1967 Episode Three – Let It Happen

Our third installment of the notes for the 1967 Reggie Young & Bobby Emmons Discography (You Tube Playlist below)

This episode is dedicated to the memory of Quinton M. Claunch, who passed away while I was writing it, and to Roosevelt Jamison who sought him out all those years ago, changing all of our lives forever. They are together again. May God Rest Their Souls.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to commend my friends at Ace Records in the UK for the excellent job they have done preserving and annotating the Goldwax legacy. This piece could never have been written without them. Thanks!

Now, let’s turn our attention to Goldwax, the legendary Memphis label operated by Quinton M. Claunch and his more or less silent partner, Rudolph V. ‘Doc’ Russell. “I used Reggie Young as my guitarist whenever I could get him,” Claunch told me, and he got him (and usually Bobby Emmons as well) for no less than 15 sessions over the course of the year.

As Tony Rounce pointed out in Ace’s Complete Goldwax Singles Volume 3, 1967 was indeed the peak year for the label, resulting in some of the best records ever made. There are some 24 of those Quinton Claunch produced tracks available on the discography page, but let’s take a moment to highlight a few here.

On January 30th, Claunch hired Reggie for an overdub session at Sam Phillips Recording on Madison Avenue [heretofore referred to as simply ‘Sun’ as both Reggie and Bobby did] on Spencer Wiggins. Atlantic had recorded this ‘Oldham-Penn’ stalwart at Fame as an album track for The Wicked Pickett the October before, but Spencer’s take on Up Tight Good Woman here is, in my opinion, the definitive version (yes, better even than the ensuing chart hits that Laura Lee and Solomon Burke would have on it) “…among soul music’s greatest moments,” indeed.

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint with any accuracy exactly which sides were cut on which dates, Reggie’s notation for a Goldwax session at Sun on March 12th was most probably on The Ovations (Bobby’s book had him still out on the road with Ace Cannon). I’ve Gotta Go, the Penn-Oldham penned ‘plug side’ of Goldwax 322 was released in May, but didn’t fare any better than the past four Ovations singles (despite adding ‘featuring Louis Williams’ to the label). Although more prominent on the flip, Ride My Troubles And Blues Away, I believe this 45 to be another of the rare instances of Clarence Nelson and Reggie Young playing on the same record. As Reggie told us back on the 1966 page, he would have definitely “stayed in the background… out of respect.” I’d say that’s him on the ‘chank’ rhythm, then, behind Nelson’s unmistakeable lead. Very Cool! For one reason or another, Goldwax wouldn’t release another Ovations single until 1969, but we believe Let’s Stick Together may have been cut at the December 8th session noted in Bobby Emmons’ book, although it didn’t see the light of day until 1977, when it appeared on one of those P-Vine Japanese releases (and subsequently on an Ace CD).

On April 3rd, the artist scheduled for a Goldwax session at American ‘didn’t show up’… no doubt Goldwax’s biggest star, James Carr, who actually did arrive on the scene a couple of days later. With The Dark End Of The Street still high on the R&B charts, Claunch wanted a follow-up hit. As we’ve seen, ‘Dark End’ was actually cut at Hi [once again, we will refer to Royal Studio from now on as ‘Hi’ as the musicians did at the time], but Chips Moman now felt his equipment at American was ready for the big time. Although not quite the top ten smash as its predecessor, the Penn-Oldham penned Let It Happen climbed to #30 R&B, and ‘bubbled under’ the Hot 100 during The Summer of Love. I’m thinking that’s Bobby Emmons playing that Gospel flavored piano, as Bobby Wood wouldn’t make the move to American until 1968, which brings up an interesting question… could it be Spooner? As far as I can tell, this is the first Penn-Oldham tune published by Press Music, and not ‘Fame-Rec’, which would seem to indicate that it was written there in Memphis, not Muscle Shoals. If you listen, there’s also an organ in the background, hmmm…

We may never know why, but Goldwax chose to not return to American at all in 1967, and held James Carr’s next session at Sun on June 16th. Betty Harris told Peter Nickols what happened next: “We were travelling together and we sang all kinds of songs. I went with him (to his session and) on our way his guitar-player wrote this song for him. At the session we were goofing around with it, not doing anything for real, but it was taped and it sounded good. I called Marshall Sehorn about me being on it and he said ‘No’.” Sansu had just released Betty’s spectacular Nearer To You (which would eventually climb to #16 R&B that Summer) a couple of weeks before, and I think the reality is that Sehorn didn’t want Goldwax to use Betty’s name on the label unless Sansu got paid. Knowing Quinton, I think we can safely surmise that wasn’t gonna happen. In any event, the cookin’ I’m A Fool For You remains one of the all-time classic Soul duets, and would just miss the R&B Top 40 that Fall. Carr’s ‘guitar player’ here is (of course) Reggie, but the song wasn’t written by him as Betty suggested above, but (as Nickols put it on Deep Soul Heaven“…by no less than five top Memphis-related personalities, namely Dan Greer, Quinton Claunch, Earl Cage, George Jackson, and Rudolph Russell.”

The absolutely priceless confluence of having both Reggie Young’s and Bobby Emmons’ session log books to cross-reference allows us to identify a couple of other killer sides that were recorded at those same Sun sessions in June.

While Reggie simply wrote ‘Goldwax’, Bobby (in addition to James Carr) also noted that the artists were Percy (Milem) and Timmy Thomas. Percy, as the lead vocalist of The Lyrics, had the inaugural release on Goldwax back in 1963, and we spoke a little about his first release as a solo artist on the label here. This time out, he delivers his own soulful take on the 1965 classic that Don Covay wrote for Little Richard, I Don’t Know What You’ve Got (But It’s Got Me)“I can feel your hands on me!” Like Percy, Timmy Thomas started out as a member of a vocal group that cut for Goldwax early on (Phillip And The Faithfuls). As Dean Rudland said about Quinton’s decision to cut Jerry Lee Lewis’ seminal rocker Whole Lotta Shaking Going On as a boogaloo record on Timmy – “…although it shouldn’t, it works brilliantly.” It sure does! Once again, Goldwax proved to be just a little bit ahead of its time, as Thomas would begin his climb to the top of the charts a few years down the road.

Redemption Harmonizers 1956

Wee’ Willie Walker had grown up in Memphis, and worked with Roosevelt Jamison in a Gospel group called The Redemption Harmonizers in the late fifties. By 1967, he had relocated to Minneapolis, but through Jamison and another of his childhood friends, George Jackson, he signed with Goldwax on a visit home. Cut at Sun on June 30th, his version of the song Roosevelt had written for O.V. Wright (that Quinton had always envisioned as the ‘top’ side) There Goes My Used To Be is even better than Wright’s was. For whatever reason, Goldwax leased Walker’s next two singles to Checker up in Chicago, and the phenomenal You Name It, I’ve Had It (with Reggie’s guitar mixed right up front) may have been cut at another session on Walker that Bobby Emmons noted in December. Walker had been ‘re-discovered’ in recent years, touring extensively behind some award winning albums. Sadly, he passed away in November of 2019.

Edgar Clayton

Even though he had been producing some of the greatest R&B records ever, Quinton’s Country roots ran deep. He and his friend Edgar Clayton had started out at WLAY in Muscle Shoals as a guitar playing duo that evolved into The Blue Seal Pals. Around the same time that Claunch and Cantrell left the band and headed for Memphis, Clayton decided to pursue a solo career in Nashville. When his star failed to shine as brightly as he had hoped, Edgar returned to The Shoals and became a Country dee-jay on WLAY where he started up a live broadcast called The Shoals Music Jamboree. By the mid-fifties, he had relocated to Hamilton, Alabama where he hosted the same kind of popular Country music show on WERH that featured local acts. He was still at it in 1967, and convinced old pal Quinton to start a ‘Country Series’ on Goldwax for artists he had discovered like The Terry’s and Carmol Taylor. Since there is no mention in either book about any sessions on them, we decided to leave the resulting releases out of our discussion here…

Like Clayton himself, Carmol Taylor was also quite the songwriter, and pretty much immediately after Quinton released Taylor’s own version of Did She Ask About Me (Goldwax 324), he decided to record it on Ivory Joe Hunter at Sun on June 26th.

‘The Happiest Man Alive’, Ivory Joe had been label-hopping ever since Atlantic dropped him in 1959, most recently recording for Stax (!) and Huey Meaux’s Tear Drop imprint before being picked up by Goldwax in 1966. His lone release on the label (Goldwax 307) hadn’t done much, and so Quinton and Doc would lease his next two singles to Veep, a United Artists R&B subsidiary label. They didn’t do much either. The soulful reading of Taylor’s song, Did She Ask About Me, cut at that June session is pure Country however, proving once more how prescient an ‘ear’ Quinton had. After Edgar Clayton’s pal Sonny James took Ivory Joe’s Since I Met You Baby to #1 Country in 1969, Hunter would become a fixture at The Grand Ole Opry, and record his last album, I’ve Always Been Country with Reggie (and Tommy Cogbill) in Nashville in 1972.

There is one Goldwax Country session listed in Reggie’s book, held at Sun on July 14th on someone he refers to only as ‘(girl)’. Quinton had gone so far as to create a subsidiary label he dubbed Timmy (although I have no idea why he chose to call it that) for his Country projects. The inaugural release that October was by a (girl) named Kathy Davis, who had been brought to Claunch’s attention by another of his Blue Seal Pals, Bill Cantrell. The little known Penn-Oldham gem The Wife Of The Life Of The Party [also now published by Press Music, by the way] hits all the buttons, and might have been as big a hit as the records Billy Sherrill was then producing on Tammy Wynette (both of whom had started out with Edgar Clayton at WERH) if it had gotten any airplay in Nashville, but it didn’t. Great guitar, but do you think it’s Reggie?

There is no doubt, however, that it’s Reggie’s guitar that leads off the Goldwax single that was released around the same time, on another (girl) named Jeanne Newman. Jeanne had come up out of Arkansas and been signed by Sam Phillips, who had handed her off to Quinton after he shut down his Phillips International label in 1963. In 1966, Claunch had also closed out his Bandstand USA imprint with a release on her, before moving her up to Goldwax. Although there is no mention of the word ‘Country’ on the label, the choice of the Harlan Howard tune that the ghost of Patsy Cline had charted with in 1964, He Called Me Baby, seems to leave little doubt as to the target audience. Just a great record (check out Tommy Cogbill!), the fact that it was on an R&B label, and had a cover of a Seekers song on the flip, had the reviewers at Cashbox scratching their heads – “…could hit with pop or blues listeners,” they had said, but it didn’t, nor with the Country crowd Quinton had apparently had in mind. The song would, of course, hit with ‘blues listeners’ as Ella Washington carried it into the R&B Top 40 in 1969, and Candi Staton brought it all the way to the top ten in ’71… Claunch was ahead of his time once again. As he had with Kathy Davis, Quinton also cut a Penn-Oldham composition on Jeanne Newman, a gut-wrenching version of It Tears Me Up that amazingly went unreleased until Ace dug it out of the Goldwax vaults in 2011. Wow!

On July 21st, Quinton brought Reggie and Bobby back to Sun to cut a song he had written for Spencer Wiggins, The Power Of A Woman. Although it briefly dented the CashBox R&B Top 50, it deserved better. One of the best Goldwax sides, it’s as much of a testament to Spencer’s powerful delivery as Claunch’s songwriting skills, with Reggie contributing some of the trademark licks he had been using across town at American for Atlantic. Quinton told us that Jerry Wexler took him for a ride in his car one day around this period, and told him he had made a big mistake when he hooked up with Larry Uttal at Bell as his distributor. “If you had gone with us,” he said, “I could have delivered you a slew of top tens and a few number ones…” He was probably right, as great records like this one continued to miss the mark.

After one more Goldwax session at Sun noted in Reggie’s (but not Bobby’s) book on July 29th, Quinton appears to have taken a break from recording until Thanksgiving weekend, almost exactly a year after he had cut The Dark End Of The Street on South Lauderdale.

This time he brought essentially the same crew to Madison Avenue to cut James Carr again on a song that Billboard picked to reach the R&B Top 20, A Man Needs A Woman. It did, climbing to #16 in early 1968. Written by Goldwax mainstay O.B. McClinton (who had penned Carr’s breakthrough #7 R&B smash You’ve Got My Mind Messed Up* in early 1966), it is an absolute masterpiece of Deep Southern Soul. For the first time on a Goldwax label, Stan Kesler is credited as ‘mixing engineer’, perhaps to point out that this obvious ‘AGP’ record was not cut at 827 Thomas.

Bobby Emmons’ book documents one more 1967 Goldwax session, to cut Spencer Wiggins on another great Claunch composition, That’s How Much I Love You at Sun on December 29th. As Quinton told Heikki Suosalo, he was strongly influenced here by the Roosevelt Jamison song that got the ball rolling at Goldwax, That’s How Strong My Love IsCheck out Reggie’s absolutely brilliant guitar work. It’s interesting to note that, as late as December, Goldwax was still recording at Sun. As a matter of fact, of those 15 sessions mentioned earlier, all but two of them were held there on Madison Avenue. A fact which would seem to contradict the accepted wisdom that Chips Moman had his Memphis Boys ‘tied up’ at American by that time…

In any event, the timeless body of work represented here on this page will stand forever as a shining example of how great Memphis music could be.

Thank You, Quinton M. Claunch.

 *with Quinton now gone on, the unidentified guitar player on here becomes even more of a mystery…

1967 Episode Three – Let It Happen

Special thanks go to Quinton Claunch, Roosevelt Jamison, Spencer Wiggins, Mark Nicholson, John Broven, John Ridley, Peter Nickols, Heikki Suosalo, Tony Rounce, Dean Rudland, Bob Dunham, Alec Palao, Roger Armstrong and Ady Croasdell.

Entire Episode also available on Soul Detective, where the in-line audio links actually work… also, don’t forget to check the 450 or so other audio tracks on the 1967 Discography page.

Quinton M. Claunch 1921-2021

It seemed he would always be there.

There, in the unassuming house in Parkway Village that he bought for his family in 1948. The house he lived in while he was working with Sam Phillips at Sun. The house he lived in as a progenitor of Hi Records. The house where a late night knock on the door would usher in the Soul Era at Goldwax.

I knocked on that door myself many times over the years, and got to know the man behind so much of the music I loved. A true character, his quick sense of humor and way with words was always accompanied by a mischievous glint in his eyes. No matter how much you thought you knew about him, there was always something more to tell. It was almost as if he left something out on purpose, so he could talk about it later on.

The last time John Broven and I knocked on that door in 2019, he told us the tale of how he would stay up nights as a boy growing up in Tishomingo, Mississippi and tune in ‘Border Blaster’ radio station XEG so he could listen to Cowboy Slim Rinehart on the radio. He wanted to play guitar so bad, he said, that his father sold a calf from the family farm and bought him one from the Sears-Roebuck catalogue. When the family moved north to Muscle Shoals, as his father got work as part of the war effort at Alcoa Aluminum, Quinton brought that guitar with him and changed American Music forever.

He had never mentioned that before.

He had told us before that, when Sam Phillips didn’t follow through on a promise to him and his best friend Bill Cantrell that he would use one of their songs as the flip of a Carl Perkins single, was when they made up their minds to leave Sun and start their own company, Hi Records. What he hadn’t told us, but now happened to mention that November afternoon, was that when The Beatles later covered the song (Sure To Fall), he was able to pay off the note on the house.


When I was doing the research for my 2015 interview of Willie Hightower at The Ponderosa Stomp, I discovered that Claunch and Cantrell had actually produced a whole album on Willie at Hi in 1982, one that hadn’t been released until 2007. Even though I had known him for years, he had never mentioned that either. It was that interview, and Hightower’s excellent performance at The Stomp, that would eventually lead to Quinton’s triumphant return to Muscle Shoals to work with Billy Lawson at Wishbone and produce one of the best Soul albums in years, Hightower’s Out Of The Blue in 2018.

He had said he wanted to go out in a “blaze of glory,” and he did – the record is nothing short of amazing.

I used to call Quinton a lot, and when I asked him how he was he would invariably respond, “I’m still here.”

Now, sadly, he is not.

Memphis will be a different place without him in it… I will miss my friend.

Jim Cannon – Underwater Man

The Soul Detective interview by MARK NICHOLSON

An entry in Reggie Young’s 1967 log book for a session held on March 27th caught our eye for a couple of reasons. First of all, it showed that Reggie had already been scheduled to travel to New York to cut Solomon ‘Berk’ for Atlantic, a trip which didn’t actually occur until April 10th (possibly because of new bookings at American for Goldwax and Sound Stage 7 that week). It also showed that Young did lead a session that date instead at ‘Lyn Lou’ on someone name James Cannon. Lyn-Lou, of course, was the studio that Bill Black had founded on Chelsea Avenue a few years before his untimely demise, which by then had been purchased by Larry Rogers. We asked Larry about the session and, although he remembered James Cannon, he said he had no recollection of the session. Hmmmm…

All of this set ‘bloodhound’ Nicholson on Cannon’s trail, who would then discover not only the 45 that was released from that session, but an excellent article about James in the Memphis Flyer that had been written by his grandson Joshua – Rockabilly Man. Mark reached out to Joshua, who then arranged for the trans-Atlantic interview below:

James Cannon, circa 1958

James Wesley Cannon might be a name not widely known, but he has the distinction of being a Memphis music scene figure that was both central and peripheral. He is not related to Ace Cannon, although they lived near each other: “I got his bank account one time as we both banked at the same place. Somebody put his money in my account, and I was happy, man! I thought I was going to retire early. He said ‘Cannon, you got all my money!’ but I told him I didn’t ask for it.”

It all started in 1948 when James’ family became residents of the city’s Lauderdale Courts housing project. He became tight with the family of Bill Black, who also lived there. The Presley family soon followed. Today Elvis historians and residents that still reside at Lauderdale Courts regale tales of summer nights on the triangular patch of grass outside the apartments where young hopefuls gathered with guitars to sing and jam. James Cannon was one of them, Elvis was another… On one occasion a pre-fame BB King happened to be passing by. Johnny Black (Bill’s brother) described the occasion to James’ grandson Joshua during an interview published by The Memphis Flyer in 2015: “We were playing a little country because that’s all we knew. Then a young black man came along and said, ‘Can I play your guitar?’ We had never heard anything like that. We were not only amazed, but we were delirious.”

Jim Cannon (left), Jean Jennings, Johnny Black’s wife Carolyn, and Elvis circa 1952

When the 1950’s started to find its stride, so did some of the Lauderdale Courts kids. However, James Cannon’s session for a planned single for Sam Phillips had to be shelved due to being drafted to Korea in 1953. Whilst out there he learned that two of his former neighbours were brewing a mini storm with That’s Alright, Mama. In an interview with the Memphis Press Scimitar in the 1970’s James revealed that “Bill Black’s mother was always writing to me when I was overseas, telling me about ‘this little record’ Elvis had coming out.” James tried to get a piece of the action for himself upon his discharge in 1955 by forming a combo with Johnny and Dorsey Burnette. “When I got back out of the service, everyone I knew who had any talent was on Sun or some other label. I started chasing the rainbow, but it looked like the train had already pulled out of the station.” he told his grandson Joshua.

James Cannon never gave up. He married Peggy in 1959 and started a family, but he still pursued the dream. Calling himself Jim Cannon, he balanced family life with a regular job and gigs. At nights he performed at the same clubs as some of The American Studio group: “We all played in a club called The Palms – that’s where I had been playing most of the time whilst I was coming up – and they would come through and sit in.” Chips Moman also frequented the venue: “Chips was a whiz, man! Sometimes he went up there with the band. He was a good guitar picker, but he got so busy with recording he had to quit playing around. He had to get out of it to make all of those records.”

During that time Jim kept in close contact with Bill Black, often hanging out at the original Lyn-Lou studio at 627 Chelsea Avenue: “After my son Jeffery was born, me and Peggy had just left the hospital and we went by Lyn-Lou. Bill was there with a wire record rack and a silver dollar in his hand, and he was dragging it on the rack… zingggg… and I’d say, ‘What’s that, Bill? Getting another sound?’ and he’d say ‘I’m getting it!’ He then saw Jeffery and said ‘Let me have him.’ Bill was the first person to put their hands on him… Jeffery is still proud of that. I used to hang out at Lyn-Lou talking music with Bill all day.”

In the 1960’s he even started his own record label and publishing company called ‘Wescan’ (based on the first three letters of his middle name and surname – a little bit like Stax!). His first single was to be My Evil Eye, the track he intended to record for Sun Records back in 1953 (with some lyrical adjustments insisted on by Sam Phillips!) and Jim’s chosen producer was Chips Moman: “He brought Reggie and the guys to the session as they were already a package.” Jim recalls My Evil Eye being “mostly” recorded at American Sound [probably late 1966] and its flipside, Underwater Man, being recorded at Bill Black’s former studio:  “Lyn-Lou was on one side of Chelsea and  American was on the other side. The two songs were recorded very close together, but we had to go back and forth because Chips hadn’t quite got settled down at his own studio.”

My Evil Eye

The intro to My Evil Eye boasts a spikey guitar riff from Reggie Young and a droning organ sound: “We wanted a spooky sound on that, so Bobby Emmons said, ‘Tell you what, let me do this’ and he shut the power off as he was playing the organ then he’d kick it back on. We sent it down to the Plastic Products pressing plant in Cold Water, Mississippi and they thought the tape had stretched!”

Underwater Man

Underwater Man features an unusual musical contribution from Chips Moman: “That was done at Bill’s and you can hear Chips right at the start of that record! He had a straw and a cup of water and he was blowing down into it. I tell you what, man… back then it cost me ten dollars an hour for musicians, so that cost me ten dollars to have him blowing that straw to make bubbles, but it turned out good anyway!”

Jim also speaks respectfully of the other musicians that Chips brought to the sessions for his first single on Wescan: “I had Gene Chrisman on drums, and they called him ‘Mr Metronome’ because he didn’t miss a lick. Tommy Cogbill on the bass… he was a sweet guy! I tried to use Tommy nearly every time. Man, he could thrump!!! Reggie only played on that one record as I usually hired John Hughey for Steel Guitar on my Country stuff, but those American guys were good, and they ended up getting real busy soon afterwards.” (John Hughey later played steel guitar on several AGP sessions).

Indeed, as the American guys became swamped with studio work at 827 Thomas, Jim Cannon continued onwards with a handful of his compositions released on his own label. One was Sing Your Heart Out, Country Boy, which was produced by Roland Janes at Sonic. He also recorded for the ‘Memphis’ label based at 625 Chelsea, next door to the original Lyn-Lou. Both were shop fronts for a vacated movie theatre – sounds familiar?

The studio facility at 625 had originally been set up by barber Marshall E Ellis, who had operated Erwin Records from there. Marshall had loaned Jim Stewart the recording equipment used for the first Satellite singles and was also the man that first introduced him to Chips Moman. Bill Glore also operated his own Glorite label and recording studio from 625 Chelsea in the late 1960’s before taking it all across to the vacated American Studio in 1977. In the 1970’s Jim Cannon was signed to Estelle Axton’s Fretone label. So many connections…

Jim Cannon still lives in Memphis and is still writing songs!

Mark Nicholson, April 2021

  • photos courtesy The Cannon Family
  • with special thanks to Jim and Joshua Cannon, Frank Bruno and Larry Rogers