Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Stan Kesler Wikipedia Page (translated from German)

Link to Google translation of Stan Kesler Wikipedia page:

Bill Hullett: Music City Session Man

Bill Hullett has some nice things to say about Reggie:

"A few years later in the early seventies, before moving to town, I became a big Reggie Young fan. I would buy any record regardless of who the artists were, as long as Reggie played guitar on it. When I finally moved to town and got to know him as a friend it was the absolute best! My hero became my friend."

Dan and Bobby E. at U. of Alabama

Another good interview with Dan! See link above and excerpt from story below:

The most famous songwriter you've never heard of grew up in tiny Vernon, modern population just more than 2,000, seat of Lamar County. Despite the unlikelihood of small-town Alabama as a springboard to fame, Dan Penn wrote a hit record while still a junior in high school, when Conway Twitty recorded “Is a Bluebird Blue?,” a phrase Penn lifted from the big man on campus.


-What: Singer-songwriters of classic R&B, soul, country and pop hits in concert
-When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
-Where: Morgan Auditorium, University of Alabama campus
-Cost: $15
-More: 205-348-3844.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Soul music's Do Right Man |

Dan Penn and Bobby Emmons recently appeared at the Dakota Jazz club in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Here's a good interview with Dan from the Star Tribune:

Songwriter Dan Penn, an Alabama farm boy who became one of the most prolific talents in R&B, pays a rare visit Sunday.

Even if you don't recognize Dan Penn's name, chances are you're familiar with his work.

As a songwriter, Penn helped create dozens of indelible classics that define the golden age of Southern soul, including Aretha Franklin's "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man," the Box Tops' "Cry Like a Baby," James Carr's "Dark End of the Street," James and Bobby Purify's "I'm Your Puppet" and Janis Joplin's "A Woman Left Lonely."

He was equally prolific as a producer, perhaps peaking with a cultural touchstone: "The Letter," by the Alex Chilton-led Box Tops. Even a brief list of Penn's other associates reads like a who's who of '60s R&B: Wilson Pickett, Percy Sledge, Otis Redding, Arthur Alexander, Solomon Burke. Another is Bobby Emmons, an ace writer himself ("Luckenbach, Texas") and member of the famed Memphis Boys, who played with everyone from Elvis and Joe Tex to Dusty Springfield.

Emmons will be there on keyboards Sunday when Penn stops by the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis for a rare appearance that should include a slew of his classics as well as the fascinating tales that go with them.

"We play every once in a while, but not so much," said Penn, who turns 70 this fall, in his slow, quiet, Alabama drawl. He was speaking by phone from his Nashville home, complete with a studio he still uses for artists who seek him out. Memphis guitar great Steve Cropper just finished an album there, and Penn himself is completing the third in what he calls his Demo Series, following up 2008's "Junkyard Junky."

He primarily considers himself a songwriter, but is also a talented guitarist and expressive, soulful singer. The demos he recorded to pitch his classic songs are rumored to be amazing. Penn downplays those and often soft-pedals his many accomplishments. He's generally considered to have had a profound influence on Chilton, for example, but he insists that's not true.

"I didn't tell Alex how to sing," he said, although he admits that when "The Letter" came out, "Some of my friends back home, they thought it was me singin'. I did not influence him in any way except I would pitch him songs that I wrote."

Penn takes responsibility for one key change when they were cutting the record: "I told him to sing 'air-O-plane' instead of 'airplane.' It just rolled better."

The school of radio

So how did a white kid growing up in rural Alabama in the 1950s become an icon of Southern soul?

"I was a farm boy," he said, "but at night I'd listen to R&B. I listened to my little green radio. I had my own little room. After everybody'd go to sleep, I'd listen to WLAC in Nashville. That was my education."

And what an education it was. Ray Charles, Bobby Blue Bland, Jimmy Reed, Little Milton and James Brown crackled over the airwaves, seeped into teenaged Dan Pennington's brain, and he was hooked. As for country, "It wasn't on my radar at that point." Still, a couple of country stalwarts had a role in getting Penn started.

"Daddy had a one-mule farm," he said, near Vernon, some 60 miles southwest of Muscle Shoals, close to the state line. When his father took the truck into town, young Penn would be left to plow the fields. While he plodded behind the mule, Penn would sing songs like Hank Williams' "Jambalaya," and when he'd forget the words he'd make up his own.

His first hit song was recorded by Conway Twitty. Penn said he got the idea from an escapade with his friends. They persuaded some older kids to take them along to the bars in Mississippi. One of the older crowd answered every question with "Is a bluebird blue?" Penn, despite being a little queasy from his first beer, figured, "Maybe there's a song there."

At the urging of bandmate Billy Sherrill, he took "Is a Bluebird Blue" up to Muscle Shoals, and it made its way to Twitty, who climbed the charts with it in 1960.

Penn was 16.

Magic time

That began a long relationship with Rick Hall's Fame studio in Muscle Shoals and later Chips Moman's American Studios in Memphis as an in-house writer and producer. The hits came fast and furious, and so did artists from all over, hoping a little of the magic would rub off on them. There seemed to be an exhilarating sense that anything could happen.

When Atlantic Records honcho Jerry Wexler took Aretha's backup group, the Sweet Inspirations, to American for their own session with New York producer Tom Dowd, Penn said he stopped in and discovered "it wasn't happening." So he and frequent collaborator Spooner Oldham slipped into another room, wrote "Sweet Inspiration," then cut it with the group while Dowd and his crew took a lunch break. When they returned, Penn announced, "We got your hit."

"You know, back in the day I was a lot more aggressive," he deadpanned. "Hungry was the word."

These days Penn favors bib overalls and tinkering with old cars. He's dismissive of the current crop of neo-soul artists for essentially covering the same ground he did 40 years ago.

"I'm not interested," he said, allowing that he mainly listens to Southern gospel now.

And he keeps cranking out a steady stream of new songs. "As long as I'm writing," he said, "I'm OK."

Soul music's Do Right Man |

The Daily Home - Backup singer reminisces about Elvis

Nice story about session vocalist Mary Holladay Pederson -- from the Talladega Daily Home. Here's the article:

CROPWELL — Mary Holladay Pederson grew up in Pell City and is now a resident of Cropwell, but she has made some fantastic memories in between.

Pederson sang backup for many of the biggest musical acts of the ‘60s and ‘70s, including Sonny and Cher, Ray Charles, Ben E. King, Percy Sledge, Clarence Carter, Ronnie Milsap and Neil Diamond, but none were bigger than Elvis Presley.

Pederson has always enjoyed singing. She began while in seventh-grade in an all-girls quartet and continued throughout high school. She sang for many local functions in Pell City, including store openings and school events. Once after appearing on the Country Boy Eddie Show, Holladay was asked by a nearby radio station to come over and sing for them, too.

After graduation from high school, Pederson went to Auburn University where she began singing with a friend, Susan Coleman Pilkington. She and Pilkington met Jeanie Green, and the three would later become backup singers for Elvis. Green liked their sound and in 1967 invited them to come to Muscle Shoals to begin recording music.

Pederson and Pilkington drove to Muscle Shoals from Auburn many Sunday mornings. They worked at the studio through the night and had to drive back by 7 a.m. on Monday for class. Pederson said they didn’t know it at the time, but they “were being trained to be session singers.”

They soon joined the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and were paid on the union scale, which was $22.50 per song or hour.

After graduating from Auburn, Pederson moved to Tennessee to work at the American Sound Studio in Memphis. Her sister Ginger, also an aspiring singer, moved in with Pederson and began attending Memphis State University. The sisters began singing backup for musical acts such as Ronnie Milsap and Billy Swan.

The sisters’ big break came when Chip Moman, owner of the American Sound Studio, struck a deal with Felton Jarvis, Elvis’ producer. They agreed on a deal that would have Elvis record at the Memphis studio. Moman liked the Holladays’ work, so they were brought in to sing backup for the Memphis sessions.

Pederson and her sister joined Jeanie Green and Donna Thatcher to become the singers that would back up Elvis on hits such as “In the Ghetto,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Rubber Neckin’,” “Cold Kentucky Rain,” and others. During those sessions, the girls recorded nine songs with Elvis. Pederson was paid $240.35 for her work.

Pederson talks about the first time she met Elvis. She said she was in the studio recording when the lights went out. When the lights were turned off, it meant recording had stopped, so she quit singing and wondered what was going on.

“In walks a huge mob of guys,” Pederson said. “Then Elvis walked through the middle of them. Elvis walked straight over to us and shook our hands.”

As Elvis approached her, Pederson said she began to think of what she was going to say to him.

“What do you say to someone like that?” she asked. “I didn’t want to sound stupid. All I could think to say was, ‘Hello, how are you?’”

Pederson said during later sessions Elvis would sit and talk with them. Many times he would talk to them about karate, saying he learned the techniques to protect himself.

“He was really, really nice to us,” Pederson said. “We were glad to get to work with him because he’d pull up a chair and chat with us like anyone would. After doing about four sessions with him, you kind of felt like he was a friend.”

Pederson said Elvis was sometimes nervous about performing on stage.

“He sometimes heard someone was going to try to get him; hence the big entourage,” she said.

Pederson and her sister did several more sessions with Elvis in Memphis. She said he only recorded at night, and the recording sessions lasted from 8 p.m. until daylight. These sessions usually lasted for about a week at a time.

On the fourth or fifth day of one of the sessions, Elvis came to talk to the girls like he often would. He was wearing an old poncho. Backup singer Jeanie Green approached him and said, “I sure do like that poncho.” Elvis stood up, took off the poncho and gave it to Green. Pederson said she and the other girls were really jealous because “we didn’t think of it first.”

Pederson married her husband, Steve, on July 25, 1970. He was a pilot in the Air Force and was sent to F4 training. The couple moved to Germany for a brief time, and she missed out on three years of recording with Elvis. However, she did sing backup for Ray Stevens at the inauguration of President Richard Nixon in 1973.

Pederson and her sister were asked to do a show with Elvis in Atlantic City in 1974, but Pederson declined because she was three months pregnant. “What a thing to do!” she said.

Pederson crossed paths with Elvis again in 1975 in the Memphis recording studio.

“He looked puffy and fat. He looked unhappy and he wasn’t friendly,” she said.

She knew something was wrong, but didn’t know what it was that had changed Elvis so dramatically.

In 1977, Pederson’s husband was sent to Pilot Safety School in California. She went to Nashville while her husband was away, and she was right back in the studio. She was in the studio recording tracks on Aug. 16, 1977, when the lights went out. She quit singing, and the engineer came over the speaker and said, “We just heard Elvis died.”

Everyone in the studio was shocked. They couldn’t believe it. They all thought he was too young to die.

Moments later the phone rang at the studio. The voice on the other end told them, “Yeah, it’s on the news. Elvis is dead.”

“I felt so sorry,” Pederson said. “You don’t want to see a singer like that decline like he did. We felt helpless.”

Pederson still embraces her time with Elvis.

“The older I get, the more I see it as a great privilege,” she said.

Pederson will be a featured guest on the “Elvis Cruise” Jan. 12-16, 2012. She and her sister have also been invited by former Elvis pianist Bobby Woods to join him on an upcoming European tour where she anticipates playing in 10 countries in two-and-a-half weeks.

While Pederson and her sister had some successful recording sessions before Elvis, Pederson said it didn’t seem like they were to the point in their career where they should have been asked to work with Elvis.

“But Elvis liked us,” she said.

Contact Kenny Farmer at

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Couple of links about the Thomas & Chelsea neighborhood -- then and now

I thought this was interesting -- here's a link about a historical church (located roughly half a block from the 827 studio) that dates back to the Civil War -- the photographer took several other pictures along 7th Avenue where the church is located:

Here's a link showing before and after pics of the 827 studio -- the beauty shop didn't appear to last too long -- I took a pic of the location in 2007 and the building was a closed-down child care center. And my recent picture last month indicates that the building is once again deserted (rumored to become a Family Dollar Store):