1967 Episode Six – Tip On In

YouTube Playlist of all tracks below

if you scroll down and hit ‘play’ you can listen while you read the notes!

By 1966, Ernie Young had been releasing J.D. Miller’s Crowley, Louisiana productions on his Excello label for over a decade, resulting in some truly great records. When Slim Harpo’s Baby Scratch My Back hit the airwaves that January, it took the country by storm, soaring to #1 R&B in both Billboard and Cash Box, and staying there atop all that Motown for a couple of weeks, while even crossing over into the Top 20 on the Hot 100. Young’s usual method of distributing his singles through Ernie’s Record Mart couldn’t keep up with demand, and he was forced to ship orders directly from the pressing plant, a situation he was none too happy with. I’m not sure if that had something to do with it (or if he just decided to strike while the iron’s hot) but, by July, the 74 year old Young had sold everything lock, stock and barrel, to something called The Crescent Amusement Company.

Miller had been under the impression that his productions had been ‘leased’ to Nashboro/Excello, and that he had retained ownership of his master tapes. Crescent’s legal team felt otherwise, and sent new label president Jack Funk and newly named VP Shannon Williams (shown here re-signing The Thunderbolt Of The Middle West) down to Crowley to try and smooth things over and continue the arrangement he had with Young. J.D. would have none of it, and in the ensuing battle of wills, the last two Miller-produced Slim Harpo singles (including the future Jagger & Richards’ favorite, Shake Your Hips), were virtually ignored by the folks in Nashville and, consequently, by the record-buying public as well.

With his eye on the future, Harpo took advantage of a loophole in his contract with Miller to sign directly with the new regime at Excello. This was seen by J.D. as the final betrayal, and embroiled him in an extended legal battle with the label, one which he would eventually lose.

As Shannon Williams told John Broven in South To Louisiana: The Music Of The Cajun Bayous“Well, of course, after we signed him the question was ‘What are we going to do with him now?’… Nashville just is not a Blues location, and the players are not here; let’s take him somewhere that we think maybe he can turn out a hit… We got in touch with this guy Ray Harris; he set the whole thing up, said he could get the pickers and Willie Mitchell and these guys that played there. It was like a house band, I guess, and they loved to do it.”  Martin Hawkins, author of Slim Harpo: Blues King Bee of Baton Rouge, sent me this great ad for an ‘All Star Rhythm & Blues Show’ in El Dorado, Arkansas (just over the Louisiana state line) in December of 1966. “The interesting thing is that he was part of a package led by Willie Mitchell,”  Hawkins said, “and may have been backed by Mitchell’s guys rather than carrying his own group… Harpo had Memphis in mind, even if he didn’t hatch a plan with anyone else.”  In other words, Slim might have let Williams and Ray Harris think it was all their idea.

“So we’d all go down to Memphis to do this and it turned out very well…” Williams went on to tell Broven, He [Slim] loved it. He felt this was such a good switch; he was very up on this whole thing… I think the Hi session men got down with him. Willie Mitchell didn’t have much to do with the session; it was mostly directed by this fellow Harris… it didn’t seem like Harris was too much on for Harpo’s harmonica, but that of course is a trademark. We insisted on it… I recall the difficulty in mic’ing as to where Harpo could both do his guitar and his harp and sing. Played guitar on all the records, it was sort of ordinary.”

Hmmm… So, it was a known fact that Slim had recorded at Hi sometime in the Spring of 1967. In 2012, Broven and I asked Howard Grimes if he had ever worked on a session with Harpo – “Nope, that’s one I would remember,” he said, I backed him up a few times when he came through Memphis, but I never cut with him.” In October of 2016, when I first got my hands on Reggie’s 1967 session log book, one of the first things I did was look for any mention of Slim’s visit, to no avail…

In May of 2020, when the late great Sherry Emmons Brugman sent me Bobby’s 1967 log book, BINGO!, there it was. The fabled session had been held on April 18th but, if that was the case, why hadn’t Reggie made note of it in his book? Well, the last date entered from his New York sojourn for Atlantic was the 15th, after which begins the first of those inexplicable ‘black holes’ in Reggie’s journal, with no entries at all for the ensuing two weeks. Although that may indicate that he hadn’t worked at all for the rest of the month of April, it seems highly unlikely.

The first record released from the session was the timeless Tip On In, which would climb to #37 R&B during that long hot Summer. Driven by what Colin Escott describes as “One of the most elegant grooves in all of R&B,” the bass, the drums and that shimmering rhythm guitar are just locked in behind Harpo’s ‘trademark’ harp and sly vocals. I’d say that’s Satch Arnold on drums and either Mike Leech or Tommy Cogbill on the bass – the question remains, though, is that Slim on guitar? HawkinsIt is likely that Slim Plays the dry scratch that keeps time while Teenie Hodges plays lead, and in that case Slim must have overdubbed his harp solo”  Escott“I don’t think Harpo could have played the through-riff AND sung. He could have overdubbed his vocal, but the guitar still sounds too professional. Sounds like a studio guy – no flubbed notes or changes.”  Hmmm…

I think I’d have to agree that the tremelo ‘scratch’ rhythm is being played by a ‘studio guy’ – it could be Reggie, or it could be Teenie Hodges (or even Cogbill), but there is no doubt in my mind that the lead guitarist here is Clarence Nelson! ‘That fellow Harris’ would have brought him in to ‘Blues things up a bit’ as he had done with Amos Patton a few months before and, as we mentioned in episode four, we know Nelson was in the house for the Ace Cannon session held the following day. Very cool! Bob Holmes, who Excello had recently hired as a producer and arranger, is listed as a co-writer on Part 1, which may have been to give him a share of the royalties, as he’s not credited on Part 2. In any event, this is just an awesome record all the way around… who knew there was that much ‘Swamp’ right there on South Lauderdale?

Even though it was the notation in Bobby Emmons’ book that opened this can of worms in the first place, there does not seem to be any keyboards on either side of Tip On In. They do appear, however, on Harpo’s next release from the session, with Bob Holmes (whom Williams described as “the respectable black front to the company”) now earning his ‘mechanicals’ via a producer’s credit. I’m Gonna Keep What I’ve Got, grooves along in the same elegant fashion, and features more of Clarence Nelson’s ‘vise-grip’ guitar work. According to Martin Hawkins, the flip of that single, the straight ahead Blues number I’ve Got To Be With You Tonight, was also cut at the Memphis session, as was Hey Little Lee, which was only released on 45 in France (go figure). The reverb-y lead guitar on both of these sides is played by someone else entirely, and I believe it to be ol’ Slim himself! This would reconcile the Williams’ comment about him ‘playing guitar on all the records’. Also, in Hawkins’ chapter on these recordings, he says that Harpo …had recently taken to playing some electric lead,” then goes on to quote Slim’s wife Lovell, who said “He would never finish an engagement until he had played his guitar.”  There ya go, folks!

Speaking of Louisiana…

New Orleans’ Minit label was formed in 1959 by Joe Banashak and WMRY radio personality Larry McKinley. Once Ernie K-Doe’s Mother In Law went positively viral for Minit in 1961 (topping both the R&B and Pop charts), it ushered in the ‘second wave’ of popularity for Crescent City R&B. No doubt encouraged by that success, a local woman named Connie La Rocca (then working at her brother-in-law’s hoppin’ chicken restaurant on Carrolton Avenue) started up the Frisco label with WYLD deejay Harold Atkins in 1962. According to Earl King, “Harold was the key to Frisco’s success. Harold was a genius. He knew everybody in the business and could get records played. He was a soft-spoken person; a gentleman in every respect.”

After a couple of releases of his own, as ‘Al Adams‘ (and an awesome instrumental by Porgy & The Polka Dots), Hal and Connie signed local legend Danny White who was, without question, THE most popular entertainer in New Orleans. White’s Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye would become a local phenomenon that Fall, blaring from every juke box and car radio in town but, due to a lack of any real distribution, only managed to ‘bubble under’ the Hot 100 nationally. Undaunted, Frisco continued to issue great sides on White, with Earl King’s Loan Me A Handkerchief picked up by ABC-Paramount in early 1964, along with two more ABC 45s released later that year.

1964 was also the year that Hal Atkins got a job at WDIA and relocated to Memphis. With his gregarious personality, and his continuing ability to ‘get records played’, he would soon became a player on the local music scene. At that point, Isaac Hayes and his new songwriting partner David Porter had yet to realize their full potential at Stax, and were looking for an outlet for their considerable talents. Atkins was impressed with what they had to offer, and convinced Connie La Rocca to fly Danny White up to Memphis to record.

According to the liner notes of the 1998 Ace release The Frisco Records Story, compiled by John Broven and Tad Jones, the session on White was at ‘Hi’ that Summer, anchored by Bowlegs Miller, Floyd Newman and what would eventually become known as The Memphis Horns. That (?) there no doubt refers to Miller’s bass player, Cleve ‘Frog’ Shears, whom we met last episode. The interesting thing is the inclusion of Howard Grimes and Teenie Hodges on the list, a full two years before I thought they’d arrived there on South Lauderdale. I asked John Broven about those A.F.of M. contracts, “I’m afraid all the Frisco files were submerged by Katrina,” he said, so I called Howard, but the name Danny White didn’t ring any bells. Hmmm…

Composed, ‘Arranged & Conducted by D. Porter & I. Hayes’, the four tracks cut that day would comprise White’s last two Frisco singles, the best of the lot being Can’t Do Nothing Without You, named by Sir Shambling as a ‘personal favourite’, “…with White snarling and growling his way through the lyric in fine style.” Just excellent stuff, man, I agree – but it just doesn’t sound like The Bulldog on the drum kit to me, you know? I sent the tracks down to Howard (who doesn’t do the ‘computer’ thing) and he’s gonna listen to them and report back…

Stay Tuned!

With Connie La Rocca winding down things at Frisco, Hal Atkins decided to try his hand at forming another label with his newfound compadres Hayes and Porter and (wait for it…) Chips Moman! Isaac had been one of the first artists through the door at American, cutting a single there for Youngstown in 1962, and knew Chips well. Calling the label Genie, they brought in a local kid who had also been having a hard time ‘breaking in’ at Stax, Homer Banks, in early 1965. The soaring Lady Of Stone (a ‘Hamp Production’, as in Hayes-Atkins-Moman-Porter) was selected as a ‘regional breakout’ in Billboard that Summer, along with a Youngstown single cut there on Thomas Street around the same time. Although Homer’s single never quite broke out, the other single would become the one that put American Sound on the map

In Rob Bowman’s indispensable Soulsville, U.S.A., he reports that cutting the Genie single with Moman (of all people) had Jim Stewart ‘more than a little piqued’. “Somehow or another, the word got out that I was responsible,” Banks told Bowman, “I lured [Hayes and Porter] into doing it. That closed the door even tighter. For a long time I was barred from the studio. I wasn’t allowed to come in there.” Be that as it may, the incident may have been the first step towards Stewart further appreciating what he had there in Hayes and Porter.

Perhaps that’s why he consented to allow Atkins to cut Danny White there as one of the last ‘outside sessions’ held on East McElmore in late 1965. Hayes and Porter’s groovin’ A side Keep My Woman Home, is right up there with any of the other Stax/Volt records cut there at the time. The flip (with Steve Cropper now joining Isaac and David as a songwriter), I’m Dedicating My Life To You is even better. Wow! It seems a shame that Stewart didn’t sign White as an artist right then and there, but he may still have been annoyed enough with Atkins to make sure that didn’t happen. Instead the single was released on the one-off Atteru label before being leased to New York based Atlas where it disappeared without a trace.

Shortly after Lew Chudd at Imperial purchased Minit Records from Joe Banashak in 1963, he sold the whole shooting match to Liberty, who then moved all operations to the West Coast and discontinued Minit as a subsidiary label entirely. With the dawn of the ‘Soul Era’ upon them in early 1966, Liberty wanted to get back in the game and re-activated Minit as their R&B outlet under the direction of the energetic Renny Roker. Roker had no qualms about swooping into Memphis and picking up the crumbs that fell off the Stax table. On April 23rd, Billboard announced that the ‘new’ Minit’s first release would be by none other than McLemore Avenue outcast Homer Banks. The article went on to say that the single was being recorded in Memphis by ‘an outside production company’. “It was Bowlegs,” Howard Grimes told me, “Bowlegs knew everybody and had the connections, he was the one rounding up the musicians up to do those sessions” One of those musicians, we now believe, was Reggie Young.

You may recall, as mentioned back on the 1966 Discography Page, that Young kept two log books in 1966, the second one being an attempt to ‘clean up’ and keep better track of his session work. A notation for ‘Peacock’ on April 16th (a week before the Billboard article) had us mystified. I mean, there didn’t appear to be any evidence of Don Robey cutting at Hi before he brought O.V. Wright there that November. A ‘memoranda’ that read ‘Izak’ didn’t help matters either. After being clarified in the second book as referring to ‘Isaac Hayes’, that actually made things worse. We were like, Huh? Now, due to the dogged persistence of Mark Nicholson, I think we might have figured it out.

Arranged by Gene ‘Bowlegs’ Miller, there is absolutely no doubt that the supremely excellent Fighting To Win has Reggie’s guitar all over it. Banks shares the composer’s credit with Hayes and Porter on this one, and with Deanie Parker (another Stax employee who had yet to come into her own), on the plug side, A Lot Of Love (think Spencer Davis might have owned a copy?). How this was not a major hit (I mean beyond the Twisted Wheel ‘Northern Soul’ boys) is beyond me… These are definitely two of the ‘3 tunes’ that Reggie says he cut that day, with the third one issued as a B side that September, Do You Know What, another Hayes and Porter gem.

So, what’s with the reference to Peacock? Something Howard Grimes said may hold a clue; “Bowlegs was working for Don Robey…” At first I was, like, ‘Ummm… no’ until I noticed this entry in Reggie’s 1966 book for September 28th. Hmmm… As we discussed last episode, the former Fernwood Studio on North Main had been purchased by Don Robey and was run by Earl Forest and Gilbert Caple, another dis-affected member of the Stax family. The upper left hand corner notation in Reggie’s book always indicated the name of the studio where a session was held (as in ‘Sun’, ‘Pepper’, ‘American’ etc.) and, with ‘Peacock’ being the name of Robey’s primary label and Houston nightclub empire, that may have been how the studio was known in those days – a hypothesis I have yet to corroborate… Detectives?

With artists like Louis Jordan, The Ink Spots and Buddy Johnson, Decca Records had been a major player in the post-war ‘race’ records market. Once Owen Bradley took over the reins of their Nashville division in the late fifties, it had become primarily a Country label. Now, just as we’ve seen with Mercury, Decca was looking to recapture their slice of the lucrative R&B pie.

Washington D.C. disk-jockey Al Bell had formed the Safice label with former member of The Rainbows, Chester Simmons, and Falcons founder Eddie Floyd in 1964. Although distributed by Atlantic, their releases failed to make much noise outside of Bell’s WUST listening area. In Eddie Floyd’s great book Knock! Knock! Knock! On Wood, he relates, “Al Bell was benefiting from his closer ties to Atlantic. Joe Medlin, the label’s head of national promotion, introduced Al to Milt Gabler, who ran A&R at Decca. Milt was well known, a sophisticated jazz man, and he brought us the singer Grover Mitchell… he sung a ballad that I wrote with Chester and Al, called I Will Always Have Faith in You. Nobody really heard it at the time, but it’s a song with a deep gospel feel to it that would come back for me many times over.” – most notably, when Carla Thomas took it to #11 R&B a few years later. Eddie had first met Carla (by then already an established star at Stax), when she was attending Howard University in 1965. She had been impressed with his songwriting, and agreed to cut a couple of demos for Bell and Floyd that Spring. “It must have been some kind of karma,” she said later. The kind of karma that brought all three of them back to Memphis to cut one of those ‘Isbell-Floyd’ compositions, Stop! Look What You’re Doing at Stax, and send it to #30 R&B that Summer.

On the basis of that success, Jim Stewart would allow Safice to cut another of those last ‘outside’ sessions there on Eddie and Roy Arlington, whose soulful rendition of ‘Isbell-Floyd’ tune, Everybody Makes A Mistake Sometimes just lays me out.

At the time, Stax was in need of a full-time promotion man and, once Jerry Wexler agreed to pay half his salary, they hired Al Bell in October of ’65. According to Rob Bowman, Bell was …taken around the country and shown the tricks of the trade by Atlantic promotion man and longtime friend Joe Medlin.” Medlin had been one of the first artists signed to Atlantic in 1948, before recording for a variety of labels in the 1950s. He began his career as an A&R and promotion man for United Artists in 1962, and secured his position there at Atlantic shortly thereafter. In August of 1966, he received the National Association of Radio Announcers Dave Dixon Award (named after the NARA president who had perished in a tragic accident in 1964) for his distinguished service at Atlantic. Within a month, he had resigned.

Further demonstrating their commitment to resuscitating their R&B division, Decca had hired Medlin away from Atlantic for what must have been a princely sum that September. “I know about 500 R&B deejays by name – and I know the names of about 300 of their wives,” Medlin told Billboard shortly thereafter, “When I want play on a record I visit the deejay or call him up, ask about the family, chew the fat awhile, and relax. More often than not, he’ll ask me what looks like it might happen.” Joe knew that at that point, more often than not, what might happen might happen in Memphis.

One of the first things Medlin did was sign Danny White. Although I’m sure he would have rather cut him with his friends at Stax, by then the doors had been closed to outsiders for good. Medlin booked a session at Hi instead, with Bowlegs (once again) serving as the arranger. There has been some mystery about when this might have been held, as Reggie makes no mention of White in his 1966 book.

According to the Discography Of American Historical Recordings, Decca logged the four song session as being held on October 12th, a date for which Reggie had no entry. At first I thought that perhaps the actual date was the September 28th ‘Bo Legs’ session discussed earlier, but now I believe it was held the week before, on the 20th. I hadn’t associated the ‘from N.Y.’ with Decca, but there it is plainly stated on the label… duh!

With Eddie Floyd’s blockbuster Knock On Wood then climbing the charts on its way to #1 R&B, Decca chose Floyd composition Taking Inventory as White’s first release. Although predicted to reach the R&B singles chart in Billboard that November, it didn’t. If our calculations are correct, the B side of that single, then, would be the first recording of Don Bryant’s Cracked Up Over You which, as we’ve seen, would be cut by both Lee Rogers and Junior Parker shortly thereafter. This may well be the best version of ’em all, with Danny just going for it over those kickin’ drum breaks… Satch Arnold? Sammy Creason? Howard Grimes? Hmmm…

Released in March of 1967, You Can Never Keep A Good Man Down (another Don Bryant tune), would become the next single pulled from that session. It was selected by Billboard as ‘destined for top-of-the-chart honors’, but somehow that failed to materialize. Just a great record, punctuated by Reggie’s unmistakable guitar, you have to wonder why it didn’t make it – especially in light of all of Medlin’s ‘fat chewin’… The flip was the last of the ‘4 Tunes’ Danny cut with Bowlegs that day, another stab at his big Sugar Town smash, Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye. It’s not bad, but I do miss those Irving Banister guitar fills… just sayin’. All four of these sides were ‘Produced by D & A Productions’ – anybody have any idea who that might have been?

A month later, Joe Medlin was back at Hi with a young lady he had discovered singing in a Church Street nightclub in his hometown of Norfolk, Virginia. Maydie Myles had come up singing Gospel, but took the name of Debbie Taylor when she began performing R&B. With Medlin now credited as producer (and no mention of Bowlegs on the label), Don Bryant’s I Get The Blues sure sounds like a Gene Miller arrangement to me. That fat baritone, the two guitars (Cogbill and Reggie?), the background singers, those smokin’ drums… another hidden South Lauderdale gem, folks!

Reggie would log one more session in 1966 for Decca, on November 14th, with ‘Bo-Leggs’ listed as the leader. Although we may never know for sure, at first we thought that may have been when these two unreleased tracks, discovered among the Decca masters, were recorded, but now I don’t think so…

The first of the tracks is a high voltage duet featuring both Debbie and Danny White, I Don’t Mind Overtime With YouWhew! The second, I’m Gonna Use What I’ve Got To Get What I Need, is by Danny White and is, in my opinion, every bit as good as the issued recordings, if not better. Initially, I thought the guitar player on here was definitely Reggie but, after repeated listenings, I became convinced it was someone else… I think it’s Bobby Womack. Wait… what?

Catalogued as ‘Overtime’, according to the Discography of American Hisorical Recordings, the duet was recorded on June 30, 1967, with consecutive matrix numbers assigned to two Danny White tracks, with ‘[Unknown Title(s)]’ no doubt referring to the unreleased song featured above. On June 30th, both Reggie and Bobby had logged a Goldwax session at Sun, followed by a Don Bryant session at Hi. This could mean, of course, that Decca hadn’t assigned those matrix numbers to these earlier recorded tracks until then (as we’ve seen), or that they were cut somewhere else, without Emmons and Young. The Atlantic Records Discography places both Bowlegs and Womack in the house at American the following day for the start of the Wilson Pickett sessions on July 1st. What if they got there the day before?

As we saw last episode, Bowlegs had worked as an arranger at American for Mercury in May. Medlin, I’m sure, was itching to get Decca in the door there as well and may have booked a session, leaving it up to Miller to ’round up’ the musicians. With Reggie unavailable, Bowlegs (who ‘knew everybody’) could have heard that Womack was in town and hired him instead. With Moman’s former partners Hayes and Porter also on board as songwriters (and defacto producers), it seems extremely possible that those June 30th sessions may have been held at 827 Thomas.

The magnificent Check Yourself would go on to chart in early 1968, and whoah, is it good! A slightly modified version of the song had also been cut on Ruby Johnson at Stax, but had remained unreleased – possibly because of Debbie’s smoldering take on it here. Think it was cut at American?

Lending creedence to the theory that the Debbie and Danny session was actually held on the date Decca said it was, is the fact that the Gladys Tyler session they logged as being held on March 24th is confirmed by Bobby Emmons’ book. Gladys, like Debbie, hailed from Virginia and had cut a single for Decca subsidiary Coral in 1963. After another release on the tiny Brooks label out of Richmond, Decca had re-signed her in 1966, pairing her with Ray Scott and The Scottsmen. Scott’s real name apparently was Walter Spriggs, whom All Music describes as a ‘musician/manager/songwriter/hustler’. Spriggs had hooked up with Jesse Stone at Atco in the late fifties, before changing his moniker and label-hopping a bit before Decca picked him and Gladys up shortly before Joe Medlin got there.

Medlin had booked both of them into Hi for that March ’67 session, while heavily tapping the Stax talent pool around the corner. With Bowlegs getting the label credit this time as arranger, the producer is listed as James Cross. James had started out working at The Satellite Record Shop before engineering late night sessions for Chalice, the Gospel subsidiary that Al Bell had created soon after he came on the scene. Jim Stewart shut down Chalice in late 1966, after only eight releases. According to Rob Bowman, Cross would then wed “…one of the great unkown Stax singers, Wendy Rene (nee Mary Frierson). Being close to Packy Axton, Cross was never a favorite of Jim Stewart’s.” I’m sure he was only too happy to help out the competition.

Decca selected two more Hayes & Porter tunes for the plug sides of the 45s cut at the session, but check out these two awesome Mack Rice flips. Just as we’ve seen with Mercury, Rice’s music was now in demand since Mustang Sally tore up the charts for Atlantic earlier in the year. Gladys is really belting it out on the rockin’ Mr. Green, Mrs. Green, with Reggie’s galvanic guitar and that barking baritone combining to make this one a keeper! Yeah, baby! The Ray Scott record, Can’t Get Over Losing You, isn’t far behind. Ray’s pleading delivery over those hypnotic background vocals, Bobby’s piano, Reggie’s bluesy guitar and that driving bass, this is just pure Memphis, y’all! As far as I can tell, these are the only tunes James Cross was ever credited as producing. What a shame.

Decca was back on South Lauderdale in November, for a session ‘directed’ by Willie Mitchell, as Bowlegs had apparently moved on by then. The producers are credited as Joe Medlin and Jack Gibson. Quite a colorful character, ‘Jack The Rapper’ had launched the first black-owned radio sation in the nation in 1949, become the founder and guiding force behind NARA in 1955, and had joined Berry Gordy at Motown in 1963. Landing him for Decca’s renewed R&B resurgence in late 1966 must have been seen as quite the coup. I’m not sure if Jack and Joe were present at the studio when they recorded it, but Tony Ashley’s hard-hitting vocals on We Must Have Love are just pure Soul, with Reggie’s incisive guitar mixed right up front, no doubt at Willie Michell’s ‘direction’. As we saw in episode four, Willie was still including Reggie and Bobby on sessions at Hi as late as November of 1967, and we believe this to have been another indication of that…

Ashley may have been one of the ‘two others’ noted in Emmons’ book on November 6th, with ‘Jackson’ no doubt referring to George – or in this case ‘Bart’. What’s up with that? Well, as you may recall, we had speculated that it was ‘music industry attorney and agent’ Alex Migliara who was behind recording George’s lone 1967 Hi single that Summer, and that perhaps Jackson had failed to mention that he was still under contract to Goldwax at the time. In any event (although I’m sure the name change didn’t fool anybody in Memphis), when Migliara arranged to have this one picked up by Decca, he had decided to play it safe (while helping himself to a piece of both the songwriting and production credits in the process). The rockin’ Dancing Man just cooks along, with Jackson’s wit and way with words hinting at his future work in Muscle Shoals…

1967 Episode Six Playlist

Special thanks go to Howard Grimes, Charlie Chalmers, Rob Bowman, John Ridley, Martin Hawkins, Colin Escott, John Broven, Mark Nicholson, and 45cat.

1967 Episode Five – A Touch Of The Blues

YouTube Playlist of all tracks below…

(here’s a quick tip, if you scroll down and hit ‘play’ on the playlist first, you can listen to it while you read the notes. Thanks!)

With Stax cranking out hit after hit around the corner, by 1967 other major record companies began looking for ways to cash in on some of that Memphis Magic. Let’s check it out…

One of the first people to book an ‘outside’ session at Hi was Don Robey, who would cut some of the greatest Soul records ever made there on O.V. Wright in late 1966. Those Back Beat releases had yet to see any chart action (although they soon would), but Robey was apparently impressed enough to record Bobby Bland, his biggest star, there in early 1967. In Charles Farley’s Soul Of The Man, he reports that the session took place on Valentine’s Day, but both Reggie and Bobby’s books confirm that the session was actually held on February 6th. Farley goes on to list the three sides that were cut that day as Lover With A Reputation (which, in true Robey fashion, stayed ‘in the can’ until 1970), Set Me Free (an Lp only track), and the sublime A Touch Of The Blues, with Reggie’s tasty Blues licks helping to propel it to #30 R&B in early 1968. What a great record…

The songwriter credit here reads ‘D.Malone’ which, as we all know, stands for Deadric Malone, the nefarious alias that Robey employed as he routinely ripped off many an actual composer. As I said nine years ago“The source of much speculation over the years as to whether or not this was an actual person (some said it was his wife), I’ve come to believe he just made it up. It was the ever vigilant [Preston] Lauterbach who pointed out to me that there are two Memphis streets which follow each other in quick succession as you cross over Lamar Avenue on Airways Boulevard on the way out of town – Deadrick and Malone! One can only imagine the wily Robey on his way to the airport, seizing on this random sequence as his new nom de plume…” Incredible, huh?

Robey would bring O.V. Wright back to South Lauderdale in August to cut three more sides, one of which was the soulful What About You, which would enter the Billboard charts the same day as the Bland single that November, and climb as high as #48 R&B. Written by Don Bryant (although the flip was ‘composed’ by Ol’ Deadric), it was only the second of O.V.’s records to credit Willie Mitchell as producer, a role which Mitchell would continue to play until Wright’s sad demise in 1980.

I never realized, until I started working on this episode, that Don Robey’s sudden interest in recording at Hi in September of ’66 was probably precipitated by the fact that Mercury had decided to cut Junior Parker there the month before. At this point, I’m not sure of the exact details of Junior leaving Duke and signing with Mercury that Summer, but I’m sure Robey was none too pleased about losing a man who had been one of his biggest stars. The big label was certainly going for it, importing Bobby Robinson to Memphis as Parker’s producer and all that, but Robey may have had the last laugh after all. Despite being picked as a ‘best bet’ in Cashbox, Mercury’s Just Like A Fish (with an uncredited Howard Grimes on drums), eluded the Billboard charts entirely, while a 45 Robey issued on Duke shortly after that, Man Or Mouse, enjoyed a ten week run on their R&B Top 50, peaking at #27 in early 1967, scoring higher than Parker had in almost five years.

A check of John Broven’s coveted copy of The Blues Discography, reveals that Man Or Mouse was cut in Memphis on August 4, 1966 – three days after the first Mercury session on Junior listed by Reggie in his log book. I guess Robey was never one to care much about contractual details! On the flip, Wait For Another Day, ‘Malone’ shares the songwriting credit with Gilbert Caple and Larry Davis. As we discussed in our Clarence Nelson investigation, after leaving Satellite, Gilbert Caple had hooked up with Earl Forest at the former Fernwood studio on N. Main, which is no doubt where the session was held, with Larry Davis on guitar. Robey was one slippery character!

Mercury was definitely not amused, and ran this announcement of their plans to expand their R&B presence in The Bluff City on the front page of Billboard in January, while the Duke 45 was still on the charts. “Roy Dea and I went all the way back to the first grade in Shreveport,” Jerry Kennedy told me, “and I brought him to Nashville to work with me in the mid-sixties… there was a big to-do in Memphis. Irv Green and Steinberg came down, the President and Vice-President of Mercury, and threw a cocktail party, the whole deal. The office was located in the original Holiday Inn building, and I brought Roy in to help me run it.”

What the announcement doesn’t mention is that, according to Cash Box, Mercury had already hired promotion man Boo Frazier to ‘helm’ their R&B division in November of ’66, the same week that Bobby Robinson was at Hi with Junior Parker. The article goes on (and on) about Frazier’s past accomplishments, but it’s interesting to note that, just prior to inking his pact with Mercury, Boo had been the ‘eastern representative’ for Don Robey at Duke-Peacock. Hmmm… I wonder how ol’ Deadric felt about that?

The arranger credited on all the Mercury Junior Parker sessions held at Hi in 1966 was Gene Miller. As we mentioned in episode one, ‘Bowlegs’ and Willie Mitchell had a ‘falling out’ at Hi right around this time. According to Howard Grimes, Miller would kind of ‘improvise’ a little while reading Mitchell’s horn charts, with Willie scolding him to “Just play what’s on the damn paper!” As Willie’s star began to shine brighter there on South Lauderdale, Bowlegs no doubt saw the writing on the wall, and hitched his own to the Mercury operation, where he would serve as their ‘secret weapon’

Mercury sent Boo Frazier to Memphis in February to work as a ‘co-producer’ with Roy Dea. Their first assignment was a four side session on Margie Hendrix at Hi on Valentine’s Day. The label had signed Margie in 1965, after her tumultous reign as a Raelette, and issued two singles on her that went nowhere. With Bowlegs’ cookin’ arrangement, and Reggie’s trademark guitar work, I Call You Lover But You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Tramp (written by Mack Rice) is just about as good as it gets. The second 45 released from those sessions is right up there as well, with Margie giving Otis Redding a run for his money on Restless, which was written by Curtis Johnson. Johnson had started out at Satellite as a member of The Chips (re-christened The Astors after the Moman split), and was now with Bowlegs’ band. Just pure Memphis ‘in yo’ face’ Soul, it’s hard to believe neither of these records connected with the public.

According to Chuck Berry“On June 17, 1966, after much negotiation, I signed with Mercury Records, obtaining a sixty thousand dollar advance on future royalties.” After an ill-conceived album of re-recordings of most of his Chess hits fell on deaf ears, Mercury handed him over to Dea and Frazier in Memphis, who booked him into Hi and cut an album’s worth of material on March 22nd and 23rd. A major guitar hero of Reggie Young’s, “I cut an album with Chuck Berry,” was one of the first things he told me when we started talking about all this. The problem is, however, that Berry appears to have just been ‘phoning it in’, and the record just isn’t that good. On the title track, Back To Memphis, released as a single that April, it’s cool to hear Reggie and Chuck trading licks, but overall the whole project feels like a missed opportunity.

By contrast, Memphis Soul, the album Boo and Roy produced at Hi ten days later on Bowlegs’ organ player Jesse Butler, is just da bomb! Released on Mercury subsidiary (or is it the other way around?), Philips, it’s a lost testament to just how great the Bowlegs Miller outfit was. Check out Butler killing it on that big fat Hammond (the same one Charles Hodges would come to own within a few years?). The entire Lp is phenomenal (including the obligatory cover of Chuck Berry’s ‘Memphis’), but, Drown In My Own Tears, the plug side of the single they pulled from the album just knocks me out. I asked Charlie Chalmers if that was him blowing that amazing sax on here, “Yeah, that’s me, but I didn’t finish playin’ the whole verse. That’s not like me, to stop playin’ in the middle of a solo. Oh well, they must have mixed it out,” he said, “I did lots of sessions with Jesse… but, he had a punctuality problem. You never knew if he was going to show up to the session until he got there, so that didn’t help him any.” I guess not, as he continues to fly way under the radar. Thanks, Charlie!

As Reggie and Bobby began to make the move to American, Mercury wasn’t far behind. They apparently had signed Norman West away from Joe Cuoghi, and cut two sides on him at American on April 18th, possibly because Hi was booked (more on that next episode). This sweet cover of the Sonny Thompson penned Little Willie John classic Let Them Talk was released on their Smash subsidiary, and features some of Bobby’s best Gospel-flavored piano work. Although there’s no mention of Bowlegs on the label, I’m betting that’s his horn charts. Kind of like Robey had with Junior Parker, Hi would release the M.O.C. single on Norman we talked about last episode within a few weeks of this session but, hey, at least the material was already ‘in the can’!

As we discussed in the 1966 notes, Shelby Singleton had cut Jerry Lee Lewis at Sun with Reggie that July for a Smash single that hadn’t become one. Singleton had moved on since then, and Jerry Kennedy was left to run that show. As Kennedy told us for the Soul Of The Memphis Boys project: “I’m not sure whose idea it was to cut the Soul My Way album on Jerry Lee, it might have been Shelby’s, but at that point we figured we had nothing to lose. It was Roy’s idea to cut it at American with some of Chips’ folks, and he was right. He asked me to come in as producer…all in all it was a great experience.”

As Jerry Kennedy told us this past Summer, he liked to play guitar on his productions whenever possible. Having Chips behind the board at American certainly afforded him that opportunity, and we were able to confirm that thanks to the session details provided by Jay Halsey. On It’s A Hang Up Baby, the plug side of the single pulled from the album, you can hear Kennedy and Young working the groove together, kind of like Jerry and Billy Sanford had on Oh, Pretty Woman. As with Roy Dea, Jerry knew Reggie (and Sanford) from the Shreveport days and fit right in with ‘Chips’ folks’. It may not quite be ‘Soul’, but it’s still a damn good record.

Mercury had signed Gloria Lynne to their Fontana subsidiary in 1965, where she would score her biggest hit (#8 R&B) with a Hal Mooney produced version of Watermelon Man, featuring new lyrics she had written for the Herbie Hancock standard.

Nothing much seemed to be happening after that and so, just as with Jerry Lee, Mercury decided to try and cut her as more of a ‘Soul’ artist, booking her into American a week later to record The Other Side Of Gloria Lynne. Despite Charlie Fach’s call in Billboard to ‘get material’ to Roy Dea for the album, it’s mostly covers of other people’s R&B hits which, in my opinion, is rarely a good idea. A Dea and Frazier production, with Moman’s Memphis Boys playing Bowlegs’ arrangements – how bad could it be? Gloria’s take on the 1964 Soul Sisters’ R&B charter, I Can’t Stand It, would be the single released from the album that July, and is classic AGP all the way, with Tommy Cogbill and Gene Chrisman solidly in the pocket, Charlie Chalmers’ beefy saxophone, and Lynne just belting it out. It could have been a hit in its own right but, alas, it wasn’t.

This next one may have been cut at Hi during two Mercury sessions noted in Reggie’s book on April 4th and 5th, but it seems odd that he wouldn’t have listed Junior Parker as the artist, especially since he had for those late 1966 dates. The fact that I Can’t Put My Finger On It is a Donnie Fritts composition, however, has led to some speculation that it may have been cut at Fame in Muscle Shoals, so we asked David Hood; “…with Charlie Chalmers, Bowlegs Miller and Reggie on it, I would definitely say it is a Memphis cut, possibly American.” Thanks David, we concur. I absolutely love Bowlegs’ funky arrangement here, with the baritone holding down the bottom while, once again, Charlie Chalmers just wails on the sax break. Yeah, Baby! Breaking into the R&B Top 50 in August, it would be the last record to have ‘Produced by Roy Dea & Boo Frazier’ printed on the label.

Shortly after it was released, buried deep in Billboard’s back pages, it was announced that Roy had ‘departed’ Mercury Records, with no further explanation given. I’m not sure what happened there, but I imagine ‘creative differences’ may have had something to do with it.

Let’s talk for a minute here about Charlie Chalmers, and how important a figure he is in American music. In addition to his own great production work at Sam Phillips we talked about earlier, by 1967 he had become one of the most ‘in demand’ horn men in the nation. Between Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett’s records for Atlantic, Charlie’s saxophone would spend an incredible EIGHTEEN WEEKS at NUMBER ONE on Billboard’s R&B chart in ’67 alone! Small wonder he seemed to be on just about every record cut in Memphis as well. “I was working somewhere everyday it seems like,” Charlie told me, “a few short years, but countless sessions. A magic time!” Magic indeed!

The next two singles to emanate from Mercury’s Memphis operation were issued back-to-back in September. The first of these was Junior Parker’s take on the Brook Benton standard Hurtin’ Inside. According to the liner notes of I’m So Satisfied, it was cut in August while Junior’s previous release was still on the charts. The label credit now reads ‘A Boo Frazier Production’, with no mention of Roy Dea. Both Reggie and Bobby logged a session on Margie Hendrix on June 6th at American where they would cut another Mack Rice gem, Don’t Take Your Good Thing, which was the second release.

Another ‘Boo Frazier Production’, I’m sure he didn’t have to do a whole lot considering all the talent in the room. With Margie’s swaggering delivery, Bowlegs punchy horn lines, and Moman’s American Group just locked in, it’s difficult to understand why this record wasn’t a hit. I’m beginning to get the feeling here that, once Roy pulled out, Mercury may have lost interest and not put much promotion behind Boo’s productions… I don’t know.

Bobby Hebb’s Everything Is Coming Up Roses was released on Philips around the same time (yes, that’s Charlie Chalmers on the sax). With this side of the 45 written by Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, and the flip by Darryl Carter (both published by Press Music), I’d say it’s pretty much a lock that it was cut at American… only neither Reggie nor Bobby mention the session in their books. There may be a reason for that. While still a ‘Boo Frazier Production’, under that on the label it reads ‘Produced by: Curtis Johnson, Cleve Shears, Jesse Butler’. Now, why would that be? Well, Cleve ‘Frog’ Shears was Bowlegs’ bass player, and we’ve already met the other two guys. I’m thinking that Frazier used Bowlegs’ band on this one, for one reason or another, hence the mention on the label. I’m not sure why, but this would be the last of the Frazier productions to credit Miller as arranger.

Frazier’s next trio of releases, although still listing Johnson, Shears and Butler as co-producers in one form or another, would be arranged by Gilbert Caple. As alluded to earlier, I believe this would indicate that they were cut at the North Main Street studio run by Earl Forest. Could there have been some ‘bad blood’ between Boo, Bowlegs and his boys? We may never know, I guess.

Gilbert Caples’ arrangement of Helen Davis’ That’s My Man (another Curtis Johnson tune) is, in my opinion, right up there with the stuff Ruby Johnson had been cutting across town at Stax. Dig as I might, there doesn’t seem to be any information out there about Ms. Davis… detectives? Released around the same time, Norman West’s Words Won’t Say (How Much You Mean To Me) was written by Wylie Sappington, composer of Don Bryant’s equally ‘deep’ Is That Asking Too Much, which we discussed last episode. According to Sir Shambling, Norman’s soulful side here is “one of the best unknown soul ballads from the city. Pure Memphis magic.” I couldn’t agree more, yet both of these great records would sink without a trace.

According to Michael Ruppli’s The Mercury Labels: A Discography, the following consecutive matrix numbers after the West single were issued as both sides of Mercury 32731, by a group called The Shadows. I didn’t think that referred to Cliff Richard’s UK chart toppers, so I started looking around. The record wasn’t listed on 45cat, not on Discogs, not on eBay, yet somehow it turned up on YouTube. 

It was next to impossible to read much information off of the low resolution scans on the video, so I decided to look up the composers on the BMI Repertoire database. The names didn’t mean anything to me, and at first I thought it must have been some kind of typo, but then I started googling and asking around. Thanks to John Ridley, Martin Goggin, Mark Nicholson, John Broven and ol’ Jukebox George, I’ve been able to get a better handle on who these Shadows might have been…

Fonnie ‘Tuna’ Harley

Like Curtis Johnson’s Astors, Memphis vocal group The Lyrics started out recording with Chips Moman at Satellite. When Jim Stewart passed on releasing the tapes, Chips took them over to Slim Wallace at Fernwood who did. The group would go on to have the inaugural release on Goldwax in 1963, before their lead singer, Percy Milem, decided to leave the group and pursue a solo career, resulting in some truly great records. As we saw in episode three, Reggie and Bobby had cut two sessions at Sun with Percy for Goldwax in June. What I hadn’t realized, is that there was another member of The Lyrics who had remained active in the music business, first tenor Fonnie ‘Tuna’ Harley. “My Mom was a school teacher, and she said she wanted to be different,” Harley told Martin Goggin in Juke Blues 66“so she called me ‘Fonnie’ and my sister ‘Donnie’… Donnie said ‘I can sing, let’s do something together’.”

Tuna went on to tell Goggin, “We organized a group called Act III with a guy named LaVorn Smith. We cut a ballad called I Can Feel The Tears… over at Sonic Studios with Roland Janes. Donnie did the lead and Lavorn did the arrangement.” Fonnie told Goggin that the single had been released on his own Harley label in 1967, but our research seems to indicate that it may have actually been cut in 1970, and that may indeed be Reggie playing that amazing guitar…

The single that was actually released in 1967 was the aforementioned Mercury 72731 [now added to 45cat by Jukebox George], with the copyrights of both sides being registered that October. I’ll tell you what, Donnie Harley was one great singer! Check out the movin’ and groovin’ Beautiful Heaven and the sweet uptown Soul of Time Is Running Out. Both tunes were co-authored by Fonnie and Donnie and arranged by Gilbert Caple, with Curtis Johnson and Cleve Shears listed as Boo Frazier’s co-producers. A solid record all the way around, how is it that it is virtually nowhere to be found? John Broven thinks that perhaps Mercury realized the conflict with the group’s name and, with the UK Shadows then signed to Epic in the US, pulled the record to avoid any legal problems with CBS. I’d say that sounds about right… ugh.*

A similar thing might have happened with Act III, as there was another group recording under that name for Larry Uttal at Mala/Bell. In 1965, Charles Stewart produced a single on Texas vocal group The Van Dykes and released it on his own Hue label. When Mala picked it up for national distribution, it climbed to #24 R&B in early ’66, and three more chart hits would follow. According to the Goggin article, Fonnie’s friend Willie Bean convinced Stewart to re-issue the Harley single on Hue but, apparently to avoid any conflict with Mala, he changed the name of the group to Gents & The Lady. It was the astute Mark Nicholson who pointed out this entry in Reggie’s 1970 log book for an overdub session on September 22nd… I’d say he’s our guitarist!

The ‘Trump’ notation refers, not to the future orange president, but to the unfortunately named Capitol subsidiary label run by Tommy Cogbill. Just about a month earlier, Cogbill had produced a great two-sider on them, under yet another moniker, Donnie, Fonnie & LaVornA Woman Who’ll Let You Be A Man is just great, and reminiscent of the material Tommy had been producing on The Masqueraders around the same time… only nobody seemed to notice.

Changing their name once again to Numbers, Fonnie and Donnie would work with Curtis Johnson (who had gone on to become a member of proto-funk outfit Brothers Unlimited), and cut the disco-era Got To Pull Away as the sole release on the Rolashed label in 1977. I’m lovin’ it!! Sadly, Fonnie Harley passed on in Memphis in 2017. Donnie moved to Texas and, as far as we can tell, is still around… talk about under-appreciated! If you ever read this, Donnie, thank you!

“…um, red, I thought we were talking about 1967.”  Oh yeah, sorry.

Just as with Junior Parker, Mercury had signed Roy Head away from Don Robey. Head had barely managed to crawl out of the 90s on the Hot 100 in 1966, so I’m sure Robey wasn’t too broken up about losing him. For his big label debut, Boo Frazier brought him to American in September to cut Mickey Newberry’s Got Down On Saturday (Sunday In The Rain). One of the coolest cats ever, Roy’s delivery here puts you in mind of The Hombres’ Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out), which would begin it’s climb to #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 within a few days of this session.

Billboard had also predicted that Roy’s effort here would put him ‘back on top in short order’, but it didn’t. ‘The American Studio Group’ shares the production credit on this one which, as far as I can tell, was the last of Mercury’s Memphis ‘Boo Frazier Productions’.

In late 1965, Mercury had decided to discontinue it’s Blue Rock subsidiary, which had been the Chicago label’s primary outlet for R&B product. A decision which led directly, I believe, to their increased presence in Memphis. After the lack of any real chart action on the records we discussed above, Mercury opted to re-activate Blue Rock in 1968, naming our man Boo Frazier as ‘director of artist relations and national promo director’ of the label – as cogent an illustration of ‘The Peter Principle’ in action if ever there was one, I’d venture to say.

Oh well…

* While doing research for this episode I came across this on a 45cat page for an ultra-rare Jimmy Hart record: “Based on info from soul 45 experts it is likely to be a ‘test press’, albeit in full store-ready stock form, run by RPC in Richmond, Indiana prior to a planned commercial run. However, no such full run occurred. According to those in the know, protocol for some contract pressings at the time was to run 6 copies with full retail-ready labels and provide four to the label, with the plant keeping two file copies (also happened for promo copies sometimes). The timing of this planned release (fall 1965) coincides with the parent company putting Blue Rock on hold until its return in 1968…” Which may well have been the case with Mercury 72731 – no full run may have ever existed!

1967 Episode Five Playlist

Special thanks go to Jerry Kennedy, Charlie Chalmers, Mark Nicholson, John Ridley, Martin Goggin, Jay Halsey, Richard Tapp, John Broven, 45cat and Jukebox George.

Billy Lawson

Billy Lawson grew up just outside of Muscle Shoals next door to Junior Lowe and, like Junior, he had a guitar in his hand by the time he was six years old. Lowe became sort of his mentor (and guitar hero), and would allow him to sit-in with his band at local State Line clubs before he was out of grade school.

His Zip City neighborhood was also home to Earl ‘Peanutt’ Montgomery, the man whose career as a songwriter included a slew of top ten Country hits he penned for his main man George Jones… Billy was paying attention. The Music was in him, and he knew he had no choice but to follow where it might lead. While still in his teens, Billy and his band began working that same State Line dance hall circuit Junior had.

In his early twenties he got himself a job at Terry Woodford and Clayton Ivey’s Wishbone Studios in Muscle Shoals, learning about songwriting from some of the best in the business. Billy and his band were still playing most nights out on the strip, which got them noticed by casting director Tonya Holly, who would hire them to appear in the Oscar winning film Blue Sky in 1994. Setting his sights on Nashville with stars in his eyes, it looked like he might have a shot at making it as a performer when he was signed by Epic Records… but Billy soon realized that wasn’t going to happen.

His unique way with words caught the attention of Tree Publishing executive Don Cook, who signed Billy on as a staff songwriter in 1995. By the Summer of ’96 Learning As You Go, a song Lawson co-wrote with Larry Boone, would top the Country charts for Rick Trevino. Within a few months, Trace Adkins would take another Lawson composition (this time written with John Schweers), I Left Something Turned On At Home, straight to number one. In just a few short years, Billy Ray Lawson had become an in-demand Music City songwriter, placing dozens of other songs on the charts. As the nature of the music business began to change in Nashville after the turn of the century, however, it would become ever more difficult to make a living as a songwriter in the digital age.

Billy Ray decided to stay closer to home…

The Shoals was his stomping grounds, and Lawson began hanging out with the man who had put the town on the map, Rick Hall. Over lunches at their favorite Italian restaurant, Billy just soaked it all in. He knew what he was called upon to do.

Opening his own Big Star Studio, Billy began producing a few records. After that, it seemed like things all began to fall into place. Wishbone Studio, which had been empty for years, became available and Lawson figured out a way to buy it. When Larry Rogers’ Studio 19 was marked for demolition on Nashville’s Music Row in 2015, Billy worked out a deal with Larry to install the studio’s Trident 90 console at Wishbone. One of the first records cut there was Willie Hightower’s great come-back album, Out Of The Blue. With the legendary Quinton Claunch on board as his executive producer, the album features some of the best songs Billy has ever written, like this one:

(check out Lawson’s shirt… )

The first time we met Billy was when Reggie and Jenny Young brought us to Claunch Cafe in Tuscumbia so we could check out Johnny Belew’s amazing cornbread salad. Billy invited us to visit Wishbone the next day, where he was in the process of cutting another come-back album of sorts, Darryl Worley’s Second Wind: Latest & Greatest, with he and Darryl producing. The first single pulled from the album, co-written with the great Ed Hill, has become a breakthrough digital hit:

Billy Lawson and his band (now called ‘Wishbone’) are back out there performing locally in The Shoals area, to rave reviews. Performer, songwriter, producer, studio owner – it might seem like he had this whole music thing sewn up – but there was one thing missing… his own record label.

Not anymore. Along with partners Mike O’Rear and James Wright, Billy launched Muscle Shoals Recordings this past week with the release of their first single, Avalon:

A loving tribute to Rick Hall and all things Muscle Shoals, that’s Junior Lowe and Travis Wammack on guitar there, folks and Clayton Ivey and Jim Whitehead on the keys, same as it ever was…

Billy Lawson’s got it going on!