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April 05, 1969 - Image 2

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1969-04-05

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Two THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Saturday, April 5, 1969

The)
By BILL JOHNSONi
MEMPHIS, Tenn. WP) - On an
otherwise undistinguished day
in 1954 a young truck driver
'with a mop of stringy black hair
and long sideburns walked hesi-
tantly into a small recording
studio and said he wanted to
make a record for his mother.
Eight years later, on an equal-
ly unremarkable day, a young
Negro singer who had come
along just for the ride got a
10-minute chance at the micro-
phone after a rhythm and blues
band had 'finished a lengthy
recording session.
The t\vo unlikely events, both
unplanned, were remarkable in
that they provided the original
base and the later framework
for what has become one of the
most spectacular happenings on
records - the Memphis Sound.
That first singer, who o n 1 y
wanted to wish his mother a
musical happy birthday, was
Elvis Presley, the driving force
who took rhythm and blues -
until then strictly the property
of the Negro - turned it into
rock and roll and made it suc-
cessful for the whites.
The second was Otis Redding,
a high school dropout and for-
ner janitor who used his uni4
que phrasing to boom the Mom-
phis Sound into a worldwide
commodity, a new music that
out across. ethnic and cultural
lines and spoke from the heart,
of the performer to the heart of
the listener. He died in a 1967,
plane crash.
Through accident, happen-
stance and just plain luck, this
blend of blues, jazz, spirituals
and a touch of corn has made
Memphis into probably the
fourth largest recording center
in the country, the hub of a
$100 million-per-year business
that can make kings of shoe-
shine boys.
But even though those co -
netted with the Memphis Sbuirid
know what' it does, and how,
they can't agree on what it is.
To one, it's just the old blues,
updated for modern tastes. To '
another, it's the mystic act of
communication.
To Ray Harris, vice president
and producer at H; Recording
Corp., the Memphis Sound is "a
bit of jazz, a taste of country
music and a bit of gospel -mu-
sic, and you mik it like a for-.
mula with a hard drum beat
and a strong bass."
Another Memphis record
maker puts it this way:
"They've taken the old blues
and rearranged. them. They're

?Memphis Sound and

still the blues, but more fitting
for the, younger people."
Redding had said: "Rhythm
and blues is not the Memphis
Sound. It's the way it is played,
with a clean, clean b a s s "
All agree that, basically, the
Memphis Sound is soul music.'
But they also agree that soul
music goes beyond the Mem-
phis Sound to embrace any mu-
sic or art through which the ar-
tist reaches the inner man of
the audience.
Booker T. Jones, leader of
Booker T and the MGs, the
band that displaced Herb Alpert
and the Tijuana Brass as the
top instrumental group in Bill-
board Magazine's 1967 poll, says
it like this: "Anyone in a n y
type of art form can have soul
in his art as long as he feels it

and projects that feeling to
others through his art."
That special sound, or styl-
ing, is causing more and more
artists to come to Memphis for
recording dates.
Presley, who started it all,
recently cut several records in
Memphis, the first time he has
recorded here since the mid-
1950s. Dusty Springfield and
Dionne Warwick have recorded
here.
So have Paul Revere and the
Raiders. The Monkees spent an
afternoon at the Stax studios in
a jam session with Booker T and
the MGs, who actually are the
rhythm section of ,the s t a f f
band. Aretha Franklin cuts her
records here or at Muscle
Shoals, Ala., a sort of Memphis
spinoff.

"A number of the major ar
ists are either trying to get he
or have been here," Stewa
says. "One problem is that th
are somewhat limited in t
amount of studios available.'
The creation of the Memphi
Sound, and of Memphis as
major recording center, was th
result of a series of sponta
nious events. First there wa
the fact that Presley and Red
ding came into recording stu
dios here-"It could just as we
have been Bogalusa, La.," say
Stewart.
Sam Phillips, a former rad
announcer who went into th
recording business, was far fror
impressed when Elvis f i r s
walked into his Sun Record C
In fact, he recalls thinking tha
Presley was-h"just another grea
sy kid."
But he liked the way Elv
sang the song for his mothe
and he gave him several po
tunes to try out. There 'wasn
any magic. Then they tried an
other type of music, a s o n
called "Good Rocking Tonight
"It was a white; boy singing
rhythm -and blues song," Phi
lips recalls. "He took rhythn
and blues and made pop of i
That's when the white ma
put rhythm to the blues. Th
Negro had known it for years
but Elvis changed the whol
music industry."
Phillips says he has no re
grets that he sold Presley's con
tract to RCA for $40,000. "
needed the money," he says."

.t-
re
rt
ey
he
"1
its
a
he
a-
as

how it
took that $40,000, promoted Carl
Perkins 'Blue Suede Shoes' and
sold a million records."
James Stewart, founder of
Stax Records, was a banker who
liked the music business. His
sister took a mortgage on her
home, they bought a $2,500 re-
corder and rented the empty
Capital Theater in a predomi-
nantly NeLcrn area

grew
vocal group, actually letting
them play the melodies a little,
or sometimes countermelodies
underneath.
"It wasn't that we planned it
that way, it was because we
didn't have a vocal group. We
were substituting. But in do-
ing so, over a period of time
it became a part of the Mem-
lk nli ni i"~f-.-

ANN ARBOR RESISTANCE presents:
Pasolini (Italian Marxist)
The Gospel According t SI Matthew

SUNDAY, APRIL 6

Canterbury House

9

5 P.M., 7 P.M., & 9 P.M.
(NO ADMISSION: contribute what you can)

d- Most of the profits c a m e that the public came to know." -
u- from a record store they oper- Stewart compares the Mem-
ll ated in the front of the thea- phis Sound with the D e t r o i t DIRECTOR
ys tre until 1960 when a local black Sound by saying "ours is rural,
disc jockey, Rufus Thomas, country soul, unsophisticated, INGMAR BERGMAN
io came in with his daughter, untouched, pure. Theirs is an
ne Carla, to make a record. A year urban-type soul; it's sophisti- Presents
n later he had a hit with Carla's cated, improved upon, mechan-
t "Gee Whiz." ically tampered with. It's t h e
!o Then in 1962 an instrumental scientific approach."
at group known as the Pinetoppers But even without much pro-!oaa
came up from Macon, Ga., for a motion, the Memphis Sound has
recording session. Their singer caught on to the extent t h a t
is sat around for a day and a half, Redding's last record, "Dock of WINNER
r, just hoping he'd get a chance the Bay," sold two million cop-AD
p to try out. Finally he did-10 ies, and as many as 15 of Bill-AMERICAN ACADEMY AWARD
't minutes worth - and no one board's weekly Top 100 are (BEST FOREIGN FILM)
1- was very impressed. Memphis products. And the
g "But we needed something for names of Johnny Taylor, t h e
the back of the record," Ste- Boxtops, Sam and Dave and the SWEDEN'S ACADEMY AWARD
a wart says. "He had written a Gentrys are known throughout
- song called 'These Arms of the world. AT
M Mine' and he did it. That was
t. the beginning of Otis Redding." The Michigan Daily, edited and man- N ETWMAN
n The sound of the brass that aged by students of the University of
e gives Memphis its distinctive Michigan. News phone: 764-0552. SecondCapsgTdtnAo n
s spice was a fluke. gan, 420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, Ait
e "We did not have the use of Michigan 48104. Published daily Tues-Fri.,A 4. p
good vocal background groups," day through Sunday morning Univer- 8p.
- Stewart says. "We needed some city year, Subscription rates: $9 by
carrier. $10 by mail.
- flavor behind the singer so we
I did the next best thing. We took -* _..
I the horns, voicing them like a
;_.__ , -The Ujiversity of iihigan
SU ME R 1 BERT and SULLIVAN SOCIETY
SUMMER
ANNOUNCES PETITIONING for
its all-campus summer musical
at the
'US CENTER RESIDENCE THE MUSIC MAN
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ps, recreation and other PUBLICITY-PUBLIC RELATIONS
lable to residents
piano, and record Petitions are available
creation room 2t the G & S office
2531 Student Activities Building
ice, 921 Church St. or
662-5529__

It was just a song for Mom

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Pilot Program of Alice Lloyd Hall
presents at
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Saturday, April 5, 9:00 P.M.
Harold Seits
Free Food Alice Lloyd Hall

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