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).