Results for Memphis

interviews

Peter Guralnick on Sam Phillips & Sun Studios

Samphillipsbook Peter Guralnick has written extensively about American music for decades including a two-part biography on Elvis Presley, the biography Searching for Robert Johnson and an acclaimed trilogy on American roots music. Now he's back with a comprehensive look at Sam Phillips called The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll: How One Man Discoverd Howlin' Wolf, Ike Turner, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley and How His Tiny Label Sun Records of Memphis, Revolutionized the World. If Sam Phillips, Sun Studios or Sun Records are new names to you, Peter wants to take you back to 1950s and 60s for what many historians call the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. Sun was home to black and white artists of the era who were merging genres like country, gospel, and R&B in ways unthinkable at the time. And that kind of freedom of spirit and enthusiasm, in addition to the idea that everybody has a song to sing, were the tenants of the Sun sound, even more than sonic hallmarks like "slapback echo."

Go to episode 523

Chris Jones

Chris Jones In anticipation of this weekend's Tony Awards, Jim and Greg invite Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones to join them on the show. Jones has been watching the trend of intersecting rock and theater for years, and this year it seems to have come to an apex. All four of the nominees for Best Musical have rock roots: American Idiot, which features music by Green Day, Million Dollar Quartet, which is inspired by the famed recording session featuring Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins, Fela!, which is based on the music of African musician Fela Kuti, and Memphis, which tells the story of a rock DJ in Memphis in the 1950s. As Chris Jones explains, much of this trend is the result of economic interests–a new generation of theatergoers raised on rock and roll are now willing to pay big bucks for Broadway shows. He also credits shows like Spring Awakening for helping to bend the old musical rules. To Jim and Greg's surprise, Chris enthusiastically recommends American Idiot and doesn‘t think the band’s fans will be put off.

Go to episode 237
classic album dissections

Big Star Radio City

Jim and Greg celebrate the 40th anniversary of Big Star's debut album by revisiting their Classic Album Dissection of the band's first two records, #1 Record and Radio City. #1 Record might be nearing middle age, but the pop sound Big Star pioneered in the seventies is as vibrant as ever. As Jim and Greg discuss, the band changed the history of American music, without selling very many records. With a sound that combined Memphis Soul with British Invasion rock, they laid the groundwork for American“Power Pop”and influenced bands including R.E.M., Wilco and The Replacements. The original Big Star lineup included former Box Tops singer Alex Chilton, Chris Bell, Andy Hummel and Jim and Greg's guest this week, drummer Jody Stephens.

Following their discussion with Jody Stephens, Jim and Greg each discuss and play a song. Greg chooses to highlight the opening track from #1 Record called "Feel." The song was written and performed by Chris Bell. While Alex Chilton is the name most people associate with Big Star, Bell really created it. Most of his incredible work didn't see the light of day until after his death at age 26, but Greg thinks songs like“Feel,”illustrate the power of his voice and lyrics-many of which convey the problems he faced in his short life.

Jim plays a song written and performed by Alex Chilton from the second album called "September Gurls." As he discussed with Jody earlier in the show, this was a breakout song for the band and one that was immediately adored by critics and fans including The Bangles, who later covered it. Jim's not sure what the song means, but for him it's more about the mood that Chilton created. With its sweeping melodies and“pan-sexuality”it's a power pop classic.

Go to episode 365
The Belle AlbumThe Belle Album available on iTunes

Al Green The Belle Album

Al Green is known for archetypal soul hits like "Love & Happiness," "Let's Stay Together," and "I'm So Tired of Being Alone." But, while Al's songs are known around the world, the man himself is a bit of an enigma. To get a better sense of who Al Green is, Jim and Greg sat down with Jimmy McDonough, author of a new biography called Soul Survivor.

They also unpack a lesser known album from Al Green's catalogue: The Belle Album. The album, released in 1977, came out at a crucial period in Green's life. He had just left a lucrative career in soul music for the ministry. The album was his first gospel album, one that blended funk, disco, and according to Jim, even elements of punk. It was also Al's first dip into self-producing an album. His previous work had been produced by the legendary Willie Mitchell at Hi Records in Memphis. The album with its rough, almost garage-gospel sound is an outlier among Green's earlier works. The Belle Album means a lot to both Jim and Greg. Greg calls it "a transitional album that was also a masterpiece."

Go to episode 625
reviews
Lay It DownLay It Down available on iTunes

Al Green Lay It Down

Lay It Down is the latest release from Reverend Al Green. The Memphis-based soul singer collaborated with Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson of The Roots for the album, which also features guest spots from Anthony Hamilton and Corinne Bailey Rae. Jim notes that Green could sing the phone book and make it compelling… and his lyrics are about as interesting as that. He's trying to sing love songs, but whether they are about earthly or divine love is unclear. Greg agrees that the material is not very strong, but Green's amazing voice overcomes it. Both Jim and Greg think Lay It Down is worth a listen and give the album a Try It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 130
No Better Than This - SingleNo Better Than This available on iTunes

John Mellencamp No Better Than This

For his new album No Better Than This, John Mellencamp teamed up with veteran producer T. Bone Burnett. He and Burnett recorded in three iconic locations: First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Sun Studios in Memphis and the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio. But Jim thinks they might have been better off staying put. He doesn't like the sound, nor does he appreciate the lack of humor. Jim gives this“pile of cow dung”a Trash It. Greg can't believe it. Not only does he love the loose songwriting, he heard a lot of humor, and tells people to Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 247
dijs

Greg

“Take Me to the River”Al Green

On this latest trip to the Desert Island Jukebox, Greg is eager to pay tribute to unsung Memphis music legend, Mabon Lewis Hodges, also known as“Teenie.”Hodges passed away at the age of 68 last month only a few weeks after Greg sat in on a recording session with him in Tennessee. Hodges was a dynamic rhythm and lead guitarist whose best work was done with Al Green in the 1970's. The pair co-wrote the songs "Take Me to the River" and "Love and Happiness," with the latter featuring an unforgettable guitar rift (and countdown) from Hodges right up top. Green credits Hodges for the song's slow burn sound which he likened to a fever, one that only gets hotter and hotter as Hodge's guitar and Green's vocals glide along. In Hodge's honor, Greg cues up 1977's "Love and Happiness."

Go to episode 454

Greg

“He's My Son (Just the Same)”O.V. Wright

This week, Greg takes us to the Desert Island and chooses a classic deep soul record for the jukebox by O.V. Wright. Though the Memphis vocalist never achieved mainstream success in his short life, Greg thinks he is one of the "greatest soul singers of all time."

O.V. Wright had a“lot of experiences with heartache and disappointment”according to Greg. Those experiences helped color his work, including his excellent album Memphis Unlimited, released in 1973. Produced by Willie Mitchell (who most famously worked with Al Green), the album features Greg's desert island jukebox pick "He's My Son (Just the Same)". The song is about a man who came out of prison to find his wife had a child by his own brother. The anguish and the forgiveness communicated through O.V. Wright's performance is "heartbreaking and beautiful."

Go to episode 621

Greg

“Ring of Fire”Johnny Cash

For his Desert Island Jukebox selection, Greg celebrates the musical legacy of Cowboy Jack Clement, the country music producer, songwriter, and artist who died recenly at age 82. Jack made his name at Memphis's Sun Studios during the 1950's, recording greats like Jerry Lee Lewis. But it was at Columbia that he helped craft Johnny Cash's inimitable "Ring of Fire." The night before the“Ring of Fire”recording session, Cash had a dream about Mariachi trumpets. And he knew just who to turn to make that dream a reality. Greg credits Clement's horn riff on“Ring of Fire”with the track's enduring energy and distinctiveness.

Go to episode 403

Greg

“Viet Nam War Blues”Oblivians

Memphis garage rockers Oblivians recently released their first record in fifteen years, Desperation. Greg's had it on heavy rotation along with the group's post-punk-inspired back catalogue. With two guitars, two chords, and a stripped down drum kit, Greg says Oblivians married punk's“last moment on earth intensity”with Memphis's rock ‘n’ roll tradition. He chooses "Viet Nam War Blues" off the band's 1995 debut album Soul Food for his Desert Island Jukebox pick. It's a Lightnin' Hopkins cover about a mother whose son goes off to war. Whereas Hopkins brings a jazzy, poetic sensibility to the track, Greg says Oblivians bring rage.

Go to episode 397

Greg

“Train Kept A-Rollin'”Johnny Burnette Rock 'N Roll Trio

The Mekons' 30-year run is an impressive one, especially when you consider that the dominant story in rock is one of instant and fleeting fame. An example of this is the Johnny Burnette Rock 'N Roll Trio, the band behind Greg's Desert Island Jukebox pick this week. The Memphis trio comprised of the Burnette brothers and their friend Paul Burlison only had one recording session in the mid-'50s, but for that brief period they were all the rage. Johnny Burnette was Elvis and then some, and Burlison had a completely unique and groundbreaking guitar style. You can hear this on the song "Train Kept A-Rollin'," a Tiny Bradshaw-penned tune, that has since been covered by everyone from Led Zeppelin to Aerosmith to Motörhead. But it's The Johnny Burnette Rock 'N Roll Trio version that deserves a slot in Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 93
features

Hooked On Sonics: Jody Stephens of Big Star

Hooked on Sonics is a segment where musicians share the songs that made them fall in love with music. Drummer Jody Stephens helped form pivotal Memphis rock group Big Star, alongside vocalist and songwriter Alex Chilton. Big Star, is, in many ways, more famous now than they were during their first 1970s incarnation. In the 1980s and 1990s, a whole new generation discovered the group after The Replacements and REM cited them as influences. Today, Jody works at the famous Ardent Studios down in Memphis; but as a kid, it was music from a completely different part of the world that got him Hooked on Sonics. That song was I Want to Hold Your Hand by The Beatles. But, as you'll hear, it all came around full circle.

Go to episode 606
news

Music News

Jim and Greg have been predicting this shift on Sound Opinions for years, but according to a new study, by 2010 digital sales will have eclipsed physical sales. Right now 65% of music sales are still compact discs, but the trend is going down quickly. Plus most of the CDs are sold at big box stores like Walmart, Targetand Best Buy. Anyone who has shopped at those places recently knows that the selection is not always impressive.

Last week guitar legend Les Paul died at the age of 94. Paul was a guitar innovator, best known for developing multi-track recording. He and his wife Mary Ford had many hits, and Paul influenced the next generation's guitar greats like Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck. Beck, in particular, was very close with Paul. He was not only influenced by Paul's multi-tracking, but also his tone, which Greg explains was singing, sustained and steeped in melody. You can hear the influence in the 1968 track "Beck's Bolero."

Another obituary in the news is that of producer Jim Dickinson. His death hasn‘t gotten as much attention as Paul’s but Jim and Greg were very sad to hear of his passing. Dickinson recorded such artists as Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan and Ry Cooder. He grew up in Chicago, but was really known as a Memphis producer. Jim and Greg both talked with Dickinson a number of times, and remember him as a great man and a living encyclopedia of music. To remember him they play Big Star's "Thank You Friends," which Dickinson produced in 1975.

Go to episode 195

Music News

Jim and Greg start by discussing news that Alan Ellis, the administrator of the popular UK bit-torrent site Oink.cd was acquitted of charges of conspiring to defraud copyright owners. Usually Jim and Greg are reporting victory for the music industry, so they were surprised to see this verdict. But, the key was that Ellis could not be linked to any conspiracy; he merely provided the ability to search for content. A judge or jury is not likely to be as lenient to the actual downloaders, like Trent Reznor. During its operation Oink facilitated the trading of 21 million music files.

Music fans were hit with lots of sad news last week. First, there was the death of Memphis punk rocker Jay Reatard at the age of 29. Then, there was the death of Wax Trax Records founder Dannie Flesher at the age of 58. And finally, there was the death of soul singer Teddy Pendergrass at the age of 59. Pendergrass first got attention as the drummer, then singer in Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. In fact, many people may not know that it was Pendergrass, not Melvin, who sang one of their biggest hits, "If You Don't Know Me By Now." Pendergrass continued to work with Philadelphia team Gamble and Huff and to become the king of the“slow jam.”But, to remember Pendergrass, Jim and Greg decide to play "You Can't Hide From Yourself," an up-tempo track that shows his diversity as a performer.

Go to episode 217

Music News

Sad news this week week: Memphis musician Willie Mitchell has died at the age of 81. Mitchell was a trumpeter, arranger and producer for Hi Records. There he helped to launch and evolve the careers of artists like Otis Clay, Syl Johnson and most notably, Al Green. Greg credits Mitchell with creating the signature horn and drum sound you hear on Green's recordings. They two even teamed up again in 2005 for the album Everything's OK. To honor the musician Jim and Greg play one of their favorite tracks—Ann Peeble's "I Can't Stand the Rain," as produced by Willie Mitchell.

Go to episode 215

Music News

The show begins with an update of a news item from a couple of weeks ago. The Dixie Chicks, who have been stirring up controversy since announcing to the world that they were not proud to share a home state with President Bush in 2003, are struggling to sell concert tickets for their latest tour. It seems that red state fans in places like Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, Memphis and Houston are not coming out to see the band live as they have in previous years. So, the Chicks have retooled their route, focusing on playing to Midwest audiences as well as our often less-conservative neighbors to the north.

Go to episode 29