Tuesday, April 03, 2012

American Recording Studio seeks your signature for a Hall Of Fame induction

In this modern day of the Internet just about anyone who is on Facebook or Twitter can be considered as a news reporter of current events. And that's great! It's the latest revelation to people trying to spread their personal messages into cyber-space. Such is the case with this posting as THE PHOTOLOG seeks the support of all music lovers in a signature campaign to honor the legendary Memphis Tennessee-based recording facilities known as, American Recording Studio. And we need your help in spreading the word. A supporting group behind American Studio has established a foundation towards recognition long overdue and their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Although the building has now been leveled and no longer exists, the story behind this "Hit Factory" just might blow your socks off. Reason being, the studio's accomplishments have never been equalled by an independent recording studio and rightfully deserve to be institutionalized. American was not only a recording studio, but a for-hire production company that contained the necessary essentials for record companies and producers to record hit songs while converting their up-and-coming artists into major stars. In the mid 1960's legendary record producer Chips Moman and studio co-founder Don Crews were able to bring in and nuture a stable of producers, musicians, arrangers and writers that collectively help chart over 120 songs and more than 40 certified gold records. The American team (sometimes using the moniker "American Group Productions") was not only successful in developing artist of their own, but was regularly booked by labels such as Atlantic Records, MGM Records, RCA Records, Scepter Records and Amy-Mala-Bell Records.

Between 1964 and 1972, American Studio was a haven for the top musicians and song writers. Tommy Cogbill (bass player and later producer) was the de-facto leader of the studio's rhythm section called "The 827 Thomas Street Band" (and now known as "The Memphis Boys"). This team of gifted professionals was the distinctive calling card for the company. Most notably, their ability to adapt and play practically any style of music from a myriad of labels recording their sessions at the studio. The list of recording artists who scored hits there is phenomenal. Complementing the band were producers Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham, arrangers Mike Leech & Glen Spreen and writers Mark James & Johnny Christopher all who found success at the studio. With the production, writing and arranging staff in place combined with the AGP rhythm section firmly established, the recording facilities became known as the studio with a hit formula. They matched a great song to great musicians and with a great production. Among the many great artists who made a pilgrimage to American Studio were; The Gentrys, Sandy Posey, The Box Tops, King Curtis, Joe Tex, Jackie De Shannon, James Carr, B.J. Thomas, James & Bobby Purify, Danny O'Keefe, Bobby Womack, Petula Clark, Herbie Mann, Merillee Rush ,Solomon Burke, Dusty Springfield, Wilson Pickett, Dionne Warwick, Neil Diamond and many more.

Another studio client, "The King," Elvis Presley, regained his down-home atmosphere with Moman's studio band of laid-back musicians to record some of his greatest hits at American including "Suspicious Minds", "In The Ghetto," and "Kentucky Rain."

Just to give you an idea of AGP's acknowledgements, during their heyday the team is credited for producing and recording an unprecedented amount of hit singles totaling over 120 chart records. In addition, during a one week span 25% of Billboards top 100 hits not only came from the same studio but featured the exact same band backing a variety of artists. It was a magical period for the studio as AGP's songwriter and producer Dan Penn (pictured in sunglasses far right) is quoted as saying, "Shoot man, all I remember we were doing so many sessions and cutting so many hits that our dang telephone just about blew-up." Pictured are (L-R) American's key personnel Spooner Oldham, Chips Moman & Dan Penn.

The recording studio was located in the industrial end of North Memphis and known for high-unemployment and vagrancy. Jerry Wexler legendary producer of Atlantic Records who favored the studio's musicians and recorded there on numerous occasions is quoted as saying "American was on the funky and primitive-side but had superb acoustics and engineering."

The first recording console at the studio was an old radio board and replaced in 1967 after Moman recorded his first million seller "Keep On Dancing" by The Gentrys. Pictured above is the replacement board and soon became the studio's official hallmark for recording it's successful run. The hits songs recorded on this studio console are mind-boggling. It was a custom built console with Universal Audio 610 modules. Billboard noted in its 1969 magazine insert titled The Memphis Sound that, "the studio has a sound like no other and Moman knows how to get the most out of it." Originally the board was built with 12 pots and 3 outs for a 3-track machine which was installed at the same time. The studio quickly upgraded to a 4-track and later an 8-track Scully machine, requiring modifications via a patch bay.

This photo was taken at American Studio during the Oscar Toney Jr. sessions. (L-R) Chips Moman, Papa Don Schroeder, Oscar Toney Jr, Gene Chrisman, (front) Bobby Emmons, Tommy Cogbill, Reggie Young and co-owner Don Crews. Other core studio musicians at American (not pictured here) were, Spooner Oldham, Dan Penn, Johnny Christopher, Bobby Wood and Mike Leech.

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Editor's summary: THE PHOTOLOG hopes you're inclined to agree with most music lovers that American Recording Studio was the epicenter of popular music during it's glorious run from 1967 to 1972. Radio stations were having a love affair with productions coming out of American. To further support this legacy there is a new book on the market written by Roben Jones titled "Memphis Boys" along with a companion CD on ACE Records featuring 24 tracks of hit music recorded at the legendary studio. Both the book and CD can be ordered from the Amazon site located on this blog. In addition, there is a American Studio Facebook Page featuring articles, photographs and music combined with a discussion group of those who were present at the time. The site invites new members to join the discussion group which by the way, contributed to the original idea for this petition.

Something that makes the studio unique and a convincing statement for induction into the HOF is...unlike other recording studios in Memphis at the time (STAX studio, HI Records studio, SUN Recording Studio), there was no single record label linked to the entire process at American (except for the short-lived AGP label). This is one reason that many people believe American did not and has not received the recognition it deserves. Even during its most productive period only music business insiders recognized the magic that was being produced inside this funky little studio on Thomas Street. Most outsiders just remembered it as a inconspicuous building with no signs or distinctions of greatness.

After years of successful operations American Recording Studio closed it's doors in May of 1972. With the market shifting Moman resurfaced in Atlanta for a brief period before relocating in Nashville. Many of the musicians, engineers and writers continued to work locally as others relocated to places like Muscle Shoals, Nashville and elsewhere. But where does this leave the legacy of American Studio within the rich history of Memphis Music? Better still, where does this leave American on the national or global scene?

Truth is, these hits aren't just subtle clues that were left along the Rock & Roll trail, these are monster records leaving an enormous impact upon the history of modern music. What a positive imprint American Studio has made on the landscape of world music. But considering all circumstances, why isn't AGP acknowledged for these accomplishments by the Hall of Fame? Is this void to be perceived as a snub from committee members or just a mere oversight?

Yet, I find this absence very annoying. Perhaps I should feel a bit embarrassed for bringing up this sensitive subject but don't you think most of those fine people involved in making those historic 120 hit records might be feeling a little bit slighted about now? After all, do you think if any of those musicians were from the Cleveland area that they would be overlooked? Sounds to me like a very important slice of musical history is being overlooked here. Under the circumstances, I think it's perfectly okay to be upset about this.

Which brings us full circle and back to the title of this story. Now that you are briefed about the history of American Studio and it's current status, or lack of, this is where you come in as we need your help. It is our passionate belief that enough time has passed as 40 years has clicked-off the clock whereas many believe the time has come for American Recording Studio and it's 3 principles, Lincoln "Chips" Moman, co-owner Donald Crews and producer Tommy Cogbill rightfully deserve to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

This petition is unique because displayed here is a concerted effort to recognize the accomplishments of American Studio as an "entity" as defined in the HOF's Non-Performer category. By comparison, this is identical to how one would view an individual's worthy contribution to the music industry. If you believe this absence of professional recognition needs to be adjusted and the AGP story needs to be told, we kindly ask for your signature to help bring resolution to this noble cause. Remember, the more signatures that are collected here means the more our presentation will be honored and credited with distinction. Thank you for your consideration and please follow the link below and sign the official petition:


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