release will be celebrated Tuesday with a special ceremony at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, part of the annual Elvis Week festivities…
…In addition to a mix of members of Elvis’ touring band (guitarist James Burton, drummer Ronnie Tutt) and a few former American Studios players (guitarist Reggie Young, bassist Tommy Cogbill), several Stax musicians, including MG’s bassist Duck Dunn, drummer Al Jackson Jr. and guitarist Bobby Manuel, were summoned to play with Presley.
Saturday, August 10, 2013
From the site:
How did you come to play piano and sing harmonies on Elvis’ legendary 1969 sessions at American Sound Studios in Memphis?
Well, I was living in Atlanta when I had my first mini hit in 1965, a Top 20 R&B ballad written by Ashford & Simpson called “Never Had It So Good.” Incidentally, it was my first record for Scepter Records, and audiences seeing me open for Sam & Dave and James Brown were probably shocked to discover that I was white [laughs].
Two years later Scepter asked me to record my next single at American with producer Chips Moman and the Memphis Boys [Gene Chrisman/drums, Reggie Young/guitar, Tommy Cogbill and Mike Leech/bass, Bobby Emmons/organ, and Bobby Wood/piano]. I thought it was a great idea, and that session helped me get my foot in the door.
I soon got a residency at the prestigious Playboy Club in Atlanta, where I was working an unbelievable six hours a night, six nights a week. Anyway, Chips showed up one night. He was pleased with our previous session and urged me to move to Memphis.
He told me that he would get me session work at American, introduce me to music industry bigwigs, produce my next hit, and land me a job at T.J.’s, a very busy nightclub owned by Jewish businessman Herbie O’Mell. Everything came true except for the hit record. Tommy Cogbill, who I admired very much, also talked to me, and I was finally convinced to make the move in November 1968 with my wife, Joyce.
Saturday, July 27, 2013
From the site:
Across the Mississippi Bridge in West Memphis, in the parking lot of Pancho's Mexican restaurant, is the site where the Plantation Inn Nite Club once stood. While there's no marker, plaque or sign noting that fact, the impact of the club -- the music it hosted and the musicians it fostered -- can still be felt decades after its demise.
Here are three other good links about the Plantation Inn:
Friday, July 26, 2013
This is great – Dan Penn is featured on this but also Donnie Fritts, David Hood, Larry Jon Wilson, Spooner Oldham and many others!
Reggie is interviewed starting at 7’38” – good stuff!
Tuesday, July 09, 2013
From the site:
Merrilee Rush (born Merrilee Gunst, January 26, 1944, Seattle, Washington) is an American singer, best known for her recording of the song "Angel of the Morning", a Top 10 hit which earned her a Grammy nomination for female vocalist of the year in 1968.
Rush grew up in Seattle's North End, and studied classical piano from a young age. In 1960, she auditioned and became the singer for the Amazing Aztecs, a Seattle-area rock & roll band led by saxophone player Neil Rush, whom she would later marry. The two went on to form Merrilee and Her Men, doing mostly cover versions of pop hits, and then joined rhythm and blues group Tiny Tony and the Statics, whose regional hit "Hey Mrs. Jones", on the Bolo label, featured Rush's keyboard playing and vocals.
In 1965 the pair formed Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts, who soon became a popular act on the Pacific Northwest's teen dancehall circuit. A member of the group's road crew also worked for Paul Revere and the Raiders, and through this connection, Rush was invited to be the opening act on the Raiders' tour of the southern United States in 1967. While in Memphis, Tennessee, Raiders lead vocalist Mark Lindsay introduced Rush to record producer Chips Moman.
Rush's version of "Angel of the Morning" was recorded at Moman's American Studio in Memphis in early 1968, and was produced by Moman and Tommy Cogbill. Released by Bell Records in late June 1968, the song climbed to #7 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, and was a major hit in several other countries as well. The one millionth sale of this record was reported by the Recording Industry Association of America (R.I.A.A.) in 1970. Although credited to 'Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts', both the single and subsequent album (also called Angel Of The Morning) were recorded using the same musicians who played on Elvis Presley's famous Memphis recordings.
"Angel of the Morning" garnered Rush a Grammy Award nomination for best Contemporary Pop Female Vocalist of the year. She was nominated along with Barbra Streisand ("Funny Girl"), Dionne Warwick ("Do You Know the Way to San Jose"), Aretha Franklin ("I Say a Little Prayer"), and Mary Hopkin ("Those Were the Days"). Warwick was the eventual winner
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Watch the clip to hear Larry Butler talk about writing Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song with Chips.
From the site:
He truly was a Nashville Cat. Larry Butler wasn’t a great singer and never had his own hit records but he was a great piano player, songwriter and record producer.
Saturday, June 29, 2013
Sad news -- Bobby Blue Bland passed away last Sunday (June 23, 2013). Oxford American magazine recently reprinted a 1999 interview with Dan Penn on Bland’s influence.
From the site:
In his recent autobiography, B. B. King wrote that Bobby "Blue" Bland is his favorite blues singer. King is not alone in his praise. Bland's vocal power combines the glottal intensity of a gospel shouter with the smoothness of a crooner. He brings a vocal range to blues performance that is straight out of Sunday morning worship. His first recordings were for Modern and Chess in the early '50s, but it was with Don Robey's Houston-based Duke label that he established himself as a premier force in rhythm and blues. He scored chart-topping r&b hits with the #5 "Farther Up the Road"—perhaps the definitive Texas shuffle—in 1957 and with the #1 "I Pity the Fool" in 1961; "Turn On Your Love Light" reached #2 in the same year.
Bland was born on January 27, 1930, in Rosemark, Tennessee. As a boy he learned to sing white country blues via Gene Steele's radio show and the Grand Ole Opry. On the street corners of his hometown, he earned nickels and dimes singing hillbilly music. He moved to Memphis with his mother in 1947. It was the wrong time and place for a black country artist to emerge, and the young singer ventured down Beale Street into the world of rhythm and blues. Bland established popularity with black audiences by touring the "chitlin circuit" in the Blues Consolidated Revue with Junior Parker. After moving to Houston and teaming up with arranger and bandleader Joe Scott, he found the ultimate vehicle for his voice. Scott's arrangements combined jazz sophistication with rhythmic horn charts and featured the seminal blues guitarist Wayne Bennett.
About the music that has influenced him, he has said, "I like the soft touch. I don't like the harsh. I listened to a lot of Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole for diction, for delivery. And I still know more about hillbilly tunes than I do blues. Hank Snow, Hank Williams, Eddy Arnold—so much feeling, so much sadness." In the mid-'80s he started recording for the Malaco blues label based in Jackson, Mississippi. In 1997 his Sad Street album was nominated for a Grammy in the best contemporary blues category, and his recent album "Live" on Beale Street proves his voice is as robust as ever.
In the early '60s a young blue-eyed soul singer named Dan Penn modeled his sound on Bland's unique voice. Penn went on to become a leading r&b songwriter through the success of such hits as "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" for Aretha Franklin, "Dark End of the Street" for James Carr, "Out of Left Field" for Percy Sledge, and "I'm Your Puppet" for James and Bobby Purify. Before establishing his reputation as a songwriter, Penn fronted bands like the Pallbearers and the Mark V who played frat parties, sock hops, and local dances all over the South, covering the gamut of Bland's repertoire. From his home in Nashville he offered his appreciation of Bobby "Blue" Bland's music.
LES BACK: How would you sum up Bobby Bland as a vocalist?
DAN PENN: Bobby Bland was just the Man. You wanted to be like him, at least I did—just a great, great singer. He had exceptional delivery and understanding. He made you understand what the song means to him. He didn't just shuffle through, you know—it's also blood and guts. The r&b records that I loved are not prominent or in your face. Listen to "Share Your Love with Me," the one with the strings—that's my favorite. That one, and "Two Steps from the Blues" are the two that stick out for me. I have to say that I've never heard records any better than those. No gimmicks, just pure blues pop. Nobody's ever beat 'em.
LB: I guess you could say those records are blues with a heavy gospel influence and feel, too.
DP: Once you've been to the church as a child, there's a streak of something that goes right through you. Put it this way: you've got to go a long way to beat spiritual music. They've got something to talk about, and it's so emotional. I got the r&b and the gospel feel from Ray Charles and Bland; I also got that from Aretha and all the black gospel acts. John Richbourg on WLAC played nothing but black music right here in Nashville. It was all over the South. It was one of the biggest things of the '50s. I mean, if you didn't know where WLAC was on your radio, then you weren't hip. My world was lily-white as far as my church music, but even lily-white people got soul, you know? Once I heard black people on the radio—Ray Charles and Bobby "Blue" Bland—it was all over for me. I said to myself, This is the best stuff around, and I still hold that opinion. I still think that black church music is as good as it's gonna get. I've never heard anything better.
LB: Early in your career, didn't you cover "Turn On Your Love Light"?
DP: Yeah, we did. Every Southern band did that one. He just had that really great voice. Going on down the line there was a lot of great singers, but Bobby Bland just had that growl. It was the creamiest of growls. He had this real Grrraaa thing in his voice, but it was all creamy. Back then it would just totally take you away, even more than James Brown and Ray Charles.
LB: Would you rate him as a better singer than both of them?
DP: In his prime I would put his voice above them, but maybe not his talent. It was the blues, but country was kind of the other side of the coin.
LB: Did you know that Bobby Bland grew up listening to hillbilly music and country blues?
DP: We're beginning to find out that a lot of the black singers, and some of the better ones, had that influence. I don't know what that means, except that maybe he, and a lot of other black singers of that period, had a pretty good insight into white people. They got a chance to check 'em out on Saturday night, and it was interesting, I think, for them to hear that music, it was more interesting to them than it was to me—of course I was cross-listening the other way. A lot of Southern whites, including myself, were listening to the black stuff and were interested in that. [Blacks were] interested in hearing the Grand Ole Opry. Arthur Alexander was that way, and I think so was Percy [Sledge]. I found out that Bland did like country, because in the '70s, when he cut one of my songs, I got to meet him. I got to go down to the studio here in Nashville, where he was cutting a country album.
LB: That must have been the Get On Down with Bobby Bland album.
DP: Yeah. He cut my song "I Hate You." He just cut the fool out of it. He had a really great feel on it. I felt just great that I had a Bobby Bland cut, although it was late in the game, and it was sort of country—it was still Bobby Bland. He didn't really cut it country; he put a swing to it.
LB: You must be proud of that one.
DP: I am, yes, 'cause it's Bobby "Blue" Bland. Some records you can count your money, and some records you can just count your blessings. He was just one of them people that you always admired so much. They used to call me Bobby "Blue" Penn back in the early '60s when I was with the Mark V and the Pallbearers. They did that in the South in a lot of the places because I sang so much like Bland. And like all white guys doin' that, I thought I sounded just like him. And my wife Linda said that I did, and I am sure I didn't [laughing].
LB: He's someone who is mentioned whenever I talk to Southern soul and r&b musicians.
DP: He was a big influence on the white singers, I'll tell you that, and not only me. I think he had as much influence as Ray Charles, but Bobby Bland just took it one step further. Oh man, he just kept going with that growl. He just put that growl on it, and it just floored all of us. I can't say enough good things about Bobby Bland. I guess that's what it comes down to, don't it? It's like, well, who had the best voice?
Bobby Bland did.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
Foundation purchases original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios, which recorded Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and more
Little bit off topic, but great to see that the 3614 Jackson Highway building will be preserved in this manner.
From the site:
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- The Muscle Shoals Music Foundation today acquired the home of the original Muscle Shoals Sound Studios at 3614 Jackson Highway in Sheffield, according to board chairman Rodney Hall.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
From the site:
Chips Moman, now semi-retired and living in LaGrange, Ga., still writes songs occasionally. “I write ‘em,” he says, “but I just leave ‘em laying there.” (- The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, 2008)
One of the most important characters in the Memphis music scene in the 60′s. Chips Moman helped start Stax Records, then American Sound Studios, which cut 122 chart hits from 1967 to 1972 — an unparalleled achievement.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Neil Diamond has donated royalties from sales of Sweet Caroline to help bombing victims after the recent tragedy in Boston. This story by ABC-TV shows lots of regular people singing the song – can we get some props for the great band who backed Neil on this record?
Monday, April 15, 2013
A story about American from the May 22, 1971 issue of Billboard Magazine. Also, a link to the entire Billboard issue (a special on Memphis music) in case you’d like to browse further:
Sunday, April 14, 2013
From the site:
We are extremely honored to have a musical studio legend joining us this week... Bobby Wood!
There is not enough space here to write everything Bobby has achieved in the music business but here are a few highlights.
As part of "The Memphis Boys" studio group at American Studios in Memphis, Bobby played on over 122 chart hits in a four year span.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
From the site:
Back in the mid-1960s, Dan Penn was what you’d call an all-nighter. A workaholic, a musical obsessive, he spent his wee hours at Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., doing what he did best: wrestling songs to the ground.
Fueled by copious amounts of coffee, cigarettes and speed, and buoyed by a burning passion for R&B, Penn — usually with his writing partner and pianist Spooner Oldham in tow — would come to shape Southern soul music during those late nights.
“I had a big passion for what I was doing,” says the 71-year-old Penn. “We’d start in the evening, fooling around, looking for an idea or a groove. Then we’d write and cut till 2, 3, 4 in the morning; sometimes we’d stay there till sun came up. We were young and had a lot of energy then but that seems like another lifetime ago.”
From the site:
Memphis Flyer: I don't know how else to ask. How do you write a song as good as "The Dark End of the Street"?
Dan Penn: That's a good question. If you find out, tell me, because I'd like to write another one like it. Chips and me were really close at that time. We knew each other pretty good, and we had a lot of doggone respect for each other. And we'd had a lot of good times together. Also, I think songwriters, Southern songwriters at least, are inspired by Hank Williams. "Your Cheatin' Heart" is about the best slipping-around song there is. Then Jimmy Hughes did "Steal Away."
And you were at FAME when Hughes recorded that, right?
I got to watch all that go down. And I learned a lot. I didn't feel like I was stealing from him [on "Dark End of the Street"], but he was definitely an inspiration. So you keep on trying to write this particular kind of cheating song. And in the '60s that seemed to be highly important.
Having written hits already, when you finished writing "Dark End," did you know it was going to be your "Your Cheatin' Heart"?
I thought it was good when James Carr sang it. I can't say that I knew it right off because we wrote it in a hotel room in Nashville, and it was a good while before we had the demo down where we could play it back.
Saturday, February 02, 2013
WKNO’s Rob Grayson has a great article about Sandy Posey:
If you called to book a session at American Studios on Thomas back in the mid-1960’s, chances are you would talk to a lady named Sandy Posey. Similarly, if you were a song publisher wanting to interest producer Chips Moman in recording one of your tunes, receptionist Sandy Posey would be the first person you would talk with. Perhaps the conversation would turn to the fact that Sandy herself was a singer. All supposition aside, for one industrious song plugger, that information turned into a opportunity to say, “Sandy, I think I have something that just might be a perfect fit for you.”
Writer Roben Jones shares the story in her book Memphis Boys, The Story of American Studios. Gary Walker, representing Painted Desert Music, came by to pitch some songs for the Gentrys’ second album. And somewhere in his repertoire was a song Martha Sharp wrote titled “Born A Woman.” Walker invited Posey to come to Muscle Shoals and sing the demo version of the song. It didn’t happen overnight, but Chips got around to cutting the master of the song, and Sandy was his pick for the singer.
American Studios was still in the process of converting from monaural to 4-track recording, so the session was held at Royal Studios with Moman at the board. The home studio for Hi Records, Royal had immediate access to multi-track facilities. Scotty Moore played guitar on the session, and in the band were couple of guys who would become regulars at American Studios in the months to come, Tommy Cogbill and Mike Leech.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
This is so great – a historical marker was dedicated in front of Willie Mitchells’ Royal Studios (3-1-12). Remarks by Jack Hale, Teenie Hodges, Charles Hodges, Archie Turner, Otis Clay, Howard Grimes, the Rhodes Sisters, and Bobby Blue Bland!
From the site:
W.E. A.L.L. B.E. & "Real Talk With Tha Artivist" presents... "A Great Day In Memphis & One For Papa Willie Mitchell: Royal Studios Historical Marker Dedication" (3-1-2012) Recording Great Music since 1957 Constructed as a theater in 1915 and converted into Royal Studios in 1957, Royal Studios, home of Hi Records and the Hi Rhythm Section, grew from a minor rockabilly studio into one of the most successful producers of soul music worldwide. Willie Mitchell pioneered the Hi Records signature soul sound at Royal Studios, personified by singers O.V. Wright, Ann Peebles, Otis Clay, Syl Johnson and Al Green, whose “Let’s Stay Together” topped Billboard charts in February 1972.
Monday, January 28, 2013
From the YouTube site:
Presented by Zoro, this series of video lessons features some of the grooves that charted the course of history -- starting in the 1940s when shuffles ruled the airwaves, through the dawning of drum-machine inspired hip-hop beats in the late 1970s.
Zoro explains each groove in the series, why the beat made an impact as well as some insights into the feel. In all, Zoro breaks down 23 of the drum grooves that charted R&B/Funk/Hip-Hop history.
Check out the full feature on vicfirth.com:
Saturday, January 26, 2013
Here’s a screenshot from Chips’ website that was active in the early 2000s.
Note the quote from Chips in the first paragraph:
“We didn’t ever want to turn anybody away. We never thought that we were making music history. We were just glad to have the work and we thought if we turned anybody away, they would go down the street and find somebody that actually knew what they were doing.”
Of course, we now know that they were making music history and that they actually knew what they were doing! And that’s an understatement!
Saturday, January 19, 2013
From the site:
Musical success isn't just about the star standing in front of the stage. You can't forget about the side musicians who really help make the songs come to life.
One of those very talented musicians, Bobby Wood, and his piano show up on some of the most popular songs you've been singing over the last 40 years.
Wood's piano chords are probably most familiar on Sweet Caroline, and he's still surprised to hear it belted during sports stadium sing-alongs.
"When it got to the chorus, Sweet Caroline, the whole crowd went, 'Bom-Bom-Bom.' We were all amazed, and our guys are all drawing social security, thinking 'you're not supposed to know that song,'" Wood said.
Chances are there's a lot you didn't think you knew about Wood, including many tunes with Elvis and a whopping 122 hit songs in one four-year-span.
His recipe for music success was always soul.
"I don't care what genre of music you're in, there ought to be some soul in it," Wood said.
That soul originates with a cotton-pickin' kid from rural Mississippi.
"Music was our love, cotton was our trade," he said.
Now, it's all told in his new book Walking Among Giants, where practicing piano at the age of 9 eventually led to the stage.
He's 71 now and modestly credits his success for knowing when not to play on a song.
"Some of these piano players play more in three seconds than I've played all my life," Wood said.
These days, Wood spends his time in his Music Row office with a couple of different keyboards at his fingertips.
Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
From the site:
"Suspicious Minds" by Elvis Presley. "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" by Aretha Franklin. "Son of a Preacher Man" by Dusty Springfield. "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond. All of these legendary songs were recorded at Memphis' American Sound Studio, the last of the five studios we're featuring in our trip to Memphis as part of the quarterly "Sense of Place" series.
Between 1967 and 1971, the studio produced approximately 120 hit songs. Musician and producer Ben Vaughn is uniquely poised to discuss the rise and fall of American Sound: Besides his love of the music, he worked with the American house band, The Memphis Boys, on Arthur Alexander's 1993 album Lonely Just Like Me. Vaughn goes through some of the most important songs to come out of American and shares his experience working with The Memphis Boys.