Sunday, November 13, 2016

My 2001 Chips Moman Interview

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[NOTE: This interview with Chips was conducted by phone in 2001. He was living in West Point, Georgia at the time. I had hosted this interview on a site that I have now taken down. I reprint it here for those who are interested.]

LaGrange Native Chips Moman Talks About His Life in Music

Legendary producer Chips Moman's credits read like a "Who's Who" of American music. Consider just a few of his accomplishments:

  • Founded the renowned Stax McLemore Avenue studio where artists like Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Booker T. and the MGs created innumerable R&B classics.

  • Played lead guitar on Aretha Franklin's "I Never Loved A Man" and co - wrote (with Dan Penn) Aretha's "Do Right Woman."

  • Formed American Sound Studios and with the '827 Thomas Street Band' (American's rhythm section) produced over 120 R&B, pop, and country hit records.

  • Wrote "Luckenbach, Texas" for Waylon Jennings and subsequently produced hit recordings for (among others) Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison.

    Having achieved all this, you'd think he'd have earned the right to brag! But that's not his nature - he's more comfortable talking about (and praising) the musicians and artists he's worked with. Here's the interview:



    GaRhythm: You hitchhiked to Memphis at age 14. What made you go to Memphis?

    Moman: I had an aunt living there at the time and her son was in the painting business. I went there in hopes of getting a job painting.

    GaRhythm: But it didn't turn out that way!

    Moman: Well, I went to work painting! [laughs]

    GaRhythm: When did you start playing guitar?

    Moman: I played guitar ever since I could remember really. I was playing guitar before I ever left here [Georgia]. It seems like I always had played guitar. I had two cousins that played guitar and all my mom's sisters played piano.

    GaRhythm: You were working in the painting business and you got more and more into music and wanting to be a professional...

    Moman: I never did think in terms of being professional. There were some boys that I hung around with in the neighborhood in Memphis. We all got together and started picking a little bit together. I didn't even own a guitar. I was using another boy's guitar - one of my friends. And we played a couple of the little teenage dances at that time. None of us knew what we were doing - we just got together and kind of played a little bit. And I ended up getting up a job with [Sun recording artist] Warren Smith. He walked into Smart's Drug Store where I was sitting there playing this boy's guitar. And he asked me if I wanted a job and I said "doing what?" That's how it started. It was just something that kind of fell in my lap. It's not something I planned. I never had an idea that I'd ever play music for a living or anything. It was just something that was a hobby. It was entertainment at home, you know?

    GaRhythm: Then you went out to California?

    Moman: Yeah, with Johnny and Dorsey Burnett.

    GaRhythm: You were around 20 or 21?

    Moman: I was probably 20 at that time. Johnny and Dorsey had won the Ted Mack Amateur Hour and they were starting to record. And so I played with them and then I started getting hired by other people to play on different sessions out there. A lot of demos and things. That's where I really started getting around recording studios. I'd never been in recording studios at that point.

    GaRhythm: Somehow you got back to Memphis, because it wasn't too long after that you got into the Stax and Satellite thing. How did that come about?

    Moman: I had gotten in a car wreck on the road with Gene Vincent and Gary Stites. And I was back in Memphis trying to recuperate. Wearing a cast and stuff. Anyway, I played on a record or two for Jim Stewart [owner of Stax Records] who had a little place out in Brunswick [Tennessee]. He had one tape machine and four microphones. We got to talking, and since I had a little experience out there at Gold Star [California recording studio] I said "why don't we find a bigger place?" And a guy named Paul Ritchey and I were riding around and we found this old theater over on McLemore. So we got together here and pooled our money and rented that place and started building that studio.

    GaRhythm: And that was the Stax studio, right?

    Moman: Right.

    GaRhythm: Jim Stewart's direction in those days was more country-oriented?

    Moman: He was a country fiddle player. But he had studied music and could read music. To me that was big time if you could read music!

    GaRhythm: He worked in a bank or an insurance company?

    Moman: He worked in a bank.

    GaRhythm: He must have liked you or trusted you because you steered the company in the rhythm and blues direction...

    Moman: That's true. Living in California changed a lot of my music. California was light years ahead of Georgia and Tennessee.

    GaRhythm: At Stax, were you just doing things on your own? How did you start?

    Moman: I would spend the day just figuring out what I was going to do. Usually it was just someone that would walk in. There was a lot of curiosity in those days. People would just walk into a recording studio, you know? And that's how David Porter came in. And William Bell. These people would just come into the studio and while they were in there we'd just start recording. So that's how those records came about. When Jim would get off in the evenings, he'd come in and I'd play him what I did that day.

    GaRhythm: And this was in the McLemore theater, right?

    Moman: Yeah.

    GaRhythm: Now, the first band you had was the Triumphs. You had Booker T. in there. Was that your session band - how did that work?

    Moman: They would come in usually in the afternoon after school was out.

    GaRhythm: Booker was in high school, I guess.

    Moman: Yeah, he would come in wearing an ROTC uniform - him and David Porter.

    GaRhythm: Then you had Howard Grimes [on drums]. Was he the Hi Records session drummer?

    Moman: That's the same guy. But the guy who played on "Last Nite" by the Mar-Keys, I believe his name was Curtis Green. I remember he came in and I don't think I ever saw him again. I don't know that he ever came back to the studio after that.

    GaRhythm: You came up with the name for the Triumphs and then Booker T. credited you with naming the MGs. So you had the MGs and the Triumphs. Were you a car nut at that time?

    Moman: The first new car I'd ever gotten was a TR3 Triumph. That was in '61. So I named the band the Triumphs. When I left Stax, they kept those musicians and I guess added to them. But Booker T. was still part of it and they named his group after the other little red sports car, which was an MG. Booker T. was always one of my favorite people in the whole wide world. I always thought a lot of him and he was really a great musician.

    GaRhythm: You've been asked about the Memphis sound and the use of horns. What's your take on that?

    Moman: We were using horn [sections] over there on the Mar-Keys. Other people were using one horn. They'd use saxophone because saxophone seemed to be the instrument in early rock and roll. They weren't using horn sections. The horn players were guys who'd drop by the studio. So, if somebody who played an instrument dropped by the studio and we were working we'd use them - it didn't matter what they played.

    GaRhythm: You'd say "let's do a harmony part here" - is that how it came about?

    Moman: That's exactly how - it was just a head arrangement. And different guys would drop in. Gilbert Caples - great saxophone player. Floyd Newman played baritone saxophone. Wayne Jackson on trumpet. Bowlegs Miller played on a lot of stuff. Fred Ford. [Jazz pianist] Phineas Newborn used to drop in. We never really recorded with Phineas, but he always came by and would sit down and play piano and knock everybody out.

    GaRhythm: Would you say the Memphis sound is defined by the use of horns?

    Moman: I think the horns had a great part but not any more than the bass. The bass and the drums always laid down some kind of groove that everybody could play to. We were doing something that really and truly was new to us. It was the white and black musicians together, and it just turned out to be a little bit different. This wasn't planned. It was just something that happened. A lot of great things have happened that way.

    GaRhythm: How did the American studio band evolve?

    Moman: One at a time. Just one at a time. I played guitar on a lot of the early things. But you get down to a point where you can't engineer and make records and go out and play [guitar] too. There wasn't a lot of overdubbing because we didn't have stereo. I knew most of the good musicians in town. So when I'd get up enough money to cut a session I would hire the best musician I could hire. As it went along I could afford to hire them every time. That's how that house band was put together.

    GaRhythm: You started with Tommy Cogbill and Bobby Emmons?

    Moman: Right. Tommy and Bobby. Actually Stan Kessler was among that bunch too. Stan had been a musician around Memphis a lot and engineered a lot of records and produced a lot of records.

    GaRhythm: Did he play an instrument?

    Moman: Yeah, he was a bass player. At one time we had three bass players. Mike Leech, Tommy Cogbill, and Stan Kessler.

    GaRhythm: What about [drummer] Gene Chrisman? How did you find him?

    Moman: I had played a job or two with Gene. But Gene had also been on the road with Jerry Lee. He was just known as a good drummer so I called him for sessions. He's probably got the best collection of records, and he even kept all the charts that were made from the early days. He would always write down what he had to play.

    GaRhythm: He used number charts? He thought really structured, is that what you're saying?

    Moman: Absolutely. Gene's always been a stickler for knowing where he's at in a song. He's always been like that.

    GaRhythm: What about Bobby Emmons? He was normally the organ player?

    Moman: Yeah, but he played piano too. He played piano on a lot of records - some of the Joe Tex records and a lot of other records. He played back and forth on piano and organ.

    GaRhythm: Then Bobby Wood did the same thing - they switched around a lot?

    Moman: Yes.

    GaRhythm: And they both wrote songs?

    Moman: I don't think they started seriously writing songs until the 70s.

    GaRhythm: How about Reggie Young? You met him through the Bill Black Combo?

    Moman: Yeah, actually Reggie Young was the original guitarist on the first Bill Black record that I know of ["Smokie"]. And it was kind of a partnership deal with him and Bill. I think there was a question of whether it would be the Reggie Young Combo or the Bill Black Combo. Anyway, Reggie got drafted. So, he did his stint in the Army. Right after that he came to American.

    GaRhythm: And then Mike Leech?

    Moman: Mike was another musician who could read music and write music because he came out of college to play with American.

    GaRhythm: What about Bobby Womack?

    Moman: He became one of our group. He was there on most sessions and during that time we recorded him too. He was there playing for a lot of people.

    GaRhythm: You had said elsewhere that, from about 1967 to 1971, you were often working seven days a week at the studio -- almost sleeping there...

    Moman: Well, we were really. When we would get through with something we'd say "let's call home sick." Nobody wanted to leave!

    GaRhythm: When you recorded, were the sessions pretty quick?

    Moman: I guess we were quick for the times. But those sessions didn't happen instantly. It was nothing unusual for us to cut a song in three or four hours. But it was not unusual for us to spend 2 or 3 days on one song. We just did it until we liked it.

    GaRhythm: So you started with the rhythm section and then added a scratch vocal and then came back and did the horns. Is that how you liked to do it?

    Moman: Yeah, but sometimes we did it all at once. After we got stereo machines and the extra tracks we'd bring in people afterwards. But until then we'd do it with everybody at once.

    GaRhythm: James Carr did the first version of the song you and Dan Penn wrote called "Dark End of the Street." Can you remember how long it took to record that song?

    Moman: It probably took 4-5 hours to cut that song.

    GaRhythm: I noticed a reissue album on Joe Tex that you had written the liner notes on. What are your memories of him?

    Moman: Joe Tex was an unbelievable talent. He was a great songwriter but he couldn't play an instrument. He'd have all these songs that he knew the words to but no one knew the chords! He would just stand there and sing a cappella. Usually Bobby Emmons would sit there for an hour or so on every song and put some chord changes to what Joe had. And then we'd just make it from there. Cause Joe would have all these things in his head but he didn't exactly know how to get them out. But he was brilliant. He was one of the most brilliant recording artists I've ever known.

    GaRhythm: Tell me about the James Carr and Oscar Toney sessions.

    Moman: Well most of the time they'd come in and we'd have no idea at all in the world of what we were going to cut and we'd just start hunting songs. Sometimes I'd have a song or two but most of the time I didn't. We'd just start fiddling around till we came up with something.

    GaRhythm: I really liked the Dusty Springfield album. She was really hard on herself from what I understand.

    Moman: I would like to say on Dusty Springfield that I was there for a lot of that session but I did not produce that session. I forget whether it was Jerry Wexler, or Tom Dowd, or Arif Mardin who came down from Atlantic to produce that session. People keep giving me credit as a producer on Dusty Springfield and I was not the producer! That's one of the reasons I haven't pursued any publicity because no matter how many times I tell it right it comes out another way.

    GaRhythm: On the Aretha sessions you and Dan Penn wrote "Do Right Woman." And Dan Penn has described you as nearly breaking your neck getting to your guitar when you heard her sing on that session. Is that accurate?

    Moman: That's about right. That was an exciting moment for us.

    GaRhythm: Was that when she was singing that song ["Do Right Woman"]?

    Moman: Well, she first did "I Never Loved a Man."

    GaRhythm: You played the lead guitar on that ["I Never Loved A Man"]?

    Moman: Yeah. Anyway, there was kind of a fiasco there at the session. And Aretha and I and Dan and Spooner were the only ones left at the studio. Wexler and Rick Hall and all the other musicians were gone. So, we went in and we cut "Do Right Woman." So when they all returned back to the studio we had that track done and there were no more sessions. So Wexler took the tracks to New York and overdubbed the background voices and a piano part from that track.

    GaRhythm: And so this incident about you breaking your neck - what Dan meant was that everybody felt that way in hearing her - how good she was?

    Moman: Oh yeah. We loved her. I was crazy about Aretha Franklin when she wasn't selling any records. When she was with the Ray Bryant Trio on Columbia.

    GaRhythm: So Tommy Cogbill played guitar on the Aretha sessions?

    Moman: Tommy Cogbill played bass on the Aretha records. He started out playing rhythm guitar. At one session, I asked Wexler to put Tommy on bass because Tommy was an incredible musician. So he put Tommy on bass and when he did that the session really started coming together. And that's how he started playing bass. And since he did that that day he became THE bass player - period. He was incredible.

    GaRhythm: You guys were supposed to be the touring band behind Elvis when he did his Las Vegas tour?

    Moman: People talked about it but that never came about because we couldn't afford the cut in pay! None of us could go for what they paid.

    GaRhythm: It was interesting on those [American] sessions that Elvis wasn't used to people telling him that he could do better. He was used to having the whole thing done and he just sings over it.

    Moman: Well, he and I didn't have any problem recording. More of the problems came from the entourage around him. Whenever I got ready to talk to him about how he was singing a song or something I would turn all the monitors off and I would walk out into the room and go into the booth with him personally and just stand there and talk with him. And it was no problem. I think it would have been a problem had you been on a talkback trying to tell him things or help him because it would be an embarrassment to him with that entourage around you know. So it was handled a little bit differently than I did other sessions but not very much different.

    GaRhythm: To you guys it was another day.

    Moman: Just another day - that was what it was.

    GaRhythm: In 1973 you guys [American rhythm section] came to Atlanta. But you stayed a very short time - about six months?

    Moman: Something like that. Then I sold the studio to Ilene Burns [Bang Records]. I went on up to Nashville because that's where all my friends were going to be.

    GaRhythm: And you resisted going there a little bit?

    Moman: Yeah.

    GaRhythm: Did you all go up from Atlanta at the same time? Were you still together then?

    Moman: Yeah, we were still together. I was the last one to go but then I had a studio to sell and things to close up. But I was really quitting at that time - I had had enough. And I only went there just because that was where my friends were. We'd been friends and worked together so long that it was kind of hard to separate.

    GaRhythm: There was a clique up there [in Nashville] and you busted up the clique...

    Moman: Yeah, they weren't very friendly towards us going there. They had a clique and outsiders weren't welcomed. But it wasn't just Nashville. It was that way in LA. It was like at American [Studios] - I didn't want to take a vacation because I was afraid someone would come in and get my job!

    GaRhythm: So this was just like the competition anybody feels on the job?

    Moman: That's right. Exactly.

    GaRhythm: And your first big record was with BJ Thomas?

    Moman: Yeah. That was right after I first got to Nashville. Course I had had all the early BJ Thomas records - "Hooked on a Feeling" and "Eyes of a New York Woman."

    GaRhythm: So that was a reunion of sorts?

    Moman: Yeah, they might have even named that album "Reunion." I don't know. But I hadn't worked with him in a great while.

    GaRhythm: Tell me about your association with Willie Nelson. I understand you were a big fan of his.

    Moman: I loved Willie Nelson when he first came to Nashville. He and I and Roger Miller all signed to Tree Music about the same time. And I was really into a lot of the demos that I was playing on and hearing up there. I really loved Willie Nelson from the first time I ever heard him.

    GaRhythm: So that's how you wound up working with Waylon and Willie both? You kind of went way back?

    Moman: Yeah I did but that's not what got me to working with them. Actually, I didn't work with Willie until "Luckenbach" with Waylon. That's what brought him in on the session because he and Waylon had done some duets. And so that's the first time I really worked with Willie. Other than I was always cutting a song or two of his here and there.

    GaRhythm: Then you left Nashville for Memphis?

    Moman: I went to Memphis in 1985. I got involved with the city and a bunch of political people. It didn't work and I left there in turmoil. And I went back to Nashville and didn't do anything except just piddle around. Then I decided to come back to Georgia, which was originally my home. And I did.

    GaRhythm: So for about five years you didn't listen to music? Were you just trying to get reacquainted with Georgia?

    Moman: That and just trying to get a better feeling about myself and the music and everything. It was a difficult time really.

    GaRhythm: Now you've built a studio and you've started ChipsMoman.com Records. And you've hooked up with [producer / writer] Buddy Buie and J.R. Cobb.

    Moman: Well, they were old friends of mine. My secretary [at American] was Sandy Posey. And Buddy Buie got his first hit - "I Take It Back" - that I recorded by Sandy Posey. So, Buddy Buie and I had been friends for a number of years - since the 60s. So we just renewed our friendship when I came back. We hang out, play golf and poker together. We sit up all night and mess up the house!

    GaRhythm: Now you're in the Internet era and you're launching an Internet record label. As far as artists, you've got Billy Lee Riley, Billy Joe Royal, and Carl Perkins. Is that who you're starting out with?

    Moman: Yeah, these were the first tapes I came to in a vault full of tapes. I cut all new stuff on Billy Joe. I only used a couple of old sides. And I'm really proud of the album. My son and I produced that together and my daughter sings background.

    GaRhythm: It's a lot more relaxing to do it that way...

    Moman: Yeah, it's a family affair.

    GaRhythm: You have said that there's really nothing new in music. What needs to happen in the music industry?

    Moman: I think labels right now are starting to have a problem. I think they've got some serious problems. There are some good records out but also a lot of bad records. It's just different. I think we're probably on the verge of something breaking through that's new or some kind of exciting new artist. You can kind of tell when music gets stale. In country music a lot of the sales have dropped off. I think it's time that something new happens. I don't know if I'll come up with it. But I do know that I don't want to continue being involved in records the way that I have been and with the companies running things the way they have.

    What I'm going to do is stick with this Internet thing and see if I break through to have a hit record on the Internet. I'm going to be devoted to trying to make it happen. I think it's a great tool. I don't think we have to put up with the record companies dominating everything. Using the artist and writers and producers. Giving our money away while they don't spend any of theirs. So I'm going to stick with this and see if it can possibly happen cause that's what's interesting to me. I'm just going to hang in there and see if I can develop a company that can work on the Internet.

    GaRhythm: That's cool! Can I tell people what else is in the vaults? Is there anything that you might want to hint about?

    Moman: Well, there's no way I could name you what's in the vaults. I'm just going by years and what kind of heads are on the machines. I have a lot of 3, 4, 8, 16, 24, and 32-track tapes. Right now I'm working with a lot of 24-track stuff. And I'll be going back to the 16 and on back to the 8. And I might get out some of the mono stuff since that's easy. But that's kind of the way I'm doing it because it'd be hard to do it any other way.

    * * *


  • Monday, September 19, 2016

    SEARCHING FOR SOUL

    http://en.zicos.com/proaudio/i30579478-SEARCHING-FOR-SOUL.html

    From the site:

    “This is Elvis Presley’s original band called the Memphis Boys. We cut four tracks with the Memphis Boys and they were amazing. They’re all in their seventies or eighties and play live. We have a little bit of instruction beforehand — you know, here’s what we’re doing, this is what we’re looking for — and that’s it. These guys are so good you had to make sure you get the take before they know the song so well they kinda get bored with it. They still have to be looking a little bit themselves.”

    Kevin recalled semi-sarcastically requesting “an iconic guitar riff at the start of this bit” from Memphis Boys’ guitarist Reggie Young, who promptly answered with a guitar riff that delivered the goods.

    “This is an old classic songwriter. Michael Rhodes, my favourite bass player who played bass on the album, came and said to me, “You know, Dan Penn is my neighbour.” I’m like, “I don’t know Dan Penn.” Anyway Dan came into the studio that day, he’s a big guy with overalls, truck hat and a toothpick in his mouth. We cut Dark End Of The Street, and he says, ‘Hey, I wrote that song.’ Then I said, “Ok guys, let’s cut another song, let’s do Rainbow Road.” Dan’s sitting in the corner and he says, ‘I wrote that song too.’ We were all like, what? Anyway we have a bite to eat, then there was a song I had found called Mercy Mercy. I played it to them and Dan says, ‘I wrote that song too.’ My hairs all stood on end. So we cut three Dan Penn songs and he was there for it all.”

    “That’s Reggie Young’s Stratocaster, and he got B. B. King to sign it. That’s his main Strat so it’s kind of notorious and famous for that signature. His guitar sounds unbelievably amazing.”

    “That’s Gene Chrisman, Elvis’s original drummer. He’s become like a modern drummer now so he wants to cut everything with a click track, while of course they didn’t back then. So we cut Suspicious Minds, because who doesn’t want to cut Suspicious Minds with the band that originally played the song.
    “It comes to the middle section where it breaks down, and Gene’s worked out if he keeps the tempo the same but plays it halftime it kinda has that feel — but it didn’t feel quite right. Then Bobby yells out, ‘We never did that half time, we just followed Elvis down.’ You’re sitting there listening to these guys talking like Elvis was the other artist. It was fantastic.”

    Bass Players to Know: Tommy Cogbill

     

    http://www.notreble.com/buzz/2016/09/16/bass-players-to-know-tommy-cogbill/

    From the site:

    Who is Tommy Cogbill?

    A native of Johnson Grove, Tennessee, Cogbill took to the guitar at a young age and eventually made his way toward the electric bass. In the mid 1960’s, he began picking up sessions in Memphis with a group including Gene Chrisman on drums, Chips Moman and Reggie Young on guitar, and Bobby Emmons on keys. Often hired by Jerry Wexler for artists on Atlantic records, the group traveled between the hubs of soul music — Muscle Shoals, Memphis, Nashville, and New York. While he frequently recorded at American Sound Studios (owned by Chips Moman), he’s one of the few bass players from that era who regularly bounced around to different cities and studios. By the late 1960’s, he had recorded with artists including Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, and Elvis Presley, among others.

    Cogbill soon began stretching his muscles as a producer, working with Neil Diamond (producing the song “Sweet Caroline”), The Box Tops, and Arthur Alexander. In addition to producing, he continued his career as a bass player throughout the 1970s and recorded with country artists and singer songwriters including Kris Kristofferson, J.J. Cale, Bob Seger, Jimmy Buffett, and Townes Van Zandt. Cogbill passed away in 1982 at the age of 50 due to a stroke.

    Friday, June 24, 2016

    Wayne Jackson, Memphis Horn trumpeter, dies aged 74












    http://www.uncut.co.uk/news/wayne-jackson-dies-aged-74-77571#uWCRb6bhKgJI7jgj.99

    From the site:
    In 1969, Jackson and fellow Mar-Kay Andrew Love formed the Memphis Horns and worked at American Sound Studio in Memphis and FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

    At Chips Moman‘s American Sound Studio, the Memphis Horns appeared on Presley’s “In the Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds”, Dusty Springfield’s Dusty In Memphis album and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”.

    Read more at http://www.uncut.co.uk/news/wayne-jackson-dies-aged-74-77571#uWCRb6bhKgJI7jgj.99

    Friday, June 17, 2016

    Moman had ties to Muscle Shoals


    From the site:
    Chips Moman's time in Muscle Shoals was brief, but his influence was felt immediately, and inspired some of the musicians working at FAME Recording Studios to follow his lead.
    www.timesdaily.com/news/local/moman-had-ties-to-muscle-shoals/article_78638915-2072-5d9d-a64c-ebd9f65a30ec.html

    Wednesday, June 15, 2016

    Chips Moman (1937-2016)



    I was greatly saddened to hear that Chips Moman had passed away Monday at a hospice facility in LaGrange, Georgia. Over the years that I've maintained this blog my appreciation of Chips has grown as I came to know so many aspects of his musical genius. We all know of his talents as a songwriter, guitarist, and producer. But maybe his greatest contribution was finding and developing a lasting relationship with the musicians celebrated here who were responsible for making so many hundreds of great records.

     I only hope this blog has served in some way to reflect my gratitude and to serve as a record of this man's legacy.

    Here are links to other stories in the media:

    Wednesday, May 25, 2016

    A new box set captures the electrifying live show of Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson

     

    http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/the-highwaymen-the-fights-and-friendship-of-countrys-great-supergroup-20160520

    From the site:

    The idea for the Highwaymen came about in 1984 when Cash wrangled Nelson, Kristofferson and Jennings to film Cash's Christmas special in Montreux, Switzerland. Inspired by the camaraderie in the hotel, where they'd jam after long days on the set, the artists returned to the States and entered the studio with producer Chips Moman, eventually taking Webb's "Highwayman" as both their name and the title of the album. "It was a creative formula that worked," says John Carter Cash, who recalls Glen Campbell, Marty Stuart and Johnny Rodriguez present during those early sessions. Rodriguez, in fact, would lend his voice to the LP's "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)," a Woody Guthrie song.

    Tuesday, May 24, 2016

    Forgotten Heroes -- Reggie Young -- Interview from June 2016 Issue of Premier Guitar





    http://www.premierguitar.com/articles/24090-forgotten-heroes-reggie-young

    Check out this interview with Reggie from the June 2016 online issue of Premier Guitar magazine. Great interview!

    Thursday, April 07, 2016

    The Legendary Merle Haggard


















    Very saddened to hear of the passing of Merle Haggard. This story from The Tennessean is a tribute to Merle's musicianship. The article is about Merle's son Ben who played guitar in Merle's road band.

    Here's an excerpt:
    But Merle Haggard didn't offer that advice to young Ben. Instead, he praised his still-developing skills but shot looks at him when Ben delivered a hot lick that impressed with flash rather than with melody.
    "He says you should learn a song's melody all the way through," Ben says. "He says, 'Anything you can learn about a song, learn it.' He hates hearing somebody playing a thousand notes: He'd rather somebody play the melody, so the people can understand it."
    Ben not only had to play melodies, he also had to replicate the highly advanced, signature guitar licks that greats Grady Martin, Roy Nichols and Reggie Young had played on classic Merle Haggard recordings.
    And here's part of an interview with Merle from Elmore Magazine. Merle talks about the musicians who influenced him:

    EM: What musician influenced you most?

    MH: Bob Wills. He influenced Grady Martin who influenced me on guitar, and then when I came back to fiddling he influenced me again. It’s just his touch on the fiddle, lifted by Grady and put on the guitar. Grady was my favorite guitar player so it kind of goes back to Wills. The musicians who have worked with me are certainly influential in my life, and it’s an array of great players like Grady Martin, Reggie Young, Chet Atkins, James Burton and the list goes on of great players. I try to pick up a little from everyone.

    Friday, April 01, 2016

    Sneak Peek - American Masters to Present THE HIGHWAYMEN: FRIENDS TILL THE END

     

    From the site:
    Frequently referred to as "the Mount Rushmore of country music," The Highwaymen Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson were American country music's first bona fide supergroup, an epic quartet comprised of the OUTLAW COUNTRY genre's pioneering stars. An essential musical and cultural influence, the Grammy-winning group was active from 1985 1995: recording three albums, touring the world and acting in the movie Stagecoach (1986). AMERICAN MASTERS The Highwaymen: Friends Till the End,premiering nationwide Friday, May 27 at 9:00 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings) as part of the 30 th anniversary season of THIRTEEN's American Masters series, explores how these men came together and the fruits of their historic collaboration.
    Produced and directed by four-time Emmy Award-winner Jim Brown (American Masters Pete Seeger: The Power of Song; Billy Joel: A Matter of Trust The Bridge to Russia, The Weavers: Wasn't That A Time!), the documentary features vintage performances, rare, behind-the-scenes footage of life on the road and in the studio with producer Don Was, and new interviews with Nelson; Kristofferson; family members Jessi Colter (country singer and Jenning's wife), Annie Nelson, Lisa Kristofferson, and John Carter Cash; band members Reggie Young (guitarist) of The Memphis Boys, Mickey Raphael (harmonica player) and Robby Turner (pedal steel guitarist); and managers Mark Rothbaum and Lou Robin. Artists influenced by The Highwaymen, including John Mellencamp, Toby Keith, Marty Stuart, and Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, are also interviewed. Jennings and Cash add their perspective via archival interviews.

    Sunday, March 13, 2016

    Reggie Young Chicken Pickin’

    http://www.samsmileymusic.com/reggie-young-chicken-pickin/

    From the site:

    I have only written a little bit about Reggie Young, but he is one of the absolute masters of chicken pickin’.  He’s worked with most of the greats in country music and some of his absolute best work is with Merle Haggard, including on this recording of “Where’s all the Freedom.”  This tune is from the album Chicago Wind, which Merle recorded away from his typical live band featuring Redd Volkaert, not to mention Roy Nichols.  Talk about a serious guitar tradition…!

    Terry Manning On photographing MLK, Recording with Chris Bell, and Being Stabbed by Stevie Nicks

    http://www.memphisflyer.com/MusicBlog/archives/2016/03/11/terry-manning-on-photographing-mlk-recording-with-chris-bell-and-being-stabbed-by-stevie-nicks

    From the site:

    Though his own early recordings are highly regarded by critics and collectors, Terry Manning's best known for the records he's made as a music engineer and producer working with artists like the Staples Singers, ZZ Top, Isaac Hayes, and Led Zeppelin. Before cofounding the storied Compass Point recording studio in the Bahamas, Manning spent time in Memphis, working with both Stax and Ardent, and he can spin terrific yarns about things like the time he walked into Chips Moman's American Studios on Danny Thomas to discover grown men chasing a rat around the room swinging electric guitars like clubs. Manning's also a dedicated photographer and has been since the 1960s. "Scientific Evidence of Life on Earth During Two Millennia," an exhibit of urban landscapes mixed with images from his long and storied career opens at Stax this week. He’s also playing concerts at Stax, the Hard Rock Cafe on Beale, and an intimate showcase in "Elvis' Living Room" on Audubon, in conjunction with Rhodes College's Mike Curb Institute for Music.

    American Recording Studios ... The other Historic Memphis Studio

    amer-sound-studio-marker-2014[1]

    http://historic-memphis.com/biographies/american-studios/american-studios.html

    From the site:

    American Studios was started in 1965 by Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman and Don Crews.   Moman had left Stax in 1964 after a falling out (some say over lack of recognition) and opened the new studio where he assembled a group of very talented studio musicians.  The studio quickly became well known and successful.  The success convinced Elvis Presley to record in Memphis for the first time since 1955.   But by 1972 Moman had closed American and sold the building.  And like the original Stax Studio, the American building was demolished in 1990.  Today, in its place is a parking lot.  There's No plaque or marker to note what was there and still no official recognition for American or Chips Moman.

    Friday, August 28, 2015

    Guitar legend Burton on Elvis Presley at 80

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    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:

    http://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2015/08/25/guitar-legend-burton-elvis-presley/32369135/

    UPDATE >> Here's another good article!

    http://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2015/08/24/band-legends-performing-delta-state/32259391/

    Friday, August 07, 2015

    'The Letter' writer Wayne Carson dies

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    http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2015/07/20/wayne-carson-always--my-mind--letter-dies/30415693/

    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. https://t.co/GvOhwnrodm
        — 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

    ElvisWayne[1]

    http://www.elvisinfonet.com/interview_waynejackson.html

    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

    image

    http://www.elvis-collectors.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=89122

    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

    nashville-songwriters-hall-of-fame-press-conf[1]

    http://www.musicrow.com/2015/07/nashville-songwriters-hall-of-fame-announces-2015-inductees/

    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

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    http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/music/70245689/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:

    http://www.mediafire.com/view/w11ml3kkxidha8a/When_Atlantic_Records_expressed_a_desire_to_sign_her_Dusty_was_thrilled.pdf

     

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    Monday, June 01, 2015

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

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/cdreviews/11621994/Bobby-Womack-The-Preacher-boxed-set-review-superb.html

    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).

    http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/knt63y/willie-nelson

     

    image

    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:

    http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/legendary-musician-bobby-emmons-dead-at-72-20150224

    Link to Memphis Commercial Appeal story:

    http://www.commercialappeal.com/go-memphis/music/news/american-studio-keyboardist-bobby-emmons-dies_50354474

    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

    https://www.facebook.com/abandoflegends

    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

    http://www.commercialappeal.com/go-memphis/music/news/the-year-in-memphis-music-best-performances-and-moments-of-2014_13438283

    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:

    http://performingsongwriter.com/articles-interviews/producers-engineers/dan-penn/

    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).