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1965 started out with Reggie as a journeyman session guitarist, playing at other Memphis studios besides Royal whenever he could. As mentioned on the discography page, one of those was Moman's American and also Bill Black's Lyn-Lou (then operating in its original location, literally across the street from American Sound). He would also cut for Stan Kesler at The Sam Phillips Recording Service on Madison (still known to local musicians as 'SUN') where, according to Roben Jones, "...the sound of The Memphis Boys was born."
Reggie would also cut over 20 times at another little-known Memphis studio named Pepper (soon to become known as Pepper-Tanner). Pepper recorded 'production service' jingles for radio stations throughout the South. A session at Pepper consisted of five of these 'spots', which means Reggie played on over 100 of them. "They'd just leave the guitar part in the sheet music blank," Reggie said, "tell me what key we were in and say 'play something upbeat'." Although we may never know exactly which jingles he appeared on specifically, this collection from around the same era gives you an idea of what they must have sounded like.
Although I'm sure it was a little different than opening for The Beatles, Reggie was still performing live in '65. Bob Tucker was back leading the road version of Bill Black's Combo, and so it was left to the studio outfit to back-up Ace Cannon on gigs all over the South. In the great photo from Reggie's album above, he is joined by Royal regulars Bobby Emmons and Jerry 'Satch' Arnold, along with an unknown bass player (all Reggie recalls is that he came from Jackson, Tennesee - update: Ace Cannon himself told us his name was Ronnie Moore).
Unlike the Combo, Ace's club act also included a singer, and those vocals were handled by Charles Heinz. Heinz had one of the first releases on Satellite (aka Stax) Records in 1959, and had gone on to become the Minister of Music at his Church. Reggie apparently shared guitar duties with Tommy Cogbill (who was also playing at Royal by then), as evidenced by this other great photo from around the same period.
I asked Reggie how he first met Bobby Emmons: "I was playing with Bill Black in Lepanto, Arkansas after I got out of basic training in 1960. Bobby's aunt brought him down to the gig to audition for Bill, and he sat down at the piano and sang 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On' "Black hired him, but only to help carry the instruments," he said, "he didn't play on any records till I got out of the Army in '62 and put in a good word for him." By 1965, Bobby would become an integral part of Hi's 'Sound of Memphis', and release one of London's 'teen-pegged' LPs under his own name, the ultra-rare Blues With A Beat And An Organ, along with the great double-sider taken from the album that we have here.
1965 was also the year that Don Bryant cut his first Hi 45s. He had recorded a couple of singles for M.O.C. as the lead vocalist of The Four Kings, but now was stepping out as a solo artist. One of the most criminally under-appreciated Memphis soul singers, the quality of these records never fails to knock me out. Check out Reggie's great down-home guitar work on this one, which was penned by Bryant himself. After all of these years, Don Bryant will be releasing a new album in May (see Soul Sauce at right), just two weeks before the release of Reggie's own first-ever CD, Forever Young. Imagine?
Bryant was also the (uncredited) vocalist on Willie Mitchell's pure powerhouse That Driving Beat which was released that October. If you listen closely, however, there is a second 'low harmony' vocal on there as well. I always wondered who that might have been Well, the log book entry for September 2nd indicates a Willie Mitchell session was held with vocals by 'Bryant and Simmons', which Reggie confirms refers to Jumpin' Gene Simmons as the second vocalist. How cool is that?
Willie would bring in some members of his Manhattan Club band to Royal from time to time, Reggie said (including Al Jackson, Jr.), and they would mix things up a bit. Mitchell would actually have the only bona-fide hit of 1965 that Summer, when 'Buster Browne' climbed to #29 on Billboard's R&B chart. With Reggie's phenomenal guitar work front and center, here's some more evidence of the color-blind nature of Southern Soul in the mid-sixties, y'all!
Hi 2088, released that March, was a one-off single by someone named Tommy Jay. I had no idea who that was until I was contacted by a gentleman named Gary Taylor, who tells us: "Tommy and I met at an early age... we were in West Memphis Jr High and started The Constellations Band in 1963. There weren't many musicians in West Memphis except older ones like Wayne Jackson who was about 3 or 4 years ahead of us. Around 10th grade we got a few younger players and we changed the Name to Tommy Jay and The Escorts...Tommy performed 'Going Steady Ring' on George Klein's Show on WHBQ, then released his 'Tender Love'. That was a great start for Tommy and the band, we won band battles and drove the girls crazy! I guess recording on Hi Records gave us a chance to play with others on the label, backing up Charlie Rich several times and Jumpin' Gene Simmons... that was fun to say the least! I got a shock to hear Tommy had died in 1975 - he had such charisma and everybody liked him from school onward. I think about him all the time and still visit his grave in Marion, AR."
Here's the record that provided that 'great start' Tender Love. The atmospheric Reggie guitar, Tommy's heartfelt vocals, and that ethereal harmonica (played by whom?) all combine to make this one a spine-tingling keeper. According to Gary Taylor, it was written by none other than George Jackson (!), over a year before Quinton Claunch had hired him as a staff songwriter for Goldwax, and two years before he signed with Hi as an artist himself. I'm not sure how it is that Tommy came to record this particular song, but it appears to be one of Jackson's earliest known Memphis compositions. Thanks, Gary!
The flip side of the record, however, was definitely designed with the British Invasion in mind. No doubt heavily influenced by Reggie's stint in the U.K., it sounds more Mersey than Memphis. I asked Reggie about the arrangements on these records, and he said they pretty much just worked them out together in the studio as they went along... which brings up another question, I think. As mentioned on the discography page, 1965 is the first year that Reggie kept a record of who the 'session leader' was at Royal, but who was the producer?
Homer Ray Harris was a Mississippi country boy turned Rockabilly wildman who had a couple of releases on Sun before he left Sam Phillips behind in 1957 to form his own label with Quinton Claunch and Bill Cantrell. Through an arrangement with jukebox operator and record store owner Joe Cuoghi (along with 'silent partner' lawyer Nick Pesce), they formed Hi Records, and within a year had built their own studio inside the old Royal Theater in South Memphis. Claunch soon moved on, and the others more or less stayed out of Harris' way, which left him pretty much the 'chief cook & bottle washer' at the studio, and behind the board as the sole engineer. The 'producer' label credit was not commonly used until later on (at least not on Hi) and although Cuoghi took credit for just about everything, it was Harris who was responsible for creating that fat-bottomed Bill Black sound. Does that make him the producer? In my estimation, I suppose it does.
A sometimes background singer at the studio in those days was a West Memphis girl named Sandy Posey. After Bill Justis produced a record on her in Nashville that went nowhere, (according to Wikipedia), "Posey then made a demonstration recording of "Born a Woman"... Chips Moman 'went wild' when he heard this and helped her to obtain a contract with MGM in Nashville." Reggie confirms that the 're-cut' entry for Sandy Posey at Royal on May 27, 1965 was indeed that very demo recording that drove Chips wild. Just another example of Moman's continued involvement with Royal, both while at Stax and American (he had filled in as one of the Bill Black session guitarists at the studio while Reggie was in the Army in 1960 and '61, and never really left).
Another woman breaking through the glass ceiling at what had previously been an all male enclave, was a young lady by the name of Veniece Stalks. Reggie said he had seen her perform with Willie Mitchell at The Manhattan Club in 1965, before Willie brought her into the studio to record. Her first 45 for Hi, released that June, had a decidedly 'girl group' sound, which again is pretty amazing as the arrangements were done 'on the fly' as mentioned earlier. The songwriting credit on this one reads 'Young-Harris', although Reggie will tell you that Ray Harris never wrote a note while he was there...
Another person that Willie Mitchell started bringing around to the studio around that time was the guitarist he had been using in his road band, a 19 year old named Mabon 'Teenie' Hodges. Although I have no clue who Maurice Bowers is, I think this 45 may well be Teenie's first appearance on record! It's definitely not Reggie on guitar and, if you listen closely, you can hear ol' Maurice say "Play the Blues, Teenie Baby!" at around 1:32. How cool is THAT? (The songwriters on this one are B. Emmons & R. Harris, by the way - there ya go).
We will be talking more about Teenie, Willie, Veniece and even Homer Ray down the line, but for now that's all folks! Onward to 1966!
Be sure to check out the complete 1965 discography page, then join in the discussion and send us an email. - Extra Special thanks go to Reggie & Jenny Young, Peter Hoogers, Gary Taylor and John Broven.
Maybe people are finally beginning to pay attention. I can't tell you how happy I was that William Bell won the Grammy for This Is Where I Live (although for 'Best Americana Album' - whatever that is). Just a great record all the way around, it's real Soul music, same as it ever was - hey, it's even on STAX! Kudos to William and producer (and Master of the Telecaster) John Leventhal for a job well done.
We talked last time out about the upcoming Quinton Claunch produced album on Willie Hightower (who, I'm happy to report, will be making the trip to Porretta this Summer), and I heard from my man Jimmy Church in Nashville yesterday that he has just released his first album in years as well. Even more exciting is the news out of Memphis that Don Bryant is back in the game.
Don't Give Up On Love, due out May 12th on Fat Possum Records, was cut at Scott Bomar's Electraphonic Recording and brings together Hi Rhythm stalwarts Charles Hodges, Hubbie Turner and Howard Grimes along with Joe Restivo and the rest of The Bo-Keys gang. Produced by Bomar and Bruce Watson, if the incredible video below is any indication, this is going to be one hell of a record:
As discussed at left, Bryant made his first 45s as a solo artist at Hi Records in 1965, with Reggie Young on guitar. As fate would have it, Reggie's first ever album under his own name, Forever Young, will be released shortly after Don's, on May 23rd. How great would it be to get the two of them back together one more time? Hmmm... like maybe in New Orleans in October?- red kelly, March 2017 _______________________________________