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Soulful Music

For Friends and Fans of the Memphis Boys / 827 Thomas Street Band / American Studio Rhythm Section

Updated: 2018-01-30T21:43:56.550-05:00


Last Blog Post for Soulful Music–May 2017



Greetings readers of Soulful Music! I have greatly enjoyed maintaining this blog over the last 10+ years but all good things must come to an end. This will be my last post.

I will leave the blog intact so that content can continue to be accessed by interested readers.

I realize that many of the links from my postings are no longer active. That’s something that happens over time on the internet. If you find a link that interests you and it is no longer active, head over to the Wayback Machine and paste in the URL. Or just do a simple Google search – the content may still be out there elsewhere.

Thanks for reading!


Wilson Pickett and the “Ballad of Stackalee”



Interesting story about Stagger Lee -- as noted herein, great playing by the American gang on this one.

From the site:

On the night of 27 December 1895, at the Bill Curtis Saloon in St. Louis, Missouri, two black men, “Stag” Lee Sheldon and Billy Lyons, got into an argument. They were, supposedly, friends and drinking partners, but politics was about to come fatally between them: Sheldon, reputedly a pimp on the side, was an organizer for the Democrats, seeking to win over the black vote that had traditionally gone to the Republicans, for whom Billy Lyons recruited. At some point during an increasingly drunken debate, Lyons seized Sheldon’s Stetson hat; when he refused to return it, Sheldon took out his revolver, shot Lyons in the stomach, picked up his hat and calmly walked out; Lyons later died from his injuries.

Marty Lacker on Elvis’ 1969 Memphis recording sessions



From the site:

One of Elvis’ trusted friends, Marty Lacker was instrumental in arranging Elvis’ seminal recording sessions at American Sound Studios with producer Chips Moman in January and February of 1969. Marty shares the genesis behind those historic sessions, which yielded the hits, “Suspicious Minds,” “In The Ghetto,” “Don’t Cry Daddy,” and “Kentucky Rain” and marked an artistic rebirth for the singer.

Marty Lacker: I quit working for Elvis because I got tired of traveling and the atmosphere changed a bit when he married Priscilla. I was the co-best man at his wedding. This is late ’68. At the same time I got an offer from Pepper-Tanner, a major jingle and barter company here in Memphis. They asked me if I’d be interested in starting a record company for them, Pepper Records, which I did. I discovered Rita Coolidge and cut the first hit on her. I started cutting over at Chips’ studio, American. I slowly but surely started getting involved in the Memphis music industry. This was in its heyday when we were the third largest recording center in the world because of all the hits that had came out of here.

My 2001 Chips Moman Interview


[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 [...]




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



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.

Wayne Jackson, Memphis Horn trumpeter, dies aged 74


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”.


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.

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:

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




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.

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


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

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.

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.
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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



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



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.

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!

'The Letter' writer Wayne Carson dies

2015-08-07T22:10:01.564-04:00 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.

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:



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.

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).