A primer ’60s soul playlist for Chips Moman and the Memphis Boys
Seven years of research, writing, and editing generated Roben Jones’s 409-page paperback debut, Memphis Boys: The Story of American Studios. It is the ultimate profile of the soulful septet —studio co-owner-producer-engineer Chips Moman, guitarist Reggie Young, bassists Tommy Cogbill and Mike Leech, pianist Bobby Wood, organist Bobby Emmons, drummer Gene Chrisman — who transformed Elvis Presley’s dire chart predicament as well as untold others. Until the twenty-tens the Memphis Boys received scant acknowledgement compared to their session contemporaries for fashioning the sonic landscape. We’re talking about an eye-opening 122 Billboard Top Ten hits in the late ‘60s, not counting their second wind in Nashville as a tight country ensemble playing and penning material for Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings. As a teaser for an exclusive 5,000-word interview — i.e. “Straight Shooter Roben Jones Rights an Unjustly Neglected Memphis Music Saga” — she distills the best of the Memphis Boys as cut at 827 Thomas Street.
The Roben Jones Interview, Part One
If you could sequence a 12-song playlist representing the ultimate Chips Moman and the Memphis Boys as captured at American Sound Studios, what would you choose?
Unsurprisingly, it proved impossible for me to strictly adhere to your parameters. Here you go:
- “The Dark End of the Street” — James Carr [No. 77 POP, No. 10 R&B December 1966, You Got My Mind Messed Up; written by Chips Moman and Dan Penn; produced by Quinton Claunch and Rudolph Russell]
- “Neon Rainbow” — The Box Tops [No. 24 POP October 1967, The Letter / Neon Rainbow; written by Wayne Carson Thompson; produced by Penn]
- “I Shall Be Released” — The Box Tops [No. 67 POP April 1969, Dimensions; written by Bob Dylan; produced by Moman and Tommy Cogbill]
- “[You Keep Me] Hangin’ On” — Joe Simon [No. 25 POP, No. 11 R&B March 1968, No Sad Songs; written by Ira Allen and Buddy Mize; produced by John Richbourg]
- “The Old Man at the Fair” — Ronnie Milsap [Raiders frontman Mark Lindsay dropped the first released version in May 1969 as the B-side of his debut solo 45, “First Hymn from Grand Terrace.” Jimmy Webb authored both songs. Apparently Milsap’s summer 1968 version produced by Moman was left in the archives until a mid-’70s Scepter Records compilation triggered by his country hit-making on RCA].
- “I’ve Been Down This Road Before” — B. J. Thomas [B-side of “Hooked on a Feeling” October 1968, On My Way; written by Mark James and Spooner Oldham; produced by Moman]
- “Watching the Trains Go By” — Steve Alaimo [A-side only October 1968, written and produced by Penn and Oldham]
- The Merrilee Rush album [i.e. Angel of the Morning, No. 196 POP October 1968; produced by Moman and Cogbill]
- “Your Loving Eyes Are Blind” — Merrilee Rush [A-side only March 1969; written by James, Glen Spreen, and Thompson; produced by Cogbill and Moman]
- Dusty in Memphis — Dusty Springfield [No. 99 POP January 1969; produced by Jerry Wexler, Arif Mardin, and Tom Dowd; “Just a Little Lovin’”, “Son of a Preacher Man,” and “The Windmills of Your Mind” are essential]
- The complete Elvis Presley sessions [32 masters tracked in January and February 1969 including “In the Ghetto,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Don’t Cry Daddy,” “Kentucky Rain,” From Elvis in Memphis, and From Memphis to Vegas / From Vegas to Memphis; produced by Moman with Felton Jarvis]
- Arthur Alexander [Warner Bros., did not chart, February 1972; produced by Cogbill; contains the original version of Presley’s “Burning Love”]
Don’t go anywhere yet! “Straight Shooter Roben Jones Rights an Unjustly Neglected Memphis Music Saga” is the second chapter of the trilogy. Tap the link below.
Straight shooter Roben Jones rights an unjustly neglected Memphis music saga [PART TWO OF THE INTERVIEW]
Chips Moman and American Sound Studio are the stars of a interview also covering Elvis Presley, Neil Diamond, the Box…
A beautiful mess with ‘Memphis Boys: The Story of American Studios’ wordsmith Roben Jones [PART THREE, THE CONCLUSION, OF THE INTERVIEW]
Chips Moman had to leave town for a little while: Refusing to play the game and Ringo Starr’s cursed sessions occupy a…
Back when Memphis was electric — B.J. Thomas on Chips Moman and the Memphis Boys
The impact of producer Chips Moman and the Memphis Boys is still being felt 45 years after the unceremonious closing of…
‘Wearin’ That Loved on Look’ — Terry Mike Jeffrey salutes Chips Moman and the Memphis Boys
Elvis Presley-inspired singer Terry Mike Jeffrey divulges his deep-rooted admiration for hit-making team Chips Moman…
More thunder on the piano — Ronnie Milsap relives Memphis days with Elvis Presley
Ronnie Milsap auspiciously bridged the gap between country and pop in the early ’80s, and his influence still permeates…
The Memphis Boys triumphantly declare hit-filled legacy during Elvis Week
Get the lowdown on the Memphis Boys’ final hometown show. The American Sound Studio gang played on 120 hits such as…
Elvis Presley, charismatic icon
The King is poised for a decade of fame and fortune at Memphis’s Rainbow Skating Rink after bidding adieu to the 3rd…
Something to talk about with country soul chanteuse Mendi Stone
Mendi Stone retains an undeniable knack for slaying any entertainment stage she tackles. Her mellifluous journey…
© Jeremy Roberts, 2019. All rights reserved. To touch base, email email@example.com and mention which story led you my way. I appreciate it sincerely.