Friday, August 28, 2015

Guitar legend Burton on Elvis Presley at 80


The Band of Legends, consisting of Gene Chrisman, James Burton, Bobby Wood, and Norbert Putnam, played a concert recently at Delta State University (Cleveland, Mississippi) to benefit the Mississippi GRAMMY Museum's educational program.

Here's the article:

UPDATE >> Here's another good article!

Friday, August 07, 2015

'The Letter' writer Wayne Carson dies


Very sorry to hear about Wayne Carson who passed away on July 20th. Great multi-talented writer and musician. The story below  is from USA Today:

Wayne Carson, a songwriter known for penning the Willie Nelson smash Always on My Mind and the Box Tops/Joe Cocker hit The Letter, died early Monday morning. He was 72.

Carson's wife, Wendy Harp Head, confirmed the songwriter's death to The Springfield News-Leader. Carson had suffered from various health issues and had been in hospice care for the past month.

Born in Colorado to musicians who performed under the stage names "Shorty & Sue," Carson grew up around music and began playing guitar at age 14 after hearing finger-picking great Merle Travis on record. He got his first big cut when Eddy Arnold recorded Somebody Like Me and took it to the top of the country charts in 1966.

The following year, Memphis rock group the Box Tops had a No. 1 pop hit with Carson's The Letter, a song Carson said was inspired by several pages of lyrics sent him by his father, one of which contained the word "airplane" spelled as "aero-plane." From that, Carson's wrote the song's memorable first line, "Give me a ticket for an aero-plane." The song was also a top 10 pop hit for Cocker and Leon Russell in 1970.

The Box Tops had two other top-40 successes with Carson tunes, Neon Rainbow and Soul Deep.

Carson's biggest success came with Always on My Mind. The song had been recorded by Brenda Lee in 1972 and later covered by Elvis Presley. But Willie Nelsons 1982 version topped both the pop and the country charts, winning Carson Grammys for song of the year and best country song. Nelson's version proved so popular that Always on My Mind was named the Country Music Association's song of the year in both 1982 and 1983, leading the organization to change its voting procedures so that a song could win the award only once.

    RIP Wayne Carson. My close friend and brother. One of the great writers. Was loved by all and will be missed. BJ
    — BJ Thomas (@TheBJThomas) July 20, 2015

    .RIP Wayne Carson, such great writing, sung by one of the very best.
    — Duane Eddy (@DuaneEddy) July 20, 2015

Carson's other significant country credits include Mel Tillis' Who's Julie, Gary Stewart's She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles) and Conway Twitty's I See the Want To in Your Eyes. A 1997 inductee into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1997, he also had his songs recorded by B.J. Thomas, Waylon Jennings, Tina Turner, the Pet Shop Boys, Randy Travis, Shelby Lynne and many others.

More biographical info about Wayne is available from his personal web site. He will be missed.

Wayne Jackson Interview: Wayne Jackson of 'The Memphis Horns' talks in depth with EIN


From the site:

EIN – You had worked with so many of the great soul singers so did the booking for an Elvis session cause you any anxiety?

W.J – To be honest with American Studios and the Elvis sessions, they were just plain recording sessions. The "Gods from Heaven" did not come down & there was no fire & brimstone either. It was just a recording session that just happened to be with Elvis. There was of course a lot more magic in recording Elvis than there was in recording a nobody but American studios had some great talent going through it at the time.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman


From the site:

Below is a peek at [Roben] Jones' wonderful research into these Presley sessions, in a terrific chapter called "From a Jack to a King." In particular, [her] prose not only reinforces that it was a crazy, magical time but also confirms Presley friend Marty Lacker convinced the singer to shun a scheduled Nashville date and try Memphis instead. We learn the core musicians like Cogbill, Reggie Young, Bobby Emmons, Mike Leech and even arranger Glen Spreen were blasé when learning of the booking, then thrilled to meet Elvis when he made his entrance, resplendent in a exceptional blue leather jacket, on the first night. On the other hand, most of the Presley entourage tagging along failed to impress any of them. The "Memphis Boys" also make no bones about who was in charge despite the presence of RCA executives, a subject that has strangely been a source of recent debate on this forum.

Mark James -- Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame 2015 Inductee


From the site:

Mark James grew up in Houston, Texas, along with B.J. Thomas, who was the first to make his songs hits. By the late 1960s, Mark was signed as a staff songwriter to Memphis producer Chips Moman’s publishing company. Moman produced Thomas’ versions of “The Eyes Of A New York Woman” and “Hooked On A Feeling” in 1968-69, and these became Mark’s debut songwriting successes. He issued his own version of “Suspicious Minds” (also produced by Moman) on Scepter Records in 1968 before Elvis Presley made it a smash the following year using the same arrangement. These songs, as well as hits such as “Sunday Sunrise” (Brenda Lee) and “Moody Blue” (Elvis Presley) were all created by Mark as a solo writer. Mark also co-wrote the hits “It’s Only Love” (B.J. Thomas) and “One Hell Of A Woman” (Mac Davis). One of Mark’s biggest hits came via Willie Nelson’s 1982 recording of “Always On My Mind.” A collaboration with fellow Memphians Johnny Christopher and Wayne Carson, that song – named 1982 Song of the Year for NSAI, the ACM and the CMA – earned the writers a pair of Grammys for Best Country Song and for Best Song.

The hit maker: soul legend Dan Penn


From the site:

Work on the greatest soul record of all time, Dark End Of The Street, has stalled.

In the American Sound studio in Memphis, a room that will be graced by Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield and Elvis Presley, a tall, awkward Afro-American singer called James Carr, whose battles with mental illness will later blight his career, is struggling to inject feeling into the quintessential deep-soul cheating song.

Carr is working from a great demo tape by co-writer Dan Penn, but on this chilly day early in the Tennessee winter of 1966, he can't find the fire he wants.

Excerpt from Dusty Springfield Bio

Attached is an excerpt from Dancing with Demons, a biography of Dusty Springfield. Pardon the poor punctuation, misspellings, typos, etc:



Monday, June 01, 2015

Bobby Womack, The Preacher, boxed set review: 'superb'

From the site:

But the hits that Womack wrote for Pickett, notably ‘I’m A Midnight Mover’ and the gorgeous ‘I’m In Love’ were recorded at another Memphis studio, American Sound, which had been founded by Chips Moman, who had originally been a producer at...Stax.

It was at American, with Moman producing, that Womack recorded his first solo album, Fly Me To The Moon, in 1968. This superb five album box-set charts the development of Womack’s career, from that debut, to his 1972 album Understanding, which gave him his first US R&B number one, Woman’s Gotta Have It. Fly Me To The Moon includes Womack’s readings of those two Pickett hits, and handful of other original compositions, not least the grittily testifying Someone Special. But it also marks the beginning of Womack’s proclivity for recording cover versions of established standards and pop hits

Whether this was because, as has been suggested, he had given most of his own songs to Pickett; his record company saw it as a commercial proposition or, most likely, because Womack himself was always interested in exploring as wide a range of material as possible (he once recorded a country and western album) is a moot point. The outcome was Womack tackling a wide range of covers over the next four years, from the sublime - his gently propulsive reading of California Dreamin’ - to the frankly bizarre: Jonathan King’s Everyone’s Gone To The Moon. Perhaps the most arresting of all is a nine minute version of Bacharach and David’s Close To You, on his third album, Communication, which begins with a surreal, sermonising rap about his arguments with his record company moving on to an absolutely gorgeous reading in which Womack strips every fibre of faux-sentimentality from the song, refashioning it as a impassioned plea for togetherness.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Willie Nelson Interview on Daily Show

Jon Stewart interviewed Willie Nelson on the Daily Show recently. It was great to see Willie call out Chips as a great producer and give him credit for the success of his records ( at 3:44 in the video).



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bobby Emmons (1943-2015)

Bobby Emmons dead

Very saddened to report that Bobby Emmons passed away yesterday (2/23/15) in Nashville, TN. My deepest sympathies go out to his family and to the Memphis Boys.

Link to Rolling Stone story:

Link to Memphis Commercial Appeal story:

Here is a brief bio from Bobby's web site:

Born February 19, 1943, in Corinth, Mississippi. Son of Elmer and Minnie Emmons.

Self taught musician except for childhood beginner's lessons with private teachers Gainus and McCord. Chosen with four other high school classmates for FFA String Band contest, winning State Championship is 1957 after a three level competition.

Professional musician/songwriter since 1959. Member of Bill Black's Combo 1960-63, trade magazines' "Instrumental Group of the year" all three years. Played hundreds of concerts and shows with Bill in 47 states, Canada, Nassau and Jamaica and appeared in 2 Hollywood motion pictures.

Member of studio staff band in Memphis, Tennessee at Hi Records, then at American Studios (two of the major "hit factories" of the sixties and seventies). One of five nominated for Memphis Music's "Outstanding Musician of 1971." Played piano, organ and electric keyboards on studio master sessions at Fernwood, Hi, Sun, Phillips International, Sounds of Memphis, Stax, Ardent and "The Jungle Room" (Elvis' den) among others.

Nashville session player since 1972 winning NARAS "Superpicker" awards 1972-1979 (honoring musicians who played on #1 records). Declined custom session work starting in 1980 to pursue song writing and project recording full time.

Top songs written include "Help Me Make It To My Rockin' Chair" (B.J. Thomas), "Luckenbach, Texas," "Women Do Know How to Carry On" and "Wurlitzer Prize" (Waylon Jennings, (1978 and Nora Jones 2004)), "Love Me Like You Used Too" (Tanya Tucker) and "So Much Like My Dad" (George Strait). Received 2 nominations for "Song of the Year," nominated for 3 Grammies, received 6 Citations of Achievement and 3 Millionaire Awards from Broadcast Music Inc. for radio airplay, and was honored by Nashville Songwriters Association International for "creative genius in words and music."

Project recordings include Willie Nelson albums "Always on My Mind," "City of New Orleans," "Take It to the Limit," "WWII" (Willie and Waylon), "Pancho and Lefty" (Willie and Merle Haggard) and "Highwayman" albums 1 and 2 (Supergroup of Willie, Waylon, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson). Also played Hammond B3 on all Highwaymen tours world wide.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

A Band of Legends

From the site:

Old pal James Burton & I will be joined by Bobby Wood and Gene Chrisman as A Band Of Legends appears at The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles on Feb. 5th. We will share stories about "Recording with Elvis" and play a few songs.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Year in Memphis Music

From the site:

Moman Markers: It was a brutally hot summer day in August, as Chips Moman and the Memphis Boys were recognized with a Shelby County historical marker on the site of the old American Sound Studios. 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. Later in the fall, Moman was also inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame. B.J. Thomas’ performance of the Moman-produced Elvis hit “Suspicious Minds” was the emotional highlight of the ceremonies. Despite an often stormy relationship with the city where his greatest triumphs took place, 2014 finally saw Moman — a true giant of Memphis music — given his due at long last.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Dan Penn: "Dark End of the Street" - David Letterman

From the 12/12/14 appearance of Dan and Bobby on the David Letterman Show:
Enjoyed this from commenter 'spearmusic':
saw this last night on t.v.  wonderful to hear (& see)  it (again) just on guitar (with understated keyboard accompany by Bobby Emmons) by the guy who co-wrote the song, Dan Penn.   for guitar players & other musicians or non-musicians, one tab i saw had the chords in the verse as G to D to Em, which is incorrect. rather, it's G to F#m to Em,  seen clearly on this video; the G to F#m in the key of G  gives the song its unique feel IMHO.  i like the understated half step modulation (via passing chord D# or D#7)  to the key of  G# in this live version.  (according to Wiki... Dan & Chips Moman co-wrote this song in 1966 during a poker game break in Memphis, with the  goal of writing an ultimate cheatin' song. mission accomplished).
Spearmusic is right -- a common progression for this would have been G to D / F# (i.e. D major with F# in the bass) to Em but this song is different! Great performance Bobby and Dan!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Producer's Corner -- Dan Penn

Great 2005 interview with Dan Penn from Performing Songwriter magazine. It's available from their site (for a small fee) here:

Here's a brief excerpt:

You worked at both Fame and American
Studios. What was the difference between
the Muscle Shoals and Memphis style
of recording?

I got to watch Chips Moman at American
for several years. He cut different from Rick
at Fame. Rick, not really knowing any better,
had to put together a lot of bands, because
people kept leaving. He had to take green
musicians and teach them how to play in the
studio. Which was not what was happening
in Memphis. They had a band that already
had been playing for years—Reggie Young,
Bobby Emmons, Gene Chrisman, all them
guys. They weren’t leaving. So in Alabama,
it was more or less Rick saying, “Don’t do
it that way.” He’d go out and take the guitar
and show them what to play. Maybe a little
bit uncouth, but he got his message across.
But in Memphis it was not that way at all.
Moman basically just sat there, and it looked
like he was praying. He had this look on
his face like, “I know it’s coming through
any time.” They’d go into take 42 in a New
York minute, because that band was so good
that they’d take a piece of crap—excuse my
English—they’d take any old song and hit
such a groove that the song actually started
sounding good. So I got to watch that band
and watch him work for several years, and
I’ve got a big dose of that in me. Chips didn’t
really get on the talkback a lot. In Alabama,
it was talk, talk, talk. A lot of communi-
cation, because nobody knew what the heck
they were doing (laughs). But in Memphis,
they’d done passed that stage, and they
were into, “Try that again.” Everybody in
the band knew what to do. I guess if I’m
anything, I’m a combination of those two
studios. Plus my own stupidity that I throw
in there with it (laughs).