Friday, August 31, 2012

Elvis Presley's 'Suspicious Minds'

From Marc Myers' blog:

“One of the many joys about writing for the Wall Street Journal is being given the opportunity to report in-depth on rock, pop and soul songs I love. One such song is Elvis Presley's Suspicious Minds. In today's edition of "Friday Journal" (or online here), I interview Mark James, the song's writer, and Chips Moman, the legendary producer who founded American Sound Studio, about the song's origins and evolution."


Caught in a Trap: Elvis's Last No. 1 Hit

“In the late 1960s, as the landscape of rock and soul shifted underneath him, Elvis Presley's career began to sputter. Then, some headway: A TV special in December 1968 rekindled interest, and the following month Presley headed into the studio to record what would become "From Elvis in Memphis"—a rock-soul album that is still considered one of his finest. "In the Ghetto" from those sessions went to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. And 43 years ago this week, a Memphis recording that didn't make the album was released as a single. "Suspicious Minds" went to No. 1 in November 1969. It led to Presley's "comeback," albeit one that would later play out largely in Las Vegas.”


Wednesday, August 29, 2012


“Legendary producer, songwriter, guitarist, and studio owner Chips Moman took part in a special interview recently (8/18) at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Moman, who helped establish Memphis’ Stax Records and later opened the city’s American Sound Studio, played a pivotal role in creating a great number of pop, soul, and country classics. Moman produced Elvis Presley’s 1969 comeback album From Elvis in Memphis as well as sessions for Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, the Highwaymen and others. He also co-wrote “Dark End of the Street,” “Do Right Woman,” “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” and other hit songs.”


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Good writeup on Chips' recent CMHOF interview from Brad Hardisty at the Nashville Bridge:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Poets & Prophets–Dan Penn

One more CMHOF interview – Dan Penn interviewed in October 2010. Really great interview!


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wayne Carson CMHOF Interview December 2011

Here’s an interview with songwriter Wayne Carson -- he talks about Chips and the gang at about 55 minutes in:

A nice quote about the American days:

Carson traveled with Siman to Memphis and met Moman at American Sound, where a new recording console was being installed. "A room like that made you want to play music," said Carson, who recited several of the musicians working as the house band at American, including Gene Chrisman, Tommy Cogbill, Bobby Emmons, Mike Leech, Bobby Wood, and Reggie Young. "Those guys will make your day. It was amazing music. I learned nearly everything I know there."

Here's Wayne's discography from his web site:

Chips Moman CMHOF Interview

If you missed Chips’ interview, you can download the audio here – it’s a huge file (almost 72M). I am assuming the entire interview will be accessible on the CMHOF website very shortly. Will link to that when it becomes available. Enjoy!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Memphis Boys Greet Fans

The Memphis Boys greet Elvis fans at the Elvis Week Main Stage on August 14, 2012. Check out daily news and event coverage including video recaps, photo galleries, blogs and more at


Packed House for Elvis Week - Day 5

The day’s headline attraction came a few hours later as a near-capacity crowd filed into the Main Stage pavilion. The night belonged to the Memphis Boys, the heavyweight house band of American Sound Studio in Memphis. These are the guys who provided the music for more than 100 hit songs from 1967 until the studio closed in ’72. The Memphis Boys were musical chameleons and worked magic for a variety of artists from Neil Diamond and Aretha Franklin to Wilson Pickett and Dusty Springfield. Their highest profile collaboration was, of course, with the King himself. The group recorded a total of 30 tracks with Elvis, some being his more popular cuts.



Chips Moman: The Cream Interview

This is fabulous – the Nashville Cream interviews Chips Moman:

“Recovering from a successful hip-replacement operation, the laconic Moman spoke to the Cream from his West Georgia home turf. But if you want to hear Moman tell Elvis stories, you’ll have to make the trip to the Hall of Fame — whether it was the ghost of Elvis playing a trick on Chips, or just the phone line, the portion of the Cream’s interview that deals with Presley was completely inaudible.”


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pics of Memphis Boys at Elvis Week Celebration

Musicians Remember Elvis' Talent, Character

“Keyboardist Bobby Wood bonded with Elvis because they were both from Mississippi, were from spiritual families and were lovers of gospel music. Presley was born in Tupelo and Wood grew up in nearby New Albany.

Wood recalls one day when they were sitting in the control room and he complimented Elvis on a diamond and ruby ring he was wearing.

“He just pulled it off and handed it to me. I looked and his name was on the inside of it,” Wood said. “I just handed it back to him and he said, ‘No, that’s yours.’“

Wood refused to take the ring: “I said, ‘I’m just here for you, man, I just want to be your friend. You don’t need to give me anything.’“

Stories about Presley’s generosity abound in his beloved Memphis.”

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hit-making house band The Memphis Boys gets Elvis Week recognition

From the site:

Bobby Wood remembers well the day he became a member of Chips Moman's American Sound Studios house band of the late '60s and early '70s, The Memphis Boys. 
The New Albany, Miss., native recounts in his upcoming memoir, "Walking Among the Giants: From Elvis to Garth: The Bobby Wood Story," his days as a struggling solo artist with one minor hit (1964's "If I'm A Fool For Loving You"), and how Moman, after years of trying, lured him to play piano with his roster of ace session players. Those players included guitarist/bassist/producer Tommy Cogbill, guitarist Reggie Young, keyboardist Bobby Emmons, drummer Gene Chrisman, and bassist/string arranger Mike Leech.

The group will be recognized next week as part of Elvis Week 35th anniversary events. Woods will sign copies of his book, The Memphis Boys will be honored with a brass note on Beale Street, and surviving members of the band will reunite for a concert at Graceland.

Wood's first assignment as a member of The Memphis Boys, also known at times as the American Group or the 827 Thomas Street Band (after the studio's address in North Memphis), was to help them finish a record by a British pop singer looking to reinvent herself.

"I ended up finishing up the Dusty Springfield album," Wood says of playing on Dusty In Memphis, a perennial entry on almost every magazine's list of the greatest records of all time. "It was a good way to start."

With the addition of Wood, the lineup was complete on one of the most successful bands of all time. Between 1968 and the closing of the studio in 1972, the band played on an unmatched 122 Billboard hits, including classic cuts by Springfield ("Son Of A Preacher Man"), B.J. Thomas ("Hooked On A Feeling"), The Box Tops ("The Letter"), Neil Diamond ("Sweet Caroline") and Elvis Presley ("Suspicious Minds").

The streak continued long after American, too. In 1972, the band moved to Nashville — that's where The Memphis Boys name first stuck — and recorded even more hit records by Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. They remain in demand today, both as individual players and as a unit, having recently been called into the studio by Garth Brooks to record some songs with his daughter.

"We didn't realize until we got to Nashville what had happened when some people started digging out the accomplishments and the charts and the hit records that we had," Wood says.

"We just went to work everyday. People ask us why didn't we have any more pictures, and I said we weren't thinking about bringing a camera. We were lucky to come to work."

For all their success, The Memphis Boys remain relatively unknown. General listeners might be surprised to learn that their favorite pop, rock, country or soul records were all recorded by the same group. While other backing groups like New Orleans' The Meters, Motown's Funk Brothers, and Memphis' Booker T. & the MGs and Hi Rhythm Section have long gotten their due, The Memphis Boys' legacy has lived largely in the shadows until lately.

In 2007, however, The Memphis Boys were part of the inaugural class of the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville. And in 2010, the University Press of Mississippi published Roben Jones' history of the band and the studio, "Memphis Boys: The Story of American Studios." A documentary on the band also is in the works.

Now, in addition to Wood's book, to be published in October by Dunham Books, the group is being honored by Graceland for their role in making Elvis' last No. 1 hit, "Suspicious Minds." At 5 p.m. Monday, the Memphis Music Foundation will present the group with their own brass note on the Beale Street Walk of Fame.

Then on Tuesday, the surviving members of the group, including Wood, Emmons, Chrisman and Young, will reunite for a concert at the Elvis Week Main Stage at Graceland. They will be playing hits from throughout their entire career, joined by vocalists Andy Childs, Terry Mike Jeffrey, The Holladay Sisters, Drea Rhenee and Scat Springs.

"The Memphis Boys haven't gotten their due, primarily because they didn't have a PR person," says Memphis music industry leader Marty Lacker, onetime studio manager of American Sound Studios who has made it his mission in recent years to get the band the credit he believes they deserve.

The Memphis Boys Events

Bobby Wood will sign copies of his book, “Walking Among the Giants: From Elvis to Garth: The Bobby Wood Story,” from 1-3 p.m. Monday at Graceland Plaza. The event is free.

A Brass Note Reception for the band, also free, will be held at 5 p.m. Monday at Alfred’s, 197 Beale St.

And at 7 p.m. Tuesday, a Memphis Boys Salute will be held on the Elvis Week Main Stage, Graceland. Tickets: $30, available at Graceland Guest Services and at the door 30 minutes prior to the start, pending availability.

Back when Memphis was electric: B.J. Thomas on Chips Moman and the Memphis Boys

From the site:
Is there a reason why Chips and the Memphis Boys have not been sufficiently honored for their vast music contributions?
There must be a reason, or reasons, that I’m not aware of. I don’t know why they haven’t been recognized. For a couple of years running, they played on nearly 20 percent of Billboard’s pop chart, which was a fantastic accomplishment back in those days. Remember, Motown, Stax, and the British Invasion were all happening simultaneously.
You had to be kind of versatile in the ‘60s. That’s probably why I’ve always done different genres of music, because when I first started, Top 40 radio played all the genres on one station. The Memphis Boys were one of the best bands, as far as doing any kind of genre of music. I was also in that bag, as I was just looking for any song I liked. I wasn’t looking for a certain genre.
I performed a live show with them in Memphis upon the 30th anniversary of Elvis’ death [Author’s Note: Two years later Chips and the Memphis Boys were honored by the Memphis Grammy chapter for their pioneering work on “Suspicious Minds”].
I’m glad they were finally recognized. In 2007 the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville inducted the Memphis Boys. I joined them onstage for a short set.
Former American business manager and vice president Marty Lacker has campaigned extensively to get them inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Surely, sooner or later it will happen. I hope soon. Chips and the Memphis Boys are simply the greatest guys in the world. I love 'em.


Sunday, August 05, 2012

Update on Terry Manning Photo

Update on a previous photo I linked to from Terry Manning -- this is Terry's photo of the Son of a Preacher Man recording session. I recently received permission from Terry to post the photo.

From Terry's post at the site:

    Here is a pretty poor low-res scan (from neg, not print) of that shot. Soon I will be making many original prints directly from the negatives, but all photo stuff has to wait in the queue of "so much to be done as soon as possible." (I just got a huge box of my negatives from the past back in my possession, after 24 years of being "lost".) In this photo Tom is tracking Son Of A Preacher Man. Bobby Emmons can be seen on organ through the CR window.

Photograph © 2011, Terry Manning.  Used by permission.

Just a regular guy with a burning desire to sing: The B.J. Thomas interview

From the site:

"Chips walked up to me and said, “Let’s think of a song and let’s sing it with the band and see how it goes.” And that’s exactly what I did.

I always recorded my vocals live with the band. Usually we’d just start from scratch. After we chose whatever song we decided to record, we would learn it on the spot. Sometimes it might develop rather quickly; on other occasions it would take numerous takes to achieve the master. But it was always a natural progression. The entire process was fun to me.

The first time I sang with them it was like, They were my band, and I was their singer. We just fit together perfectly like hand-in-glove. I think a lot of singers can say that, because they were a great band. Chips and the Memphis Boys truly deserve to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They were capable of doing any kind of music."