Eddie Hinton,white shirt w/ Wayne Perkins

Before heading down to Helena, Alabama to visit my sister and pickup my Soldano speaker cabinet, I picked up the latest Oxford American Magazine, their annual music issue because it was all about Alabama music not only in written word but featured a CD with 27 tracks, some of them extremely rare all telling different stories from different times and different parts of the state, not just regional but a mix of Blues, Rock, Gospel and even Zappa label material.

I threw in the CD as I headed down 65 towards Birmingham and took the ride through the Birmingham soul of Ralph “Soul” Jackson to Curley Money out of Dothan, Alabama. It was a wonderful ride and I learned things I didn’t even know being in the Birmingham Scene for a few years. I was happy to see the story told about how the Indie Rock Scene started with Jim Bob and The Leisure Suits with drummer, Matt Kimbrell (RIP). I saw his brother, Mark Kimbrell play  in 2007 at a Sunday night Jazz Jam with Chris Fryar (then of The Allman Brothers Band now The Zac Brown Band) at Marty’s in the Five Points area.

 Blues cannot be any rarer than Dan Pickett and Country more honest than Charlie Louvin and they all are here. Well at least for what one can do on a single CD without going to the obvious such as Brother Kane or The Commodores.

Eddie Hinton ID shot

As the music went on and I read the great essays, I kept asking myself where is Eddie Hinton? Obscure or not, the story of Muscle Shoals or the heart and soul of what is Alabama cannot be told without Tuscaloosa bred Eddie Hinton.  It is possible for somebody looking at Alabama from the outside to miss the mark but if somebody is a serious Muscle Shoals or Alabama music fan or musician you cannot escape learning the story of Eddie Hinton.

“When I first came to Muscle Shoals it didn’t take very long before I became aware of Eddie’s singular talents- as a composer, lyricist and gifted Composer- and was touched by his original, offbeat and engaging personality…When the greatest artists came to Muscle Shoals they would hone in on Eddie – Aretha, Cher, Lulu, Bob Dylan would end up on the back porch of the Jackson Highway Studio with Eddie, pickin’ guitars and communing quietly in the Alabama evening. To this day I still play his records with great enjoyment. He remains unique – a white boy who truly sang and played in the spirit of the great black soul artists he venerated. With Eddie, it wasn’t imitation; it was totally created, with a fire and fury that was as real as Otis Redding’s and Wilson Pickett’s.”- Jerry Wexler, Producer with Atlantic Records.

Where’s Eddie? Can you find him?

I had heard, in reverence, several times about Eddie Hinton. Local Musicians in Birmingham would say “He was the greatest.” The most important revelation was when I talked to the “Swampers”, the Musicians that knew and worked with him at Muscle Shoals Sound.

On April 18th 2007, there was a benefit for Scott Boyer, who was a songwriter and played in Cowboy on Capricorn Records back in the Seventies. I had the opportunity to be part of the stage crew where a Muscle Shoals all star line up with everybody from David Hood, Dan Penn, Spooner Oldham and a cast of characters played with Bonnie Bramlett and Gregg Allman headlining.

I caught story after story from a time going back thirty plus years. I got into conversations and often asked who the most important player was during the Muscle Shoals era and over and over again the name Eddie Hinton came up. His story is one of triumph, tragedy and post mortem glory. In the last few years his recordings have been gathered from out of print Capricorn Records to rare self released material and put onto a collection of CD’s.  They are not easy to find but one can start with Anthology-1969-1998 A Mighty Field of Vision.

Marian McKay

Late last Saturday I went and saw Charlemagne Records’  Marian McKay singing jazz standards at Crestwood Coffee Company with The Mood Swings.  Charlemagne Records is the one of last independent record stores in Birmingham not unlike Grimey’s  it has a long rich history when Marian, her brother  and a best  friend started the shop in 1977 and it has remained at the same location in the Five Points area since then. The shop has lately seen a resurgence as vinyl is becoming increasingly popular among collectors.

We talked about the Alabama issue of Oxford American and how fantastic it was and the people they didn’t forget but when I brought up the fact that Eddie Hinton was not included there was nothing but silence. Eddie was the elephant in the room. Obviously, there were others left out but he was the one who sat in the doorway of Muscle Shoals Sound trading licks and stories, had Duane Allman crashing on his floor when he came to do session work and had style and songs that only fit in Muscle Shoals, where when he ended up moving because of a small marijuana bust in the seventies that forced him to leave town kind of lost his stride and place in the world. He remained an Alabaman to the core even if it meant living in his van in Birmingham in later years before he passed away in 1995.

Eddie with his trusted Tele

There are so many tracks not known by most the world but worthy to wave the Muscle Shoals flag such as “Concept World”, “Sad and Lonesome” or “Heavy Makes You Happy.” It is singular talents such as Eddie Hinton that I discovered while living in Alabama that make me proud that I was a part of that scene for some years.

The State of Alabama has gotten behind this presentation and declared 2011 “The Year of Alabama Music”. I am going to do my part by spotlighting at least one artist a month with roots in Alabama past and present.  I may have been born in California but Alabama is where I met Gregg Allman, Willie King, Tim Boykin, Mark Kimbrell, Chris Fryar, Adam Guthrie, Mandi Rae, Ian, Rick Carter, Kendra Sutton, Topper Price, Rickie Castrillo, Marty, Nathan Whitmore, Rick Kurtz, Rooster, Perch, Billy, Heath Green, David Hood, Kelvin Holly, Jesse Payne and Taylor Hollingsworth.  Alabama, the beautiful, where I got my “Mojo”.

Marian McKay & Her Mood Swings/ Live/ Birmingham,AL 1/8/2011

I may call Tennessee home but my heart is in Alabama.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, Tennessee     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

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