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Quinton M. Claunch 1921-2021

It seemed he would always be there.

There, in the unassuming house in Parkway Village that he bought for his family in 1948. The house he lived in while he was working with Sam Phillips at Sun. The house he lived in as a progenitor of Hi Records. The house where a late night knock on the door would usher in the Soul Era at Goldwax.

I knocked on that door myself many times over the years, and got to know the man behind so much of the music I loved. A true character, his quick sense of humor and way with words was always accompanied by a mischievous glint in his eyes. No matter how much you thought you knew about him, there was always something more to tell. It was almost as if he left something out on purpose, so he could talk about it later on.

The last time John Broven and I knocked on that door in 2019, he told us the tale of how he would stay up nights as a boy growing up in Tishomingo, Mississippi and tune in ‘Border Blaster’ radio station XEG so he could listen to Cowboy Slim Rinehart on the radio. He wanted to play guitar so bad, he said, that his father sold a calf from the family farm and bought him one from the Sears-Roebuck catalogue. When the family moved north to Muscle Shoals as his father got work as part of the war effort at Alcoa Aluminum, Quinton brought that guitar with him and changed American Music forever.

He had never mentioned that before.

He had told us before that, when Sam Phillips didn’t follow through on a promise to him and his best friend Bill Cantrell that he would use one of their songs as the flip of a Carl Perkins single was when they made up their minds to leave Sun and start their own company, Hi Records. What he hadn’t told us, but now happened to mention that November afternoon, was that when The Beatles later covered the song (Sure To Fall), he was able to pay off the note on the house.

Incredible.

When I was doing the research for my 2015 interview of Willie Hightower at The Ponderosa Stomp, I discovered that Claunch and Cantrell had actually produced a whole album on Willie at Hi in 1982, one that hadn’t been released until 2007. Even though I had known him for years, he had never mentioned that either. It was that interview, and Hightower’s excellent performance at The Stomp, that would eventually lead to Quinton’s triumphant return to Muscle Shoals to work with Billy Lawson at Wishbone and produce one of the best Soul albums in years, Hightower’s Out Of The Blue in 2018.

He had said he wanted to go out in a “blaze of glory,” and he did – the record is nothing short of amazing.

I used to call Quinton a lot, and when I asked him how he was he would invariably respond, “I’m still here.”

Now, sadly, he is not.

Memphis will be a different place without him in it… I will miss my friend.

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3 replies »

  1. How well I remember Goldwax Records with The Ovations, “It’s Wonderful To Be In Love” and I believe that O.V. Wright may have recorded for Goldwax with “That’s How Strong My Love Is”. I knew the name Quinton Clouch but never connected it with Hi. He was a southern contributor who will be missed.

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