Friday, September 30, 2005

Record Producers Push the Levels of Success.

When the term producer comes up, what's the first image that flashes before you? Does the vision of a person running around pointing in both directions while speaking through a megaphone come to mind? Perhaps in the movie industry. But in the music world, a producer is the one who creates the complex role in the musical process. A producer hammers out all the recording session details for the musicians and believe me, that can be a difficult task.

Typically the producer would select songs, arrange the production through sheet music or rehearsing by ear, and create an optimum of recording conditions with the latest in recording equipment. Quite often the producer would engineer the session and even write songs. Most importantly, he must create a vibe or music groove worthy of appreciation. These gifted individuals are generally an industry enigma and do their magic in the background receiving little or no credit. I can associate with that.

Below are photos and a list of some of the past era's most influential.
Don Was, T. Bone Burnett, Willie Mitchell, Leonard Chess, John Hammond, Ted Templeton, David Rubinson, Jim Stewart, Shadow Morton, Jeff Lynn, Quincy Jones, Sam Phillips, Eddie Kramer, Creed Taylor, Jimmy Iovine, Billy Sherrill, Chris Chandler, Gus Dudgeon, Steve Cropper, Eddie Offord, Bill Szymczyk, Narada Michael Walden, Chips Moman, Nile Rogers and Arif Mardin.

George Martin was a house producer for EMI Records in London when he began a long and monumential relationship with The Beatles. At first, Martin thought The Beatles had no talent but later he became a musical genius by blending his orchestral arraignments with their rock music.  Posted by Picasa

Jerry Wexler was a journalist turned record producer for Atlantic Records who became a partner and shareholder of the company. He produced giants such as LaVern Baker and Aretha Franklin. He was also the influencial figure in Atlantic's distribution deal with Stax Records. That arrangement proved to be enormously successful for both compaines. Wexler won numerous industry awards such as best producer in 1967 and 1968. He went on to produce artist Bob Dylan, Dr. John, Delaney and Bonnie and Dire Straits. Jerry Wexler is a living legend. Posted by Picasa

Felix Pappalardi (front) and Tom Dowd (rear) are pictured here during the "Disraeli Gears" sessions by Cream. Two extreme opposities, both had extensive careers. Pappalardi credits list as an artist with Mountain and producer with Cream and Dowd as the producer/engineer with many of Atlantic Records most successful acts such as; Ray Charles, The Drifters, The Coasters, Otis Redding, Young Rascals, Dusty Springfield, Derek and The Dominos, Eric Clapton, The Allman Bros. Band and Rod Stewart. Tom Dowd could walk on water.  Posted by Picasa

Phil Spector was known for his trademark Wall of Sound. This process was created by a production technique yeilding a echoed and layered sound. Also known for his eratic behavior, Spector's era fizzled out from his personal conflicts with numerous artist. Posted by Picasa

Glynn Johns impressive list of production credits range from The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, The Who and The Eagles. Not a bad career!  Posted by Picasa

Mickie Most list of production credits range from The Animals, Donovan, Lulu, Jeff Beck to Terry Reid. He was a key person in the development of the early British music scene.  Posted by Picasa

Lou Adler's Dunhill Records and his Ode Record(s) label put the California music scene at the forefront of pop music. Adler, pictured here on right with The Mama & Papa's John Phillips, also produced The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Grammy Winner Carol King's best selling album "Tapestry." Ever wonder who that guy is with the funny looking hat sitting front row beside Jack Nicholsen at the Lakers games?

Photographs by Robert Whitaker and Corbis

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Friday, September 16, 2005

Booker T. & The M.G.'s stood the test of time

Booker T. & The M.G.'s modern day line-up is Duck Dunn, Booker T. Jones and Steve Cropper. The band still tours annually and uses a variety of drummers depending upon their scheduling availability. Doesn't matter who plays drums though, they could use a drum machine and still sound great.

Rarely in the music world has there been a group that's connected musical bridges while sustaining decades of staying power like Booker T. & The M.G.'s. Founded in 1962 as a splintering of The Mar-Keys, the bands name came from then-Stax producer Chips Moman's love for the British sports car,"MG." Fearing possible copyright infringement from the auto maker, the band conveniently tweaked the MG name to stand for "Memphis Group." This salt and pepper quartet had a series of hit records that included, 'Green Onions', 'Hip Hug-Her', 'Mo' Onions', 'Chinese Checkers', 'Jellybread', 'Soul Dressing', 'Hang 'Em High' and 'Time Is Tight'. In the mid-60's, Booker T, & The M.G.'s became the bedrock in which the Stax label was built and became the studio house band. They appeared on many of the Stax label's notable releases such as Rufus Thomas 'Walking The Dog', Sam and Dave's 'Hold On I'm Comin' and Wilson Pickett's 'In The Midnight Hour'.

The remaining horn section from The Mar-Keys later spun-off to become known as The Memphis Horns. But get this. Both Booker T. & The M.G.'s combined and The Memphis Horns would rejoined forces again to back newcomer Otis Redding on a ground breaking European tour and then return to the U.S. to steal the show at The Monterey Pop Festival. Oh, did I mention they accomplished all this wearing their pointed-toe Beatle boots and suited in their gaudy lime-green matching band outfits?

Booker T. & The M.G.'s original line-up included Booker T. Jones on organ, Steve Cropper on guitar, Al Jackson Jr. on drums and Lewis Steinberg on bass. Donald "Duck" Dunn replaced Steinberg on bass early in the bands success.

Editors Note: To view a previous posting titled "Tribute to Al Jackson", click on Photolog Archives dated 2005-05-15 and scroll downward to end of page.

Young Booker T. Posted by Picasa

Young Steve Posted by Picasa

Young Duck Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 09, 2005

Led Zeppelin Concert Rocks Memphis

See previous posting for continuing storyline.

Copyright (2) 2005 All Rights Reserved Duplication Prohibited

Jimmy Page was enamored with Memphis Music and particularly fond of the work of Stax Records producer/engineer Terry Manning. Page once confided to me that he'd heard Terry Manning's solo album being played in a discotheque in Amsterdam and aspired to work with him.

The story continues; The Mid South Coliseum hosted the sold-out Led Zeppelin concert whereas I was fortunate to acquire forth row tickets located front and center. My seat was directly parallel to Robert Plants microphone, dead center. Concerts West was the local promoter and dispensed all the media tickets in the same section. But unfortunately my radio and newspaper colleagues were still peeved at me and not speaking after canceling the afternoon's interviews. I looked around and the concert hall was packed, not a single empty seat. There was a cloud of smoke hanging in the ceiling as the air in the arena was thick with incense and weed. I remember it being a special evening and wearing my very best tied-dyed T-shirt and bell bottoms jeans as I sensed a new chapter in my life beginning to commence. It was a magic summer night and I was feeling pretty good about myself now. Confident and invincible.
Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant was a dynamic vocalist and heavily influenced by vintage R&B music.

The audience was anxious for the show to begin and started clapping their hands and stomping their feet while shaking the rafters. At that moment the house lights went down and the band finally took the stage. Fans rushed into the isles and charged towards the stage. Police and Fire Marshals scrambled to preserve safe passages by holding the crowd advancement at stage front. Within seconds the music began and it's intensity forced me backwards. The huge cabinets of speakers were pulsating with electrified sound vibrations. Vocalist Robert Plant pranced back and forth across the stage like a caged animal releasing pent-up energy. The bass and drums pounded my chest with a ferocious invisible force. Jimmy Page swaggered to the front of the stage while playing a blistering guitar break on his lustrous sunburst Les Paul. Page coolly puckered his lips for expressive punctuation while bending his guitar neck for a wavering effect. The band went through their repertoire of bastarized blues standards with a sledgehammer effect. Midway through this groundbreaking concert, something happened that would forever change my life. Standing shoulder to shoulder, I rocked along side a sea of Zeppelin fans and totally mesmerized by these piped-piers of heavy metal music. Suddenly in the middle of the bands version of Chuck Berry's "Memphis," Robert Plant spotted me standing in the forth row. Astonishingly, we established eye-to-eye contact as he began to single me out of the crowd by pointing his finger at me and walking parallel to my seat. As he continued with the song, Plant then leaned towards the edge of the stage and with mike in hand, crouched down center stage, and pointed at me again while displaying two fingers representing the peace sign all while never missing a beat of the song. Plant smiled downwards and then resumed his flurry of antics across the stage. People in the audience turned around and looked at me as if I had been awarded knighthood. My immediate friends slapped me on the back to congratulate me while engaging in some rib-poking gestures. Stunned by the event, I remained silent in disbelieve of what had just transpired. Frozen in movement, I was reluctant to look around which might awaken my fantasy. Somehow, I felt a calming effect and destine to my calling at that unforgettable moment. To the casual observer, this might appear to be just a passing occurrence. However to me, this was one of the most profound events of my entire life. Never before had I felt so fortunate to have realistically connected with my imaginative dream. Somehow I felt that I was only beginning on my journey and enamored with confidence and fulfillment. My experience of hanging out with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page earlier in the day and sharing their heartfelt interest without any restrictions has no equal. For a short time that day and experiencing the rare opportunity of being just one of their "mates" and having a common bond of mutual interest would forever be frozen into my conciseness.

The following morning I hadn't completely sobered-up from an all night of self-indulgence with drummer John "Bonzo" Bonham when I arrived back at the hotel hoping to have breakfast with the band. That's when I was informed that the band had checked out earlier that morning to catch a sunrise flight. Perhaps that was good.

As the Atlantic Records Regional Promotion and Marketing Represenative, I would go on to work with Led Zeppelin several times later. Future posting will detail those stories.
Photos by Corbis

Somebody Please Pinch Me ~ On Stage with Led Zeppelin

See previous posting for continuing storyline.

Copyrighted photos (c) by Phillip Rauls. Unlawful duplication prohibited.

In these previously unpublished photographs shot onstage, a shirtless Robert Plant twists his torso sideways while guitarist Jimmy Page, donning a rarely worn top hat, focuses-in on the rhythm section for a punctuating cord change. The band sent a supersonic trance into the audience with a slaying effect. As a Memphis-boy, I'd grown-up during an era of music legends and not easily impressed. My hometown produced several generations of Rock & Soul icons and I thought I'd seen just about everything. But on the evening of this event, I think I died and went to heaven.

A shirtless, barefooted and razor-thin Robert Plant jumps into the air in sequence with Led Zeppelin's edge-of-mayhem stage performance. Page in the background sends a scorching guitar break filled with distortion and feed-back beyond any one's imagination. Somehow it blended so perfectly with the electronic sculpturte of their sound. Trust me, they wrote the book on Rock.

If only I'd kept all of those concert posters that covered my walls and filled the closet. From Otis Redding, The Gentrys, The Box Tops to Yes, Led Zeppelin and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Somehow I let them slip through my fingers and into collectors hands. Posted by Picasa