Archives for category: Elvis Presley

Rock ‘n Roll’s Roots Run Almost As Deep As Country in the History of Music City USA.

col parker elvis 02NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Arguably, many of the biggest entertainment deals of the 20th century took place in a fairly modest stone house in a Nashville suburb that served as home/office for Elvis’ infamous manager Colonel Tom Parker.

While audiences around the world associate the ‘Music City’ moniker with country music, one of Nashville’s best kept secrets, in the suburb of Madison, stands as an understated testament to the high-flying rock ‘n roll business deals of the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s. Today, interested buyers — some from as far away as Denmark — are lining up to see if they can tap into Parker’s Mojo as the home / office is now for sale.

colonel tom parker 001Colonel Tom Parker – known as the business brain behind the Elvis Presley phenomenon – wielded his own brand of power management when it came to pushing rock n roll to the forefront of pop culture. From his office (or perhaps another room in his 4,000 sq. foot home), the man known simply as “the Colonel” was an industry trailblazer in driving hard bargains with all who sought to associate their film studio, television network, theater or any other entertainment venue with his most sought-after client, the “King of Rock n Roll”.

While the Grand Ole Opry was being beamed into countless homes across the nation’s airwaves, Colonel Parker was busy exploring and exploiting both national and international media platforms – all from his small basement office – that would present the Tupelo sensation to millions of hungry fans.

colonel tom parkerOne iconic media outlet, the renowned Ed Sullivan show on CBS, proved to be quite a coup for not only the young Presley, but also the masterful negotiating Parker. As told by attorney Steve North, current owner of the former Parker home/office, the Colonel had repeatedly made overtures to the Sullivan show – to no avail – to arrange a guest appearance for Elvis. Then, suddenly, and much to Parker’s surprise, Sullivan himself called and offered a prime performance spot for the young rock ‘n roller on an upcoming show. According to North’s re-telling of the story, after considerable discussion of the scheduling particulars, Sullivan proudly stated that he (and his CBS bosses) were prepared to pay Elvis “far more than any other performer had ever been paid for appearing on the show!” “Colonel, how does $50,000 dollars sound?” Sullivan asked – fully expecting an immediate confirmation from Parker. “Well, “that sounds pretty good to me,” the Colonel responded after a long pause, “but what about my boy?”

Whether fact, fiction or perhaps a little of both, the story illustrates Parker’s well-known reputation for wheeling and dealing. His wrangling of variety show host Ed Sullivan served as a template for similarly lucrative deals throughout the next 30+ years for not only Elvis, but also other artist business managers – in both the Country and Rock n Roll genres` – who sought to emulate the Colonel’s managerial moxie.

It was here in late night music, television, film and merchandise meetings that Elvis found shelter from the publicity storm that awaited him whenever he attempted to venture out into public life. According to Tom Diskin, Col. Parker’s long-time close friend and associate, on multiple occasions Elvis would shower and sleep – sometimes after a night on the town – in the virtually unchanged combination home/office that sits on the now busy Gallatin Pike thoroughfare in Nashville suburb, Madison TN.

col parker elvis 03The stately stone-veneer building still retains the original 1950’s charm during the time Elvis rose from regional to international stardom to become the greatest selling recording artist of all time. From the management decisions executed by Col Tom Parker, Elvis would go on to sell over a billion records worldwide. “It is hard to fathom,” stated Stephen Shutts, Rockology, LLC president and Col.Parker office sales agent, “that one man’s career – which literally changed the course of music and pop culture around the world – was directed within the walls of this unassuming but no-less historic home-office.”

Colonel Tom Parker’s home – office is located at 1215 Gallatin Pike in Madison. The property is being showcased with strict financial criteria. Private tours will be available to a select qualified few during the duration of the sale. The property is zoned for multiple use.

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Chips Moman at Country Music Hall of Fame, all photos – Brad Hardisty

Chips Moman was at The Ford Theater in The Country Music Hall of Fame as part of the “Celebrate the King” series on Saturday, August 19th and spent a little over an hour talking about over thirty years worth of work in the music industry. If there were a list of the top 25 people that are responsible for American music today as we know it, Chips would be there.

Chips, who grew up in La Grange, Georgia, got a ukulele when he was three and a guitar when he was four, hitchhiked to Memphis to stay with his Aunt when he was just fourteen. When asked why he decided to go to Memphis, Chips just said, “I had never been there before.”

Scotty Moore and Brad Hardisty at Chips Moman Interview

Chips, who rarely does such interviews, drew a five star crowd of musicians that worked with him, especially in the Memphis years. Original guitarist for Elvis, Scotty Moore as well, the members of The Memphis Boys, sessions cats from the American Sound Studio years featuring guitarist, Reggie Young. Also, Gary Talley from The Box Tops.

James Burton, the other prominent guitarist in Elvis Presley’s career was also there.

Chips, who grew up listening to Les Paul & Mary Ford on the radio as a young boy, was also asked when he first heard Black Music. Chips just said, “I guess it was while I was picking cotton when I was a boy,” which brought a little laughter. It was hard to get a straight answer when one of the architects of the Memphis Sound was just going to play off your last statement.

Johnny Burnette & The Rock and Roll Trio

Chips Moman started playing guitar on some Sun Sessions for Warren Smith. In those early days, he played guitar in road bands for Gene Vincent and The Burnette Brothers.

Chips left Memphis for a while and headed out to California and worked at Gold Star studios as a session player while learning the studio experience where Phil Spector would develop the “Wall of Sound” production techniques.

With that experience, Chips was ready to work with somebody to start an R&B label when he got back to Memphis. Chips had talked Jim Stewart into buying a tape machine and went to scope out a place for a studio with Paul Ritchie and it was really under Chips insistence that they purchased the Theater on McLemore Avenue in Memphis that would serve as the recording studio for Satellite and Stax releases.

Defining the Stax Sound,Chips writes “Last Night”

In fact Chips wrote the first big hit, “Last Night” by The Markeys that was on Satellite Records and helped to establish the Memphis Sound with the driving beat, horns and locked in guitar, bass and drums.

Chips was a true visionary able to play guitar, compose music, run a label and act as Producer for well over 100 Billboard hits during the sixties and seventies.

A little inside story, Chips owned a little British sports car where Booker T. & The MG’s got their name from.

When asked why he left Stax, the simple answer was that he wasn’t getting paid.

 

The first hit record out of American Sound Studio.

What happened next was the founding of his own studio, American Sound Studio, where not only did Chips continue composing and Producing, but, other great American Producers such as Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd worked to create some magic including the classic album, Dusty in Memphis by Dusty Springfield.

Elvis with The Memphis Boys at American

If you ever wondered how Elvis Presley ended up recording in Memphis, Marty Lacker, Elvis’ confidante who ran the day to day operations of the Memphis Mafia put that one together and delivered one of his finest albums in 1969, the Chips Moman Produced, From Elvis in Memphis, which featured some of Elvis’ greatest late career recordings, “Suspicious Minds,” “In The Ghetto” and “Kentucky Rain.”

After the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination, the vibe had changed in Memphis and so did the music business. Chips began spending more time in Nashville and Muscle Shoals, Alabama.  Chips co-wrote “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” for Aretha Franklin whom he said was one his favorite singers at that time. Chips played guitar on that track along with tracks by Wilson Pickett.

Produced by Chips Moman

Although, Chips would have liked to see things get back the way they were in Memphis, they never did turn around and later on, Chips ended up producing a lot of great recordings by Willie Nelson, Gary Stewart, Tammy Wynette, Ronnie Milsap, and The Highwaymen.

Chips discussing Waylon Jennings

Chips penned, “ Luckenbach, Texas (Back To The Basics Of Love)” for Waylon Jennings after hearing him talk about the place.

Chips earned a Grammy for writing the B.J. Thomas hit, “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Done Somebody Wrong Song.”

Chips moved seamlessly from musician to songwriter to producer to studio owner in the triumvirate domain that was Memphis, Muscle Shoals and Nashville speaking in R&B, Pop and Country like it was water out of the same stream.

On the current state of Memphis…”It aint Nashville.”  Without being critical of Memphis itself, that statement was enough that not much else needs to be said. Chips went back in the 80’s to try to turn it around, but, although there are still some quality music coming out of studios in Memphis, the infrastructure that was there from the 60’s through to the early 70’s may never happen again.

Chips finally settled back down in La Grange, Texas where he raises horses. Chips said, “My Walking Horses are running and my Running Horses are walking.”

An afternoon with one of the greats – Chips Moman

With such a well respected lifespan in the music business there were certainly many milestones rather than one single event in the life of Chips Moman.

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

News came fast and furious over the web of the passing of Donald “Duck” Dunn, a cornerstone of Memphis Soul and Blues.  Steve Cropper posted a message to his Facebook page, saying, “Today I lost my best friend; the World has lost the best guy and bass player to ever live. Duck Dunn died in his sleep Sunday morning May 13 in Tokyo Japan after finishing 2 shows at the Blue Note Night Club.”

Al Jackson, Booker T. Jones, Duck Dunn, Steve Cropper

Dunn’s other surviving MG’s bandmate, keyboard player Booker T. Jones responded to his friend’s death on his official website, saying “I am struck deeply by Duck’s death… God is calling names in the music world. He gave us these treasures and now he is taking them back. Duck was too close to me for me to at this point realize the full implications of his passing… I can’t imagine not being able to hear Duck laugh and curse, but I’m thankful I got to spend time and make music with him. His intensity was incomparable. Everyone loved him. None more than Otis Redding.”

Another legendary bassist – Bootsy Collins – took to his Facebook page to post a message about Dunn: “Yesterday, We Lost Another Brick in our Musical Foundation. ‘Donald Duck Dunn’ has Joined that Musical Stax Soul Orchestra in the Sky. Send out prayers & love vibes to his Family & Friends.”

Dunn was born in the city that changed the world of music, Memphis, Tennessee on November 24th, 1941. His father nicknamed him “Duck” while watching Disney cartoons with him one day. Dunn grew up playing sports and riding his bike with fellow future professional musician Steve Cropper. After Cropper began playing guitar with mutual friend Charlie Freeman, Dunn decided to pick up the bass guitar. Eventually, along with drummer Terry Johnson, the four became “The Royal Spades”. The Messick High School group picked up keyboardist Jerry “Smoochy” Smith, singer Ronnie Angel (also known as Stoots), and a budding young horn section in baritone saxophone player Don Nix, tenor saxophone player Charles “Packy” Axton, and trumpeter (and future co-founder of The Memphis Horns) Wayne Jackson.

Duck would be a part of the second wave of the Memphis music explosion. The first being the triumvirate of cutting edge rock and roll, blues and country by the likes of Elvis Presley, B.B. King and Johnny Cash.

As the sixties began, Rhythm and Blues began a soulful turn as the first recognizable integrated group, Booker T. & The MG’s, not shy on group photos, started a stretch of hit soul instrumentals beginning with “Green Onions.” This was long before Sly & The Family Stone, with Steve Cropper’s songwriting chops and guitar playing locked in arms length with the tight-in-the-pocket bass playing of Donald “Duck” Dunn.

“I would have liked to have been on the road more, but the record company wanted us in the studio. Man, we were recording almost a hit a day for a while there,” Dunn said.

Dunn may be best known for his role in The Blues Brothers as the pipe smoking quiet bassist, but, in reality he was one of a handful of bassists to define popular music of the Sixties.

The Blues Brothers Band, Duck with pipe

Speaking about The Blues Brothers Band, “How could anybody not want to work with John and Dan? I was really kind of hesitant to do that show, but my wife talked me into it,” Dunn said in a 2007 interview with Vintage Guitar magazine, “and other than Booker’s band, that’s the most fun band I’ve ever been in.”

Cropper has noted how the self-taught Dunn started out playing along with records; filling in what he thought should be there. “That’s why Duck Dunn’s bass lines are very unique”, Cropper said, “They’re not locked into somebody’s schoolbook somewhere”. Axton’s mother Estelle and her brother Jim Stewart owned Satellite Records , where Steve Cropper worked in High School, and signed the band, who had a national hit with “Last Night” in 1961 under their new name “The Mar-Keys“.[3] The bassist on “Last Night” was Donald “Duck” Dunn, but he left the Mar-Keys in 1962 to join Ben Branch‘s big band.

From there it was with Booker T. & The MG’s, featuring Steve Cropper on guitar, a band that even once had Isaac Hayes fill in on Keyboards while Booker T. went to college. Dunn once said that he and Cropper were “like married people.” “I can look at him and know what he’ll order for dinner,” he said. “When we play music together we both know where we’re going.”

Probably one of the most noteworthy gigs was with Otis Redding. Steve Cropper wrote several songs for Redding on which Duck played. Otis Redding and Booker T. & The MG’s toured Europe and got a reception similar to what The Beatles got when they came here.

There were two acts at the famous Monterey Pop Festival that blew everybody else away and that was Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding, with Booker T. & The MG’s playing in Mohair Suits in contrast to Jimi’s flamboyant English rocker duds that he had taken on from swinging London. In fact, to the new hippie generation of the bay area, Otis and the band looked downright square, but, the minute Otis with Duck on a solid rhythm section kicked in, they mesmerized the crowd and were considered the best performance of the prototype early rock festival.

The twin performances were the first to be released as a live recording from that night as a back-to-back live album entitled Otis Redding / The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Historic Performances Recorded at the Monterey International Pop Festival released by Reprise Records on August 26, 1970. Otis Redding was at the pinnacle of his career at that time. He was booked as the closing act on the Saturday night of the festival, June 17, 1967. Otis came to the stage following a set by his backup band, Booker T. & the MG’s. However, Otis’ high charged performance ran into a time limit under the festival’s permit, resulting in his having time to perform only 5 short songs.  The performance came on the end of a successful European tour. Otis died less than 6 months later, but not before writing and recording his biggest song ever, “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay,” with Steve Cropper listed as co-writer.

As the bands’ career started to wind down, Duck became a go-to session man in the 70’s, especially after the demise of Stax Records.

Duck with Neil Young onstage in 1993

Dunn went on to play for Muddy Waters, Freddie King, and Jerry Lee Lewis, as well as Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart. He was the featured bass player for Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty‘s “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” single from Nicks’ 1981 debut solo album Bella Donna, as well as other Petty tracks between 1976 and 1981. While not credited as playing on any Elvis Presley Memphis tracks, I have reliable sources that in fact, Duck, was called into “fix” the bass parts or rather replace what was recorded earlier on some of Elvis’ biggest Memphis tracks. Due to Duck’s contracts or business relationships at the time, it would not have been proper for Duck to be listed in the credits, such was the music business in Memphis in the Sixties and Seventies. He reunited with Cropper as a member of Levon Helm’s RCO All Stars and also displayed his quirky Southern humor making two movies with Cropper, former Stax drummer Willie Hall, and Dan Aykroyd, as a member of The Blues Brothers band.

Dunn played himself in the 1980 feature The Blues Brothers, where he famously uttered the line, “We had a band powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline!” He appeared in the 1998 sequel Blues Brothers 2000, once again playing himself. Dunn supported Neil Young live and in the studio and continued to play with Cropper and Jones, usually with the late Al Jackson, Jr.‘s cousin Steve Potts on drums, as Booker T. & the MGs.

While The Blues Brothers film took place in the north, the music was more than enough pure Stax and featured many of the songs that Duck originally played on.  In fact, John Belushi stayed at the home of Duck’s brother in Memphis while working out the music and script for The Blues Brothers movie. In a way, it would have been more accurate if the film had taken place in Memphis.

In 1992, Duck was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a Member of Booker T. & The MG’s.

His legacy is carried on by the next generation that listens to Memphis soul and especially his original bass lines. U2 Bassist, Adam Clayton, as well as other current players have mentioned Duck as an inspiration.

For the last several years, Duck was still sought out for endorsement deals, musicians wanted Duck on sessions willing to pay whatever it would take, but, it was not about the money, it was whether or not he believed in the music enough to leave some quiet time with family and maybe some deep sea fishing with neighbor and friend, Brian Johnson of AC/DC.

Dunn received a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2007.

He is survived by his wife, June; a son, Jeff; and a grandchild, Michael, said Michael Leahy, Dunn’s agent.

Robert Dunn, Duck’s brother, King Records Memphis Office Manager, Passed away four days after Duck.

Update: Duck’s brother, Robert “Bobby” Dunn, who was 2 years older died the Thursday after Duck’s Passing. There was a possibility of a double funeral, but, the family decided to keep things separate.

The brothers who were close, sharing the same bed until they were 12 years old, growing up in Memphis, were actually reunited in their passing as they were both at the same funeral home for a few days before arriving at their final resting place.

King Records Warehouse

Robert was an avid fan of Rythm and Blues and was responsible for introducing Duck as well as Steve Cropper to the music of The 5 Royales as well as other great music like Hank Ballard that lead to their interest and development in the Satellite, Volt and Stax Records scene starting with their first single as The Mar-Keys while still in their teens.

King Records / James Brown Production logos

Robert ran the King Records office in Memphis until 1968. This was in a time when there were still a lot of problems in the south. Robert would stay with the musicians in “colored” hotels during those times. On one occasion when he was with James Brown, the Hotel desk clerk was not going to  let Robert stay there because he was not “colored”. James Brown said that if he goes the whole band goes and he backed down and Robert stayed along with James Brown and the rest of the band as usual.

King Records Biography, James Brown on cover

James Brown was involved with King Records at the time, which released singles with a James Brown Production stamp on the opposite side of the King Records logo on the label. Robert had a big influence on what became the Stax sound inadvertently being the brother of Duck and having an influence on him and the younger Steve Cropper.

Beale Street Parade for Duck on Wednesday afternoon.Photo – Mike Brown, The Commercial Appeal

Robert’s funeral took place on Monday with most of the same family and friends that attended Duck’s funeral and Beale Street Parade on Wednesday.

They are survived by their older brother Charlie who spoke at both funerals. 

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

 

Don Rich on Tele with The Buckaroos

Eileen Sisk, in her recent biography of Buck Owens disclosed a good amount of information on how much The Buckaroos made working for the King of Bakersfield. It gave a lot of insight into the sacrifices that were made to be a Buckaroo.

Don Rich made $75 per week when he started to play with Buck. In addition to that, he was to turn over any money he made from outside jobs. Don and the other Buckaroos could make extra money by making a commission on concession sales. Don won many awards as a guitarist; in fact he won awards before Buck was recognized by Country Music associations. Don could have played on many sessions but opted to stay by Buck’s side even though the money was not that great. Buck and Don were a team much like  Tom Petty and Mike Campbell, but, only Buck saw the real money. He was really an employer. 

1960's Merle

In 1963, Merle Haggard was persuaded to take a cut in pay and play bass for Buck. Merle was making $150 per week playing Bakersfield Honky Tonks. Buck hired him to play Bass in his band for $75 per week.  Merle only lasted 2-3 weeks depending on who you talk to before quitting Buck’s band. During those three weeks Merle nicknamed the band The Buckaroos. Merle came up with the name for Buck’s band.

Even though the money was not that good, it was hard to turn down a chance to play in Buck’s band who at the time were considered probably the best in Country Music. Many sidemen today only earn about $200-$400 per week for dates at fairs or other steady venues.

It can be worse for an Indie Rock band. I recently went to a show at The Nick in Birmingham where a band I knew had traveled playing several Southern clubs got their share for the night, $34 after splitting the door with three other bands and the club Sound Engineer.

Early Ozzy, Black Sabbath Days

Ozzy, in his recent autobiography, tells how he never really saw money during his days in Black Sabbath. Black Sabbath was selling records and selling out shows yet rarely saw money. He learned from other members of the band that he could contact management and request a car like a Rolls Royce or something and it would be at the front door the next day. The car could then be sold and converted to cash in his pocket to use as he wished. Essentially, he was living as many bands did back then and that was on the management credit card, both literally and figuratively.

Even Elvis, who commanded big money, was at the mercy of his Manager Col. Tom Parker. At times, he would discuss getting out of his contract or not wanting to do certain concert dates or whatever only to be reminded how deeply in debt he was. In the early days, accounting and taxes were known to be above the heads of many artists and the business knowledge had by Management and Label Executives enabled them to use scare tactics to keep their roster in line.

Semisonic  drummer, Jacob Slichter, wrote a great autobiography from the journals that he kept during his fifteen minutes of fame called “So You Wanna Be A Rock & Roll Star”. He not only went through how the music business worked in the 90’s but talked about how much money it took to have a number one record.  It took close to a million dollars when all was said and done in promotion to get the song “Closing Time” to number one. All the money it takes in promoting a band as well as the cost of touring including a bus that costs several thousand dollars each week eat into profits. In the end, most bands don’t see much unless things really hit big.

During the early days of  Van Halen things were kept lean to put money back into their show and work on becoming headliners. Eddie Van Halen was still living at home with his parents when he married Valerie Bertinelli according to her own book, “Losing It: and Gaining my Life Back One Pound at a Time”.  Even though he could have probably bought a house by the third album when he was dating Valerie it made life easier to keep a room at home with the parents.

When I was 16 I had the opportunity to meet Thin Lizzy on the “Johnny the Fox” tour. The song “The Boys are Back in Town” was a hit on the radio and they were out on tour opening for Queen who had a big album with “A Night at The Opera”. By the time they came to Fresno, California, Freddie Mercury was sick and Queen cancelled. Thin Lizzy became the headliner with Sammy Hagar brought in to open the show.

Hey Scott, so how much you make?

I was at sound check at Selland Arena and had the chance to hang and talk to guitarist, Scott Gorham. We talked about guitarists that he knew such as Ritchie Blackmore and how I was surprised he was from L.A. when I had expected an Irish or British accent. I had one big question since I was a guitar player that wanted to be in a twin lead rock band like Thin Lizzy, but, only played the occasional dances or talent shows with my garage band. How much did he make probably for the year? You know, he knew I was sincere and he was honest with me. He estimated about $24,000 per year. Back in 1976, that would be about $50,000 or so in today’s dollars. It was okay, but, I was expecting $100,000 or something.

In reality, the big payoff for some well-known names in the business did not happen until after years of solid work and paying lots of taxes.

Alex Chilton, Big Star days

What does that mean today especially for an indie act where you don’t want to look too big or be a sell out in the music business? It may mean adjusting one’s lifestyle in order to accommodate the need to create. At one time,   Alex Chilton , the cult hero behind The Box Tops and Big Star  was living in a tent on a friend’s property outside Memphis. He did find a home in New Orleans, but, after a lifetime worth of work he made enough to keep a modest lifestyle.

The music business may be whatever you are able to do yourself. The big labels don’t touch anything that doesn’t want to be developed by a Manager for the masses such as Kesha or Katy Perry. It’s entertainment, but, is it talent? Is it originality or is it a play developed for the artist to walk into? Most musician/songwriters don’t want to even go there as they write and record their music.

It remains to be seen how many musicians will be able to consider what they do as a career after free downloading has taken much of their livelihood. It is estimated that Nashville has lost about 60% of its songwriters due to illegal downloading. The Music Industry has lost jobs in the tens of thousands.

In a way, the clock has turned back to where a new “ Sun” records or other regional could end up making a big impression with innovation. A band, a cooperative or an entrepreneur with deep pockets and web know how could end up being the next big player. Ultimately, the music has to be interesting enough to get the listener to go look for it on the web.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN