COMMENTARY: Mo' Better Boogie 

The first documented instance of a recording company moseying on down south to Memphis to record the Memphis Sound occurred when Victor Records came to cut the Memphis Jug Band almost 80 years ago at the Ellis Auditorium in February, 1927.  (That's according to blues historian and University of Memphis music professor Dr. David Evans.)  Since then, Memphis as a city has had one of the strongest recording careers in the whole industry of recorded music. 

Sam Phillips' success really inspired others to come to Memphis to record, including:  Los Angeles' Bihari brothers, who opened up Meteor Records on Chelsea in the early '50s; Jerry Wexler and his crew of Atlantic clients who first recorded at Stax Records in the early '60s and then at American after Stax refused his business; and Larry Uttal, whose Bell Records cut dozens of pop and soul hits at American in the '60s and early '70s.  Today, Memphis studios continue to have national and international recording stars come to guzzle the heady stuff in our vineyard.

One of the most surprising clients of recent note comes straight outta The O.C. Peter Gallagher, he of the beetle brows.  Gallagher, long a Broadway star and more recently the father on the wildly  popular The O.C., came to Memphis this past June to soak up the Memphis Sound at Ardent Records. He hung with Stax vets Steve Cropper and arranger Lester Snell, along with 3rd-generation soul stars of Joss Stone's band.  Another testimonial to the great musicians and studios that Memphis continues to have.


How did this session come about?  Apparently Gallagher sang Solomon Burke's "Don't Give Up on Me" on The O.C. last fall and an enterprising producer, Mike Mangini (also Joss Stone's producer), came up with the idea of cutting Gallagher doing a whole record of soul covers and classics.  Mangini brought Stone's band to town and partnered them up with a couple of Memphis soul legends, producing what will soon be out as a dual disc (a disc with video on one side; music on the other) as well as a CD.  The CD  is 7 Days in Memphis.  The dual disc features video of Gallagher cruising around Memphis musing on his career, as well as on Solomon Burke, on Memphis soul, and why he is singing soul music.


The music itself is solid Memphis soul -- with  input from Betty Wright as well as some of Memphis' finest players.  While many critics will dismiss the idea of an actor having a singing career (even though Gallagher has sung on stage for years), the bigger point of all this, for Memphis at least, is that the big shots know where to come to get the authentic soul sounds:  Memphis studios with Memphis musicians (Another film star, Steven Seagal,  is also one who knows a good thing in Memphis when he hears it -- having announced last week that he is doing a blues record in Memphis). 

Astonishingly,  the Memphis Sound will probably be featured some time this fall on one of TV's hottest teenie-bopper show -- more proof of  the staying power of Memphis soul.  Surely, the idea of having a hit record promoted by a hit TV show crossed Mangini's mind when booking the sessions; it's something any major record label would die for in these difficult days of record sales.  The O.C. has been breaking indie rock bands like Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie.  Will they be able to sell soul music to this group of kids?  7 Days in Memphis comes out next week on Epic. It's not easy getting Steve Cropper back to Memphis for a recording session.  Let's hope there are more to come.


Secret Stuff:
Did one of the members of the White Stripes cut music for a commercial in a Memphis studio for an unnamed product in an unnamed country this summer?  Is there a major positive announcement forthcoming for an historical outdoor mid-town Memphis amphitheater?



Want to respond? Send us an email here.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment



Politics Beat Blog

Shafer En Route to Commission Chairmanship — and Maybe More

News Blog

Passengers, Flights Up at Airport

News Blog

Latino Memphis Mobilizes in Response to ICE Surge

Politics Beat Blog

Luttrell Endorses Randy Boyd for Governor

Music Blog

Listen Up: Ben Abney

Politics Beat Blog

Cohen Tells It!

Hungry Memphis

Royal's Yvonne Mitchell Cooking Up Hits


More by Sherman Willmott

  • A Look Back at the Memphis Tams

    This Sunday, the Memphis Grizzlies will don throw-back Memphis Tams uniforms for a home game against the Utah Jazz. Memphis writer Sherman Willmott sent us this story about Memphis' ABA franchise and we thought we'd share it with Flyer readers.

    • Feb 10, 2012
  • COMMENTARY: That's the Blues

    Ripping off a sister city doesn't make for beautiful music.
    • Dec 12, 2005
  • COMMENTARY: Memphis on the Erie

    Guralnick, Soul Machine score a triumph at the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.
    • Nov 16, 2005
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Country Outsider at 60

    Gearing up for Dwight Yoakam at the Horseshoe Casino in Tunica.
    • Nov 10, 2016
  • Support Local Music

    Music Editor Chris Shaw says farewell.
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • Gonerfest 13

    Gearing up for the international garage-rock get-together.
    • Sep 29, 2016

Flyer Flashback

Six Memphis Characters

Eccentrics, artists, and oddballs — six Memphians who live life their way.

Read Story

© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation