My music instructor, Mr. Stuver did emphasize to me a natural rhythm that I had. And I didn't really know at that time where it came from. I know it wasn't a hereditary thing I didn't think. But ah... as I looked upon it and it... it came so natural. Here again, I don't say I was a great musician, but it shows to me how music is such a communicator, and how even as a small person, a young person, I was affected by... immensely, far more than I was aware of at the time. So then I became very definitely interested in music as a whole. I ah, I think not only and... as a matter of fact years later in the high school I formed a little "dance band" and we played at lot of different things, with ah, kids our own age in the 9th, 10th, 11th grade. Ah... and somehow I wound up being director of the band. Now, I, by that time, had learned to play Souzaphone a little bit and... and... and this sort of thing. But it was a… another thing that was a... an odd thing for me was that ah, I was a good "conductor." I heard well, I really heard well, you know. Ah, and... and the people followed me, I mean because they were -- if they didn't have that feel for that music somehow or other I was able to get it out of them. And so I became immensely interested in music as a type of ah, thing that would be maybe, of course, I didn't know this word at that time, an avocation or something. But I knew that it was a part of my spiritual agenda. And so, as I grew a little older and ah, I got in radio, I wanted to be a criminal defense lawyer. I lost my father in 19... January the 2nd, 1941, ah, 1942, right after Pearl Harbor. I had an older -- I was the youngest of eight kids. So I had to do something other than ah... ah... you know, do the things that a kid that age would want to do. I had to get serious about these things. I had a deaf mute aunt who was living with my mother, and an older mother, and... and so, I put it totally out of my mind as to what ah, I would like to do as a criminal defense lawyer. So I knew I would ne... not get to know to law school. My mother never knew that till the day she died, some ten years later, that I was disappointed I didn't get to go to law school, as a matter of fact didn't even get to go to college other than an extension course from Auburn. But it did boil down to the fact that ah, somehow or other the fate of the American Legion in Florence calling, and we had this little summer band, and they'd call for us to go over if we would and play at the amphitheater at Florence State Teacher's College, which is now the University of North Alabama. And we played in the open door amphitheater there and ah, the... the people were impressed, ah, for... I mean we... we... we did everything from Bach and Beethoven, I mean... I mean... I mean we shot them up pretty good, I mean I can just tell you on down to W.C. Handy, I mean the Beal Street Blues, St. Louis Blues, the whole bit. The whole ball of wax, to even martial things, even in "16 band concert." I... I announced the show and that was the show that the Legion got for us, broadcast for us on the only station, WLAY down there, in... in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. And the announcer, the... the... the announcer and the general manager was over there and heard me doing this, announcing the... the numbers and then we would play them. He said, how would you like to announce. I said, man, you know, I... I... would like a job. I... I... I never have figured until this day how he heard anything in me as an announcer. But anyway, the ah, the thing boiled down to I went over, took an audition, he hired me ah, very little pay of course, but I was just delighted to have the opportunity to communicate ah, by that method then which was radio. In the meantime, ah, I moved on from there to ah, a little station 40 miles east of Florence, Muscle Shoals, to Decatur. From there, those were little 250 watt stations, and I went from there to WLAC in Nashville. And... we all know what WLAC in Nashville did later on with rhythm and blues and um, and I... I... and with gospel, black gospel music. Ah, and then from there I came to Memphis. Now I had come to Memphis in 1939. I had seen Beal Street, and man, that was the greatest thing of my life, there is no question about it. Second greatest thing, now... now listen to this, now I was born and raised on a river, the Tennessee River, probably the prettiest river in the world, but there was something about my soul that yearned to see what I had heard, a father of water is the mighty old mean muddy, the Mississippi that created such a delta land. And I knew that that delta was so much more expansive and had to have the same kind of cotton pickers and hoers and planters and all of this stuff ah, that we had a little bit of down there in the red clay fields of... of northwest Alabama. It wasn't like these hundreds of thousands of acres of the finest dirt in the world to grow, of course, about all you grew back in those days was cotton. So when I got to Memphis on my way to hear Dr. George W. Truett, a preacher in... Baptist preacher at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, ah, on the way we got here about 4:00 in the morning, came down Beal Street, pouring down rain, it was five of us boys and an old... '37 convertible Dodge coup, and ah, we came down Beal Street, that to me, now this... this was Saturday morning between 4:00 and 5:00. I had never seen anything like this. Beal Street, there was immediately a connection of everything that you can imagine could take place individually and maybe collectively in the minds of people -- people playing ah, music with of course, broomstick and a string and a... and a lard can, on up or down, patting their foot on a... a wooden box. Ah, making music, coming from all over the delta to be a part of Beal Street. Well that fascinated me no end, and even on the way to see Dr. Truett and hear him preach ah, ah, I couldn't get it off of my mind what Beal Street really truly meant to me personally. And I think it meant an awful lot to the people that were with me. But I never quite got over that, and I said, one of these days I would like to come back to Memphis, Tennessee. There is just something unique about Beal Street. Ah, it was so unique at that time I do not know of one single thing that happened in my life that influenced me more with regard to, I guess it was probably because of the things I saw taking place on every level you can think of. And I mean every level. I mean from somebody cutting somebody's throat to some of the nicest romances going on up and down the street to wine bottles and... and everything else, and to some of the nicest things you ever saw. But it was a... it was a true spirit thing for me, because W.C. Handy wrote the blues and he was born in Florence, Alabama, the same town that I was born in. That had a little something to do. Of course, I didn't -- hey, I didn't ever think I would have, even be classed W.C. Handy, but I mean he was just the father of the blues. But that -- when I hit Memphis, Tennessee in '39, I knew that I had to have something to do with music. I didn't know what it would be. Because I've always been a person, at least in my mind, that loved what I see in your eyeballs. And what I hear coming out of your mouth. I mean I just -- you fascinate me. You fascinate me. And so ah, those are things to me, at least that the human spirit is all about, that great instrument known as the voice that black people have always had, I mean in the cotton field you didn't need great acoustics, I mean... I mean that came from the soul. All of these things as a young person ah, presented to me an unbelievable fascination for what truly we are made up of, "spiritually." And I don't think that it's just a Sunday sermon.
The Beal Street experience, ah, as I've iterated, was no doubt a thing that here again, made me know that as much as I and George W. Truett enjoyed his sermon out at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, that there's a sermon in so many different things. I saw one sermon after the other, beautiful sermons on Beal Street, all the way from Front Street all the way up to almost where Union runs almost in to Beal. And so, I presumed that in my own mind, somehow or another, I was going to make it to Memphis, Tennessee. And when you work at a 50,000 watt station at WLAC in Nashville, and you're a country boy from Florence, Alabama, Decatur, Alabama 250 watt station, and you leave that and you weren't fired and you come to Memphis, Tennessee to go to work on a 5,000 watt station, WRAC, wait a minute... Here is a country boy that never thought he would ever be able to walk inside of a 50,000 watt station, let alone, wind up being a combination engineer and announcer. And I gave it up, guess why? I swear to God I wanted to live in Memphis. It might not have been for long. I had a notion that it would be for a long time. I had a notion that Memphis, Tennessee, and its potential in music, knowing what I knew about the cotton fields and hay fields and corn fields and watermelon fields in Alabama, I had an idea looking at the vast expanses across this mighty river, and knowing what was taking place over there in the hearts and the minds of the black folks, and a lot of us white folks, that this had to be a sermon to me every day I woke up in Memphis, Tennessee. It was one of those places, unique on the face of this earth! Hey, life is too short if... live as old as Methuselah it's too short to miss that. To participate, hey, whether you ever made a record or anything like that, but hear a little bit of it, walk by, see, turn your head, stand there, do whatever you wanted to. It wasn't going to let you get away without making an impression on you. And then people wonder why that it was hidden from all the masses that the people so longed. What a shame! What a shame. What a shame. Never has been a greater symphony in the world ever conducted by Arturo, Toscanini, or anybody, than the symphony of the soul. Not impovished… impoverished, but blessed with hardship and then telling about it in song. What is greatest than that. Not having to think about it! Coming totally as spontaneous, spontaneity, the beauty of the soul is displayed there. Scholars will tell us, I'm going to tell you something -- this old business of this plane of existence here, and you live on this side of the tracks -- let me tell you something. Anybody that has missed the profound statements of black music, southern white music, honey, I feel sorry for them. There is a vacancy there in their soul, in their mind and even in their heart, whether they know it or not. Don't miss it any more. Don't miss it any more. You know, the influences we have for freedom have come from those circumstances of destitution, and desperation at times. And yet the soul and the soul talks a lot of times, just through a melody, oh Lord, I love you. Oh darlin’, I love you. That's a release. That to me is a symphony. That to me is talking to "not the masses, talking to you," in turn, you, you, you, you. There's no such thing as a mass. There's a collection of individuals and that's what the music out of Memphis, Tennessee, and how I am lucky enough to have been, through God's unchanging hands, lucky enough to have been brought to this place and to these people, and to these experiences, I will never know what I did to deserve that. But I guess it's based on just the element of what you feel, and what you give, and listen, there is no picture can be painted that the eyes can see that come close to what the ears can paint for you. I ah, I wish everybody could grab my hand and could have walked right in my shoes, and these unbelievable experiences, unbelievable experiences. No money could ever -- although thank God, finally we made a little money, but I never went in a studio in my life thinking I was going to get rich. Totally to the contrary, you don't have time to tell it all, but I'll tell it one day in a book, because it is there. I never walked in a studio when I finally opened my little studio here in Memphis. Two baby boys, Knox and Gerry, and you know those boys -- they were this high -- and I can just tell you, I can just tell you, that 706 Union Avenue, that is called the cradle of rock and roll. Honey, it is not only that, it is the manger of it. I can tell you that Memphis, Tennessee, Memphis, Tennessee and this beautiful, beautiful delta country is beautiful because of its people, then and now is the home of the blues.

When you first did a recording at that studio there wasn't any place for those musicians to be heard at all. Were you surprised that there wasn't an outlet for them?
Do you remember any one event that made you know that you had to open that studio and start recording this music? Was there any one thing that really precipitated it?
There was a series of things actually, when I came to Memphis, here again I got to do something that I never thought I'd ever get to do. Was put the Peabody Skyway big bands, those were 15 piece bands of the '30s and '40s. So I put those on each night and I would notice that -- and some great bands, all the way from Tommy, Jimmy Dorsey to Freddie Martin and a whole slew of them. They all played the circuit and Peabody Skyway was one of the big ones. Now let me tell you, every one of them had their arrangements and they were right there on the music stands and they played these over and over every night all bands did. It was customary, nothing wrong with it, I guess. And they made good music. But it was so predictable, so predictable, and I enjoyed doing it. I never thought I'd ever get to do that. And I did it for five... let me see, from '45 to '51 and…