Archive for the ‘Memphis Music’ Category

Willie Mitchell RIP

January 5, 2010

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The Mighty Willie Mitchell

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Listen/Download -Willie Mitchell – That Driving Beat

Listen/Download -Willie Mitchell – Up Hard

Listen/Download -Willie Mitchell – My Babe

Greetings all.

I come to you today with some sad news, that being the passing of the giant of Memphis soul and R&B, Mr. Willie Mitchell.
Mitchell is best known – at least to those outside of hardcore soulies – as the man who made Hi Records a major force in soul music, especially via his productions for Al Green, Syl Johnson, Ann Peebles, O.V. Wright and many others.
Mitchell, who was born in Ashland, Mississippi – got his start as a trumpet playing bandleaders in Memphis before joing Joe Coughi’s Hi label in 1959 as an artist, producer, and arranger. Following Coughi’s death in 1970, Mitchell ended up bringing the label its greatest success.
The music of Willie Mitchell (as performer and producer) has been a constant presence in the Funky16Corners Radio podcasts, and the three songs I bring you today all appeared in those mixes over the last three years.
The first two, ‘That Driving Beat’ and ‘Up Hard’ are both Mod soul classics.
1965’s ‘That Driving Beat’ is a slamming dancer in a Junior Walker stylee, with blaring tenor sax, a horn section that sounds like the model for Otis Redding’s version of Satisfaction’ and unlike most of his records from this period, vocals.
‘Up Hard’, written by (and featuring) organist Art Jerry Miller (who went on to record his own album for the Stax subsidiary Enterprise) mixes a tight horn section with a powerful, gritty guitar line and pounding drums. The 1968 single was released with two different B-sides.
The final track, Mitchell’s 1969 cover of Willie Dixon’s ‘My Babe’ is a 45 that I slept on for YEARS. There it sat in my crates, picked up at some flea market or other for a pittance, all but ignored. Never a huge fan of the song itself, I finally pulled it out one day and gave it a spin, and was promptly blown away. There, nestled in the grooves of a record that I had long suspected was a run of the mill R&B/soul instrumental, was a sizzling bit of organ funk that has had a place of honor in my DJ box ever since.
These tunes by no means represent a comprehensive sampling of Willie Mitchell’s career. They’re just three of his records that I like a lot.
I suspect that other – in particular Red Kelly of the B-Side – will be posting long form tributes to the greatness of Willie Mitchell.
Dig the tunes, and I’ll be back on Friday.

Peace

Larry

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PS Head over to Iron Leg for some early Leon Russell.

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The Bar-Kays – Sang and Dance

September 20, 2009

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The Bar-Kays, looking fly at Wattstax

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Listen/Download – The Bar-Kays – Sang and Dance – MP3

Greetings all.
How’s about we get things started this week with a taste of Memphis funk (and a huge helping of sample bait)??
The tune I bring you today was another one of my Washington DC scores. Oddly enough, though I came home with a huge, steaming heap of vinyl, almost all of it was in LP form. There was much digging to be had, but little of it took the form of the little seven inch wax biscuits we love so much here at Funky16Corners headquarters.
However, as a lifetime of experience has shown, sometimes quantity is sacrificed for quality, and this was one of those times. I probably came home with less than 20 45s, but as you’ll see as they get posted up in this space, they were by and large of an exceedingly high quality. Maybe not the rarest stuff (though there were a couple of what the kids refer to as “tough pulls”) but excellence from end to end.
The 45 I bring you today (I’ll only post one side, saving the flip for a later date) is an very cool side by a band with an interesting history.
Is there anyone among you that hasn’t heard ‘Soul Finger’? If you have, then you’re already hip to the sounds of the Bar-Kays.
Founded in Memphis in 1966, the Bar-Kays were soon recruited by the mighty Otis Redding as his backing band. They toured with him through 1967, until December 10th of that year, where the majority of the band perished along with Redding in a Wisconsin plane crash. Only the band’s trumpeter Ben Cauley survived that crash, and their bassist – who was in a second plane – put the band back together.
The band’s Volt discography shows only two singles released during 1968 (and I suspect that some or all of those sides may have already been in the can), but by 1969 the reconstituted Bar-Kays had returned to their duties backing other Stax/Volt artists in the studio, as well as recording their own music. ‘Sang and Dance’ was definitely recorded by the “new” Bar-Kays as sax player Harvey Henderson (a new member) is namechecked during the song.
Today’s selection first appeared as an A-side in 1969, though the copy I have is from the songs second appearance, as the B-side of the R&B hit ‘Son of Shaft’ in 1971.
I’d already heard ‘Son of Shaft’, but was unfamiliar (so I thought) with ‘Sang and Dance’. As soon as I previewed the song on the store’s turntable I realized that while I may not know the Bar-Kays record, I had definitely heard it sampled by an obscure artist by the name of Will Smith, on an equally obscure record called ‘Getting’ Jiggy With It’.
Fortunately for all of us, ‘Sang and Dance’ has much more to offer than the familiar ‘Na Na Na Na Na Na Na’ refrain. It is a veritable smorgasbord of funk, mixing dance craze boilerplate, a chant borrowed from Jomo’s ‘Uhuru (African Twist)’*, funky wah-wah guitar, fatback drum breakdowns and a blazing, horn-infested chorus.
It’s a great way to get your week (and your heart) started.
I hope you dig it.

Peace

Larry

*I assume that the Bar-Kays copped the chant from the earlier record, but it’s also likely that the chant arose from a third, common source.

PS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg for something funky and freaky from Lulu.

PSS Check out Paperback Rider too.

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