Our second installment of the notes for the 1967 Reggie Young & Bobby Emmons Discography (You Tube Playlist below)
Now let’s talk about another major player in this story, one W.D. ‘Buddy’ Killen. Killen grew up in Muscle Shoals, but left for Nashville ‘before the ink was dry’ on his high school diploma in 1951. working as an itinerant bass player, he was soon holding down a gig at The Grand Ole Opry and working as a session musician in the burgeoning studio scene that would become known as Music Row. Jack Stapp was the program director at legendary clear channel radio station WSM, the broadcast home of The Opry. Figuring out where the real money was in the music business, Stapp had founded his own publishing company, Tree, around the same time Buddy got to town. Stapp admired Killen’s energy (and studio connections), and hired him as a ‘song plugger’ for the company in 1953.
In October of 1955, Mae Boren Axton pitched a song she had written with Tommy Durden to Elvis Presley, and offered him a third of the songwriter’s credit if he would record it. It remains unclear whether it was before or after he (and Col. Tom Parker) agreed, but Axton offered the publishing rights to Buddy Killen and Tree. In January of 1956, Presley and The Blue Moon Boys arrived in Nashville to record his first RCA Victor release, Heartbreak Hotel, which just blew the doors off of everything, breaking into the top five on Billboard’s Pop, C&W and R&B charts on its way to becoming The King’s first million seller, and putting him (and Tree) firmly on the map. In 1957, Jack Stapp would reward Buddy by naming him Vice-President and partner in the firm.
In late ’57, with Elvis about to be drafted, and Colonel Parker refusing to pay them what they were worth, The Blue Moon Boys saw the handwriting on the wall and left the Elvis circus behind. They headed home to Memphis, where Scotty Moore teamed up with Slim Wallace at his Fernwood label. Prior to Moore’s arrival, Wallace had been using Sam Phillips’ publishing company (Knox) for his releases but, soon after Scotty’s arrival, Fernwood 105 and 106 were published by Tree.
The way the story goes is that Scotty’s paper boy, Tommy Wayne Perkins (brother of Tennesse Two guitarist Luther Perkins), led a vocal group at his high school, and was itching to cut a record. Dubbing him Thomas Wayne, Moore would record a couple of sides on him in early 1958. Released as Fernwood 106, Scotty was excited about the chances of the top side, Ray Scott composition “You’re The One That Done It” and leased it to Mercury (71287) that March. The flip, This Time, had been written by Wayne’s guitar player, a kid named Lincoln Wayne ‘Chips’ Moman. Billboard agreed with Scotty, characterizing the A side as ‘intense’ and ‘sincere,’ while Moman’s flip was only ‘agreeable’ and ‘okay’… be that as it may, neither side charted and the record sank like a stone. Moore would start up his own publishing company, Bluff City Music, after that and go on to great success with Thomas Wayne a few months later when Tragedy soared to #5 on Billboard’s Hot 100.
Meanwhile, a kid named Gary Shelton had had the second release on Mercury’s Smash subsidiary in 1957, and been moved up to the big label (71310) around the same time as the Mercury Wayne single, with similar results. Gary must have heard something nobody else did and, after floundering around to a few other labels, he changed his name to Troy Shondell and cut This Time for the tiny Gold Crest imprint in his home town of Fort Wayne, Indiana. After being picked up for national distribution by Liberty in September of 1961, it would go on to become a smash hit, climbing to #6 on the Hot 100 and hitting #22 on the UK Singles Chart when it was released in England on London (got that?). Suddenly a top earner for Tree, Moman was now firmly on Buddy Killen’s radar.
By then, Chips had been tied up with Satellite for a couple of years, and was there as the label changed its name to Stax around the same time as the Shondell record hit in late 1961. Killen, meanwhile, had created his own Dial label (distributed by London) in Nashville as an outlet for Joe Tex around then too. In the Summer of 1962, Moman would have his notorious blow-out with Stewart and Axton over money and move on. A trumpet playing lawyer named Seymour Rosenberg offered to sue Stax and wound up negotiating a settlement of $3000, which he and Chips would use to open their own studio in North Memphis literally across the street from former Blue Moon Boy Bill Black’s studio, Lyn-Lou. It would be called American Sound.
As part of the same deal, Rosenberg had set up the Penthouse label, along with a subsidiary named Youngstown and an in-house publishing company, Press Music. The first release on Penthouse would be by Chips himself, recording under the name of Larry Wayne. At this point, Rosenberg apparently offered former Dixie Rambler Wayne McGinnis a piece of the pie if he would also issue the 45 on his already established Santo label.
A far cry from the groundbreaking R&B Moman had been cutting on McLemore Avenue, both sides of the single had been written by former Rockabilly powerhouse Patricia Ferguson, and published by Press Music. The Nashville flavored Dialing Your Number (By Mistake) is the better of the two sides, which isn’t saying much… despite a mention in Cashbox that November, the record died on the vine and apparently marked the end of Lincoln Wayne’s career as a performer. By his own admission, by then Moman was “a down son of a bitch,” and had gambled or drank away most of his interest in the Rosenberg American empire.
In the August 10, 1963 edition of Billboard, Buddy Killen announced that Chips Moman had been signed to an exclusive contract with Tree Publishing both as a writer and producer, and would also be serving as his personal assistant. Hmmm… Joe Tex’s Dial releases had been going nowhere, and I’ve often wondered if Chips had anything to do with great records like I Wanna Be Free, which would be released that November. In any event, Chips’ stay there in Music City appears to have been short-lived, as he was back in Memphis cutting records on Barbara & The Browns and O.V. Wright at American as early as the Spring of 1964. Shortly after that, Killen would bring Tex to Muscle Shoals to record his breakthrough hit, Hold What You’ve Got, which would break into the top five both R&B and Pop after Jerry Wexler convinced Buddy to switch Dial’s manufacturing and distribution deal from London to Atlantic.
This Time was still earning Moman and Tree ‘mechanicals’ when it was released as the flip of future Memphis Boy Bobby Wood’s #46 Country hit That’s All I Need To Know in late 1964. Somewhere around in here, Don Crews bought out Rosenberg’s share of American, along with that of his nephew, Wayne McGinnis. When MGM picked up the Youngstown release of The Gentrys’ Keep On Dancing in 1965, Chips offered Crews a half interest in the record and leveraged himself back in as half owner of the studio, the labels and, most importantly, Press Music.
As we saw in 1966, after Jerry Wexler started using Chips Moman as his ‘contractor’ to import The Sound of Memphis to Fame in Muscle Shoals, Killen began doing the same thing, bringing Chips, Tommy Cogbill, Gene Chrisman and Reggie Young (remember him?) to Nashville for sessions with Bobby Marchan for Cameo/Parkway.
In January of ’67, Buddy would import Bobby Emmons as well for a session he co-produced with New York record man Phil Kahl for Diamond Records. Initially set up to record both label veteran Johnny Thunder and recent acquisition Ruby Winters seperately, it was Kahl’s brother, label head Joe Kolsky, who came up with the idea of cutting them as a duet. The concept worked, and Make Love To Me, propelled by Reggie’s great guitar fills and Bobby’s punchy organ, would spend the next two months on the charts, climbing as high as #13 R&B in Billboard. Diamond made sure they got their money’s worth on the trip to Nashville, paying the musicians overtime to cut the artists individually as well, resulting in two more Diamond 45s, including Winters’ blisteringly deep Try Me, with Reggie’s bluesy guitar reminiscent of the work he was doing at Hi with O.V. Wright.
Just six days later, Killen brought Reggie back to Nashville for another marathon nine hour session on January 24th, although this time it was for his own Dial label’s big star, Joe Tex. Joe had continued his chart-topping ways, with back to back #1 R&B hits as ’65 gave way to ’66, followed by three more that would land in the top ten, and cross over into the Pop Top 40. Buddy’s confidence in Tex was finally paying off. One of Joe’s most enduring classics, Show Me, was cut that day, and go on to hit #35 on Billboard’s Hot 100 that Spring. They just don’t come much better than this y’all! Although not released until December, the great Don’t Give Up (with Reggie’s trademark licks all over it) was also cut at that session. Now here’s something I never realized until I started researching all this… the very same day that this session was being held in Music City, Chips Moman, Dan Penn, Tommy Cogbill and Charlie Chalmers were 125 miles away in Muscle Shoals, cutting Do Right Woman, Do Right Man on Aretha for Jerry Wexler at Fame. Unreal!
Killen would bring both Reggie and Bobby back to Nashville in February to cut Bobby Marchan’s funky Help Yourself for Cameo/Parkway. Although not mentioned by name in either of the log books, we believe that the three hours overtime listed by both of them was used for a Dial session on the man John Ridley calls a ‘most eclectic personality,’ Little Archie. Released that March, the high energy All I Have To Do represents yet another hidden Nashville R&B gem, cut by the boys from Memphis.
A few weeks later, Killen brought the boys back again to cut Dial’s new signee, Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry. Lo and behold, there, released as the flip of Tree songwriter Curly Putnam’s Hummin’ A Heartache, is Moman’s This Time! Maybe the best version of the tune to date, I love how Frogman kind of goes off there towards the end. The guitar doesn’t really sound like Reggie, and may well have been played by ol’ Chips himself. Another favorite from these sessions is Frogman’s take on Marchan’s Shake Your Money Maker. I’d bet the farm that’s Tommy Cogbill on that bass!
Buddy Killen had picked up Paul Kelly’s Chills And Fever from Lloyd, a small Miami label, and released it on Dial in late 1965. Despite Atlantic getting behind the record, it didn’t do much. Impressed by his songwriting abilities, Killen signed him and issued one more Dial 45 on him in February of ’66 that did even less. By November, Buddy had worked out a deal with Mercury, who (as we’ll see) was looking to expand their R&B operations, to license Kelly’s records to their Phillips subsidiary. As is obvious from the great Billboard photo above, Killen believed in Kelly (almost as much as he did Joe Tex), and would work closely with him for years. After the Frogman session on March 10th, Killen produced four sides on Paul for Phillips, including the marvelously deep Cryin’ For My Baby… wow!.
In the issue of Record World that was published the same date as the Billboard mentioned above, it was announced that Tree had purchased a 50% stake in Press Music. With Penn/Moman composition The Dark End Of The Street currently riding the charts, and Do Right Woman, Do Right Man earning Press mechanicals as the flip of Aretha’s huge number one hit (before it broke into the R&B top forty on its own), I’m sure Jack Stapp was happy to oblige. Besides managing to get Chips into a suit and tie, the deal would also provide a much needed influx of cash to fund the recent equipment upgrade at American. Don Crews was all smiles, as I’m sure Stapp was later on, as future Press big sellers like Cry Like A Baby and Suspicious Minds were now half theirs.
With the console at American now up to snuff, and his ‘house band’ just about where he wanted them, by May of 1967 Chips Moman had decided that from then on, the Mountains would have to come to Mohammed… and they did.
As mentioned earlier, almost the entire month of May had been left blank in Reggie’s book, but we had found a reference in the Cameo /Parkway log sheets (thank you, Teri Landi!) for a session held at American on Bobby Marchan on May 19th, which was subsequently confirmed by an entry in Bobby Emmons’ book. One of the absolute greatest records to ever emanate from 827 Thomas Street was cut that day – the Buddy Killen produced Someone To Take Your Place*, which still knocks me out every time I hear it. Check out Reggie’s guitar, and Charlie Chalmers wailing on that saxophone! Yeah, Baby! Marchan would also record the way cool New Orleans flavored Sad Sack at American that October.
…as it turns out, however, Marchan’s May 19th session may not have been Buddy’s first visit to American after all. In the liner notes to a Shout CD Singles A’s & B’s Volume 2, they refer to a session held on May 8th in ‘Tennessee?’ which yielded #24 R&B hit Woman Like That, Yeah. So, Nashville or Memphis? Well, that’s Reggie on there for sure, but according to Bobby’s book, Emmons was otherwise engaged, working on demos for eight hours at Pepper for Larry Raspberry. Ultimately, I guess it doesn’t matter much. Buddy did indeed bring Joe to American for sure on June 28th, to cut the great A Woman’s Hands, which also climbed to #24 R&B in Billboard that Fall. It was Joe’s next visit to American in September that has gotten all the press over the years, and rightfully so…
“Reggie was so creative, God, what a guitar player,” Killen told John Broven in a 2003 interview, “when he hit that lick on Skinny Legs And All, Joe fell out in the middle of the floor, he started kicking!” In Killen’s autobiography he said, “I brought the tape back to Nashville and listened to it a number of times. I felt that it still needed something…” It was Jerry Wexler who gave him the idea of dubbing in an audience to make it sound like a live recording. “The studio held only thirty people, not enough to sound like an auditorium crowd, so we overdubbed the applause more than once,” Buddy goes on to say, “…I also added slapback reverb to the tape, so it sounded as if the music was bouncing off the walls of the auditorium.” The idea worked, and ‘Skinny Legs’ went straight into the Pop top ten in both Billboard and Cash Box, and spent an incredible four months on the R&B charts, including two weeks at #2 (only kept from the top slot by I Heard It Through The Grapevine), on its way to becoming the all-time classic it remains to this day. It was Joe Tex’s 18th chart appearance in a row, a feat which would put him on the front cover of Cash Box in early 1968. I guess there’s not much else to say that hasn’t already been written about this record, except that I’d like to point out something I had been able to confirm with Darryl Carter, who was there in the room – it is Bobby Womack who asks Joe why he doesn’t take that woman with the skinny legs…
In a definite case of less probably having been more, the unparalleled success of that single convinced Atlantic to record a whole album with that ‘live in the studio’ concept. On Live And Lively, released in early 1968, Killen overdubbed audience sounds over Joe’s previous three hits as well, and held sessions in Nashville with Tex’s own band on November 2nd to flesh out the LP. There is one track listed as having been cut at those sessions, however, that we believe has Reggie playing on it, his deep reading of Do Right Woman, Do Right Man. That guitar may have also been an overdub, as Buddy would bring Joe to American one more time a week later to cut his timeless holiday classic, I’ll Make Every Day Christmas (For My Woman). Buddy had also brought Paul Kelly along with him on that visit, and cut the great My Love Is Growing Stronger the following day.
That’s about it for Buddy Killen’s 1967 involvement with Reggie and/or Bobby Emmons, but there is one more Dial release we need to talk about…
An entry in Reggie’s book for a session on August 28th for Shelby Singleton Productions had us scratching our heads, and coming up blank. Singleton had left Mercury earlier in 1967, and started up his own SSS International label, but we couldn’t seem to connect the dots on any of those releases. Once we were able to compare Bobby’s entry for that date, however, we were able to figure it out… well almost, anyway.
Apparently Skip Gibbs first recording, the snappy upbeat arrangement here on Fugue For A Lost Soul belies its title, and it’s dark subject matter (which, despite repeated listenings I have yet to figure out). Gibbs would go on to have five releases on Shelby Singleton’s Plantation label later on, so there’s that connection… but (just when you thought we were done with all that ‘Wayne’s World’ stuff we were talking about earlier), it turns out that the composers of this little gem were none other than the same Fred Burch and Gerald Nelson who wrote ‘Tragedy’ for Thomas Wayne back in 1958… You really can’t make this stuff up! Burch also produced, and would go on to work with Singleton as a songwriter (including writing the awesome He Made A Woman Out Of Me for Betty Lavette on Silver Fox), so how on earth this 45 ended up on Dial is anybody’s guess…
Shelby Singleton himself apparently did show up at American on September 17th to co-produce one of the great lost Soul records with Finley Duncan. Duncan had started up his Minaret label in 1962, but had also produced singles by Len Wade and The Tikis for Dial at Fame in 1966. Singleton had apparently bought an interest in Minaret shortly after that.
According to Sir Shambling, The Double Soul was made up of Elmore Morris and Charles Cooper. Morris was an R&B veteran who had cut a number of sides for Peacock in the late 50s. Cooper would later make up half of another duo Finley put together for the Abet label, Chuck & Mariann. Written by Morris, Blue Diamonds was selected as the A side of their lone 45, although the other two tunes cut that day (available on the discography page) are just as good. At this point, Singleton was still about a year away from hitting the big time with Harper Valley P.T.A., after which he and Duncan would build their Playground Recording Studio in Valparaiso, Florida.
…to be continued.
*also available on ACE CDHCD 1572 The Soul Of The Memphis Boys
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. Special thanks go to Mark Nicholson, John Broven, John Ridley, Jay Halsey, Teri Landi and Russ Wapensky.