You all are from the South, Alabama, you ended up
getting most well known for playing soul music. What are your musical roots?
What was the first kind of music you all played?
Yeah, I think a lot of people get a misrepresentation of what we,
I stared out basically, not in country music, I, we get accused of being
country fans. Now, I don't know, Spooner might have been into it a little
bit I think David and I basically came from the, listened to Jimmy Reed and
Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry that's why, my first inspiration to play guitar
was when I heard a local guy play "Johnny B. Goode" and I said, I got to
learn how to do that, you know. That's how it all started for me. It was an
inspirational moment. I think everybody that actually becomes a player who
sticks past the soreness on the fingers and the bleeding fingers I think
they have to be inspired.
That's true for me.
I heard Donny Shriggley play, "Walk Don't Run" and it sounded just like the
record and I thought, wow, that is great. I, I got to learn how to do that.
And so I, I still can't do it on the guitar, I can play on the
What about you?
What inspired me to be a player? Ah, what I liked about music, ah,
ah, so many things, it's just being in the local bands. It used to be like
talent shows was the medium in which one were to expose their wares because
one must radio or TV so it would be talent shows and you'd enter, you know,
some of the earlier bands before. We used to play for money later and on
weekends and turn to party bands. That was fun but early on it was just sort
of, like you said, get your fingers sore. In my case I learned a little …
and a little guitar and I guess by the time you get the soreness gone you
feel like you deserve more than that so you keep working harder. But Jerry
Lee Lewis when he came around, you know, through the airwaves, "A Whole Lot
of Shakin" and that sort of thing. That was one form and of course the, the
Ray Charles on the other side, the rhythm and blues side, that was wonderful
for me to hear. And then there was the Grand Ole Opry, you know, all those
things were coming at me at once so I took it all in.
See my dad was playing and my uncle was playing
country music. Well I didn't like it too much, I still don't. But I mean I
enjoy playing it and producing sometimes as, you know, as something
different to do. I enjoy that but I wouldn't want a steady diet of it, you
know. But, ah, now my really roots was I think blues, for sure. And so as
to, I know Jerry Wexler used to say that we were all part country and all
this but most of us I think, a good portion of us was, strictly listened to
the black players of that time.
Did you all
listen on the radio much to the blues, to black music to gospel?
Everything. Yes as a matter of fact when we had our
bands we would listen to WLAC in Nashville usually on, when we'd return and
we'd listen to… John R and Horse Man and, and he was playing the best blues
records of the day. And that's, we, that was what we listened to coming
home. We never made enough money to stay in a hotel overnight where we went
so we'd have to drive back, you know. We'd drive about 100 to 200 miles to
the show and then have to drive back when we got through. So we'd get in
about 3 or 4 in the morning or later.
where I first heard Otis Redding was on the John R show late at night or
early in the morning I guess.
when we found out that John R was white? Blew my mind because this, this was
the whitest black sounding man I've ever heard in my life. I've got tapes of
him. We became friends with him and he, he and Joe Simon come down cut
records with us. So that was a real big thrill for us, you know. Got a
picture with him.
But I think we all were
influenced by the radio and records because that was it, you know, that was
the way, that's how everybody learned how to play or that's how I learned
how to play.
And it was dry here, no
liquor so, so we had no nightclubs to go to here. It was, you know, bible
belt. All through our early music period it was dry here,
In my case al., also, we all
did this I'm sure, go to each other's house and practice and play and listen
to records, you know and decide what songs we wanted to learn, you know, so
that was, there was some communication going on a little bit. John R, yeah,
he was a great memory for me also, radio show…
Ever listen to …
When Randy would come
on, we'd turn it off… He was the country part of, come on after
Honey Baby Chickens or something
they'd give you.
The thing about John R
he would do all of his commercials live, he would never play a tape so it
was really incredible to do one. He'd do it a little different every
Was there a church music piece of your
early musical exposure, black or white?
Yeah, I mean, that's, I heard, we all heard music in church and that is, I,
I look back on it now and I, and I hear hymns and things and I think, wow, I
used to hear that when I was a kid and I think that was one of my early
influences even though I didn't go into that style of music or anything. I
think it did influence me.
songs I heard as a child, I still love them, you know, the "Amazing Grace"
and a long list of songs that I still like, never got tired of. So it was
good music. And Christmas music, that's good music to me too.
When Wexler started coming down here, Dave you're quoted
talking about when Wexler came into the studio he was kind of a somewhat of
He was, he would strike fear
in your hear when he'd come on over the speaker.
Use his name and tell us that.
Wexler when he would come over the talk back speaker his voice, that New
York Jewish accent would just strike. He'd say, David would you come here
please? I just was shaking in my shoes, to have to walk up to the control
room and get up upbraided for something or told what not to do or something.
But he's a great guy though, you know. I learned a lot from that man but he
scared me to death at first.
the first time he called me at home on the telephone and I could not believe
he was calling me. Jimmy, how are you? I could hardly answer, answer back,
you know. And he wanted us to come to New York to play on a King Curtis
session. And so, ba, ba, ba, I mean I, I was ready to go before he asked,
Well Jerry Wexler, of course,
you know, such a presence in ___ music industry, he had, before he came here
he had produced a record with Ray Charles and, and all associated with that
Red Atlantic label, you know.
Start again by
saying Jerry Wexler.
Ah, when, when Jerry
Wexler came to Muscle Shoals I was already familiar with him even though I
hadn't met him and I'm sure that was the case with all of us. He, would see
that Red Atlantic Records and he had worked and produced people like Ray
Charles and Chuck Willis and Drifters. So he was a real presence. Maybe he
didn't know that that we knew him because when we got here he was, he was
probably insecure in a sense that he had this new artist on to Atlantic,
Aretha Franklin and he, he had a lot of pressure I'm sure to, ah, present a
great musical package to the world. So that's what we met with is this, you
know, clashing of, misunderstanding of sense, but, but we all learned to
deserve each other's ...
There was a
clash in music terms too. There was a music term clash in the sense of when
they would talk about the channel we didn't know what they were talking
about. And they was actually talking about the chorus or the hook part of
the song. And so we knew of it as the chorus. So it took a good year of
working with, with Jerry and Tom and Areth before we, we kind of became, you
know, acclimated to the, to their term, terminologies.
Talk about the session with Aretha Franklin, how she
reacted to seeing this all white rhythm section. Was there any tension
No, Aretha to me, she, she always
act., acted the same way to us, you know, she's sort of an introverted type
person. And, ah, she never would show her feelings, I don't think, to too
many people except maybe real close friends. But she always acted good to us
and, and she'd get behind that piano and all it took was her to play and
then when we heard her then, you know, we knew what to do because we
followed her lead. And, ah, but I think that was what made it real
comfortable, the fact that she played with us from the, from the start. And
I remember on those first two songs we did hear a thing that, that we knew
there was really something special there, I mean something really
extraordinary happened during that, during that day, the first day we
recorded with her.
Go ahead ...
Well I was going to say, I don't think that, ah, for
one thing I wasn't in the rhythm section on that session I was in the horn
section but I didn't feel any weirdness from her at all. But, ah, we were,
we worked with a lot of black artists before then and we felt like why
should anybody feel weird about us, you know. We didn't, we didn't think
there should be any reason why she should have any feelings. I, I think she
probably did though when she first walked in from what I've heard.
I think back now, I think back now and I think,
well, you know, they had to, the, the black artists that came in here had to
feel something because here was this Lily white rhythm section and, and
maybe one black person there for the tracks and, and, you know, but we
never, I don't think we ever realized it at the time but I did realize it
Could you tell me as keyboardist, how
did she impress you when she sat down at the piano?
Oh, to me, it was a, immediate musical bonding among
all of us for, you know, there was no strains, no, no tension that I could
sense and it was just, let's play music and have fun. And, ah, she was just
wonderful at the keyboard I thought because she was creative, imaginative,
had no restrictions on styles. She blended a lot of styles and so therefore
by her knowledge and information of what she do, that allowed us to be free
with the direction we choose to go. So it made it real easy to work with her
like Jimmy said.
You know, …played either
a electric piano or organ…. Now, I remember Spooner either al, always
throughout the whole time either played B3 organ or Wurlitzer piano. And she
would play the, the grand acoustic piano the big grand. And what, that was
an incredible marriage that they had between the two of them, it was really
There was one exception, I think
I played the acoustic on "Natural Woman" because it was a new song that
Jerry and Carole King and Gerry Goffin had written. For some reason Tom and
Jerry wanted, their words to me was, play something classical. That was my
approach to do that is rhythmically, structure, you know, not free in the
sense that more gospel-like. And I'm sure she could have played that just
greatly also but she, it worked out I guess.
I wouldn't change a note.