July 19th, 2011
Isaac Hayes won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song for “Theme from Shaft,” Gordon Parks’ 1971 blaxplotation masterpiece. Released as a double album by Stax Records’ Enterprise label, the mostly instrumental soundtrack became the best-selling LP ever released on a Stax label.
Of course, one of the main ingredients behind the song’s success is the mind-blowing wah-wah guitar of Charles “Skip” Pitts, who will be appearing at this year’s Ponderosa Stomp with the Bo-Keys and Harold Grimes. Pitts also lent his unforgettable grooves to Rufus Thomas’ “Do The Funky Chicken,” the Soul Children’s “I’ll Be the Other Woman,” The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing,” and Gene Chandler’s “Rainbow ’65.”
According to Wikipedia:
“The song begins with a sixteenth-note hi-hat ride pattern, played by Willie Hall, which was drawn from a break on Otis Redding’s ‘Try A Little Tenderness,’ a Stax record on which Hayes had played. Also featuring heavily in the intro is Charles Pitts’ guitar, which uses a wah-wah effect common in 1970s funk; the riff had originally been written for an unfinished Stax song. The synthesized keyboard is played by Hayes. Even on the edited single version, the intro lasts for more than two and a half minutes before any vocals are heard.
“The lyrics describe John Shaft’s coolness, courage, and sex appeal, and Hayes’ lead vocals are punctuated by a trio of female backup singers. At one famous moment, Hayes calls Shaft ‘a bad mother—’ before the backup singers (one of whom is Tony Orlando & Dawn’s Telma Hopkins) interrupt the implied profanity with the line ‘Shut yo’ mouth!’ Hayes immediately defends himself by replying that he’s ‘only talking about Shaft,’ with the back-up vocalists replying, ‘We can dig it.’ Other well-known passages include ‘You’re damn right!’ also uttered by Hayes, and ‘He’s a complicated man/but no one understands him/but his woman/John Shaft.’”
To see Charles “Skip” Pitts in person, buy your Ponderosa Stomp tickets here. For Stomp travel packages, see here.
Categories: Memphis, R&B, Song of the Day, Soul, video |
Tags: "Shaft", "Theme From Shaft", bo-keys, Charles "Skip" Pitts, Gene Chandler, Gordon Parks, Harold Grimes, Isaac Hayes, Isley Brothers, Memphis, Rufus Thomas, Skip Pitts, Soul Children, stax | No Comments
March 19th, 2010
Tom Waits once described Alex Chilton as “the Thelonius Monk of the rhythm guitar.” He’s damn right. I heard it all for the first time live in 1986 at the 688 Club in Atlanta, Georgia. I was 22 years old; a kid in a band called Green On Red and we were playing on a bill with him that night. We were positively bourgeois; freshly signed to Polygram Records with an extra van and a rag-tag road crew. We were living high on the hog, man (or we thought so, anyway). Alex Chilton pulled up the gravel drive to the back of the joint in an old Buick Skylark spitting plumes of blue smoke. He took off the shirt he was wearing, shoving it into the back of his Fender Super Reverb amp, and pulled out the one he wore for gigs. He donned a harmonica rack and tuned up his guitar to the harp, all the while looking at his bass player and drummer (Rene Coman and Doug Garrison). He stepped up to the mike and clicked his heels four times. That was it. I don’t know who my fragile busted up little psyche’s influences were at the time; Neil Young, Joe Strummer, David Bowie, Tom Verlaine? They all went out the window at that moment; floated up into the ether and stayed put. Alex has remained. I have forgotten many heroes along the way. Put on “Bangkok” and you’ll begin to understand why this man, this rock and roll song and dance man, can’t be tossed aside. Ever.
Alex Chilton remembered by Chuck Prophet. ChuckProphet.com Blog
Categories: Fallen But Never Forgotten, Memphis, New Orleans, Rock 'n Roll |
Tags: Memphis, New Orleans | 2 Comments
September 8th, 2009
On Saturday night, exactly 54 years after he headlined the St. Francis County Fair in Forrest City, Arkansas, alongside Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Floyd Cramer, Sun rockabilly Eddie Bond took the stage at the Center for Southern Folklore‘s Memphis Music & Heritage Festival.
At the fifth annual Ponderosa Stomp, Bond was backed by Deke Dickerson and the Eccofonics, along with special guest guitarist (and one-time Bond protege) Travis Wammack. Saturday, he played with a group of Middleton, Tennessee country musicians, including an unknown hotshot guitarist disguised in a Hawaiian shirt and glasses.
Bond, a showman responsible for the phenomenal 1956 b-side “Rockin’ Daddy” and the 1973 pop culture hit “The Ballad of Buford Pusser” who cranked out the hits even as he pulled double-duty hosting several popular Memphis TV shows, took the stage inside the Center’s Folklore Hall wearing his trademark yellow blazer and played “Rockin’ Daddy” — twice!
Go here to read my Memphis Flyer feature about the changing face of the Memphis Music & Heritage Festival, which lost two perennial performers, Stomp alum Billy Lee Riley and famed producer Jim Dickinson, in recent weeks.
From the article:
When I caught up with Center for Southern Folklore director Judy Peiser a week before festival time, she had a heavy heart. Upon pausing to contemplate the gaping holes caused by the absence of the ever-dependable Riley and Dickinson, she said:
“Things are definitely mutating. It’s gotten so hard to do a festival every year because of the people who aren’t there anymore, people who had a major effect on what we do. I grew up listening to the music I started presenting, and now I’m presenting music that’s one generation removed. People like Jim and Billy Lee weren’t playing off records — they were playing off life.”
Peiser sighed, recalling moments she spent with Dickinson, co-producing bluesman Mose Vinson’s solo CD Piano Man. She remembered the blues sets that Riley often delivered, peppered with his classic Sun rockabilly hits such as “Flying Saucer Rock and Roll” and “Red Hot.” She sounded dismayed at the thought of anyone other than Thomas, the minstrel performer turned Stax Records mainstay — billed as “the World’s Oldest Teenager,” he died in 2001, when he was 84 years old — performing “The Funky Chicken.”
“Life goes on,” Peiser finally said. “Sure, there was Michelangelo, but there were also a lot of people after him.”
Categories: Memphis, Rockabilly, Scene Report, Time Machine |
Tags: center for southern folklore, eddie bond, Memphis, sun records | No Comments
August 30th, 2009
Last night, the primal sounds of fife and drum music were echoing at the Turner Family Picnic, an annual North Mississippi Hill Country tradition, and Bo-Keys leader Scott Bomar, Ponderosa Stomp graphics designer Kerri Mahoney and I were there to listen.
Since the death of Rising Star Fife and Drum Band founder — and Turner family patriarch — Otha Turner, his granddaughter Sharde Thomas (pictured above and below) has led the group. Last night was no different, as, under a hazy half-moon, Thomas blew her cane fife and, followed by a trio of drummers, traversed the packed dirt ground that was once home to her granddaddy’s farm. Her mother and aunts fried catfish and sold cold beer and hot sandwiches. Curious city slickers took photos, drank too much, and kicked up dust. When Thomas tired, friends like Kenny Brown, Junior Burnside and R.L. Boyce were quick to pick up the slack, performing Hill Country anthems like “Jumper On the Line” from a plywood stage.
Like most traditions, the picnic has changed over the last 50-or so years, even as it has stayed the same. Otha and his daughter, Bernice Turner, who helped with the band, died on the same day in 2003. The grandkids are growing up — a few weeks ago, Thomas started her sophomore year in college. The goat meat sandwiches had sold out by the time we arrived, and this year, for the first time, the family charged a $2 admission to the picnic.
Yet once we were ensconced with cold beers in one hand and catfish and Wonder bread sandwiches in the other, the swirling, Africa-meets-the-blues music pulling us into the mass of dancers, it was as if we were on board a time machine and traveling backwards to that first time Library of Congress musicologist Alan Lomax stumbled into the Turner’s end of summer celebration and documented it for all posterity.
Adding particular poignance to this year’s event was the fact that earlier in the day, the Mississippi Development Authority’s Division of Tourism dedicated a marker to Turner’s brand of fife and drum music on the Mississippi Blues Trail. It’s located in downtown Como, Miss., directly across the street from a marker commemorating the lifework of Mississippi Fred McDowell. Next time you make the drive between Memphis and New Orleans, be sure to check it out.
Categories: Blues, Fallen But Never Forgotten, Mississippi, Scene Report |
Tags: Blues, bo-keys, Memphis, Mississippi, Mississippi Blues Trail, Otha Turner, Rising Star Fife and Drum Band | No Comments
August 12th, 2009
On the afternoon of Sunday, August 30th, at the Silver Moon Club in Newport, Ark., Sonny Burgess and the Pacers, W.S. Holland, Smoochy Smith, former Little Green Men drummer J.M. Van Eaton and Carl Mann will join forces to celebrate the life of fellow Sun Records alumnus Billy Lee Riley, who died at the age of 75 on August 2nd.
Also appearing: Ace Cannon, Travis Wammack, Dale Hawkins, Teddy Riedel, J.R. Rogers, Teddy “Thunderbird” Hill, Larry Don, Warren Crow, C.W. Gatlin and Silver Moon house band Jeannie & the Guys. Admission is $10, and the show starts at 1PM.
Riley was one of the most crazed rockabillies Sam Phillips ever recorded — which is quite a statement considering the Sun roster included the likes of Charlie Feathers and Jerry Lee Lewis. Despite successes like “Red Hot” and “Flying Saucers Rock ‘n’ Roll,” the sharecropper’s son from Pocahantas, Ark. was ultimately one of the “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s” who occupied Phillips’ Memphis stable, too brilliant and too raw for teenagers content listening to Perry Como and Patti Page.
A frequent performer at the Ponderosa Stomp, Riley will certainly be missed. Go here to see footage of him performing at the 2003 Stomp, backed by Deke Dickerson and Slim Harpo’s band.
Categories: Fallen But Never Forgotten, Memphis, Rockabilly |
Tags: billy lee riley, Memphis, Rockabilly, sun records | 1 Comment