Tell me "I Never Loved a Man" arrangement came into
Well I recall there was a, I guess Gerry and Wexler
had brought a recording, a demo of a, a vocal and a piano. And there's a
wonderful song, Ronnie Shannon I think wrote it, I never met him and I don't
know who was singing the demo but when we played that song, in my mind I
thought, well, it doesn't have a specific meter really. And, ah, so, we
just, the band just sort of looked at each other, just finished, well, what
do we do? Where do we go now? So we were just all basically off in our
little worlds, trying to figure rhythm or riff and I just happened to be the
one that, I guess formulated this little pattern and it started [plays
music] and that sort of set it up for verse and then she came in on acoustic
at the end of the second verse and the band was in and that one just was
dreamed up on the spot, so to speak. And I was happy to be a part of
In general though, how would a song be brought to you, it
wouldn't be written out, there wouldn't be parts or anything. Tell me about
how it usually worked, say with a Wilson Pickett.
Well with most everyone we worked with they'd bring
either a cassette or something, a rough demo of the song usually made by the
song writer and, or sometimes they'd just have some guy come in with a
guitar or sit down at the piano and play just so we can get the chords and
we'll make a little chart, rough chart with the chords. And then everybody's
sort of up to their own devices as far as they're, what they, each person
plays unless the producer has a specific idea for a line, for the bass or
the guitar or something. But usually we get to make up our own parts within
that chord structure and if they don't like it, they'll say try something,
we don't like that, try something else. And so it's a trial and error thing.
And sometimes you hit it the first time and sometimes you go through every
lick you know before they find something they like.
You know I think our basic style of approaching the
song from the beginning is usually between the piano, bass and drums. And
then the guitars would usually fall in after those three would, would sort
of lock up. And that was our basic way we'd basically would go after every
At the time those hits were coming in the late sixties.
Another big power house was Motown. Did you all listen to Motown? How your
music was similar or different.
Yeah we was big fans of James Jamerson.
James Jamerson is the legendary Motown bass player
that never got his name on any of the records but the greatest bass player
in the world. I mean today he's still revered by all bass players.
I remember when I first heard ____ keyboard player,
I'm sorry the name escapes me but that's ____ hear about them we can't
recall their names. And then the guitarist and, and they're all such a warm
wonderful band, you know.
___ the band that we all, you know, I think we all
learned listening to their music, you know as well as the Fifth Philadelphia
group you know and ...
The Gamble Stax group.
... group that came out of Philadelphia, Sigma
Sound up there, we were completely mesmerized by what they did.
Them and Motown, they were an urban sound and whereas
we and Stax were a little bit more of a, not country but laid, down home
sound more, I think, not quite as slick.
Snare laid back a little bit, you know.
What's really different, when you say more of a laid
I guess some terms, we were a little country,
funkier, you know it was like, I think the word funk kind of, was a good
description of what we were doing at that time.
The, the Motown and Philadelphia and New York stuff
sounded like it was from a big city and the stuff that we did I don't think
ever sounded like it was from a big city. It, it was more groove
It's sort of an abstract thing to talk about but,
but back in the beginning especially with the rhythm section with Stax and
us, I think it was the air was the difference, the space between the back
beat on the drum and the next back beat and the distance between a bass note
is a distance ..
Tell me when you first started working with Wilson
Pickett. He was the guy who came back from the big city, all dressed off,
stepping off the plane and see the cotton fields again.
I think there was an immediate connection because
he was from Alabama, number one. And we didn't feel, we felt very
Use his name.
I think in the beginning when we started working
with Wilson Pickett the fact that he was from Alabama made a, made a quick
and close connection for us, very early, on the first day. And, ah, but two,
we loved playing the kind of grooves that he recorded like "Midnight Hour"
and "634". We loved those records. And, ah, so we, we were really on to play
good for Wilson Pickett. And so, I remember the first song we approached was
"Land of a 1,000 Dances" and, ah, it came off very well I thought.
Yeah, he definitely missed the excitement on, he
was there again, ah, easy to work with because he had so much power. I mean
he just plugged in, you know. But then he was always willing to try this,
you know, I remember "Mustang Sally" for instance, that was sort of an odd
song to think about him doing really before he did it but he just jumped on
in, like, like it was his song forever and made that easy also.
I thin the, ah, when we did "Hey Jude" I mean
that, I think he kind of, ah, was, was questioning whether he should do that
song. And we took a break to go eat, I remember, and Dwayne Allman was on
that particular session for the first time and Dwayne had the idea to do
that song. And when we came back from the break he and Wilson hung out
together and he convinced Wilson to do it while we were gone. And so when we
come back it was, I mean hesitation, we went right into it and, and cut that
really, really a fine record.
I understand that he was in here for a session the night
that Martin Luther King was killed. Were you here then?
I wasn't here I was home in Memphis at the time, I
We were, were in ___ ___ with another act. I'll
never forget that night.
I think it was a Stax act.
Which is an ____ group.
Well, ah, I'll tell you what happened. There was a
change from that night that, from that point on, the rhythm and blues acts
stopped slowly, stopped coming to work with us, after that night. I do
remember that and it was a sad occasion in a lot of respects for us. I'd say
within a period of what, a year or so after that? We were cutting almost all
pop acts: Paul Simon, Cat Stevens, Rod Stewart. I mean everything switched
from rhythm and blues and all of a sudden black acts quit coming to our
studio. I know it happened quite a bit at a lot of the other studios in the
Nothing changed but, but everything changed. I
don't know why, you know.
I, I think it's because the black acts, it was like
no longer cool to work with white musicians. I'm not sure what, you know I'm
not sure that's it but that's certainly the way it felt. I mean nobody ever
said, well, we're not going to work with you anymore, they just quit
And, and prior to that time we worked almost entirely
with black acts very few white acts.
Almost 100 percent.
Pickett, could you tell me the story of counting off,
where goes 1, 2, 3 at the beginning?
Actually I don't think it was him. The problem was
with, with Junior, our bass player was having the trouble. Remember the
little do do do da da, the little lick after he said 1, 2 3? You know there
was a little pause and then before the rhythm started the bass did the pick
up. The problem was the bass pick up. We did it quite a few times before
Junior Lowe nailed that particular lick, I think that's what you're talking
about but he finally got it.
What do you think these guys had going here that
attracted so many record companies and artists to come into Muscle
One of the elemental things besides their playing,
I think was Rick's echo chamber and his engineering that started a lot of
it. And then, ah, I don't know, the, the rhythm and blues especially, the
artists came here and they got hits and, and the, you know, race music was
out there under the counter and, and black music wasn't selling to the
general public and all of a sudden there's music that people wanted to buy,
white and black. So we were part of that, making that kind of music.
And, and once you cut a hit then other people want a
hit and so they will go to where that hit was recorded. And so it just keeps
building. And I think another thing maybe is we possibly added a little bit
of rock or another flavor to the mix with the black music and maybe that
made it, ah, more universal in appeal. But I think once somebody cut a hit
and somebody else wanted, hey, I want to go there and cut a hit and so it
keeps building on itself.
I think just the general reputation of the, of the
producers here like Rick, the sound of the studio, the players. I think that
was the attraction for other acts to want to come and get that sound.
Tell me about the echo on "Mustang Sally".
Spooner had a, a real important lick and it was a,
the music came to a stop a couple of times in the song and Spooner filled it
with three swipes on the Hammond organ and in these three swipes Rick
Say "Mustang Sally" instead of the song.
When we recorded "Mustang Sally"…
Well I remember in the "Mustang Sally" record we
cut for Wilson Pickett, Spooner had a part when the music came to a stop
there was hole he filled with like three swipes on the B3 organ. Well, Rick
was the engineer on the session and at that exact moment on Spooner's track
he, he turned the echo up, almost full tilt, for those three swipes and it
gave an incredible sound that was real identifiable on that record.
Wexler in the studio I read about how he got really
involved and was almost part of the rhythm section. Talk about that.
Have you ever seen a white man do the boogaloo?
Well, guarantee you, Jerry Wexler did a great version. And it would inspire
us, I'll have to say, you know, to see Jerry do the boogaloo was
He wouldn't do the boogaloo unless he was happy with
what was happening, but Jerry was very in tune even though he's not a
musician and has no musical knowledge, he's got excellent taste. He's a,
he's a student of music and, and a fan of music and he knows when something
is not right. And, ah, so he, we got a lot of feedback from him, working
with him but it's not necessarily in musical terms it's more like in
feelings. If, if he's not happy, you know it, you definitely know it and if
he is happy he does this little dance.
And there's something about, too, when a guy you
respect as much as Jerry did, I mean, you know, if the President of the
United States had been there it wouldn't have meant any more to us, you
know. But when Jerry would get turned on it would excite us beyond belief
and so it would make us really play, play really well and funky.
When the Aretha session when things began to go sour on
the second song. Is that something you can tell us about?
Well, actually, I don't, I, it's funny the
musicians never knew anything was going on.
Did you? I never did. And, ah, I didn't know until
the next day.
See, I was in the horn section and one of the horn
players was the, was the problem, ah. I don't know if it's okay to mention
any names or not but.
Sure, he's got a real job now.
Oh has he? A trumpet player named Ken Laxton. And he
was drinking. And, ah, he started making slightly off color remarks in
Aretha's direction I think and she and her husband, Ted White, took some
offense from it. And Ted I think complained to Rick about honky players, you
know, and, ah, it was, I think… it was, I think it was because the session
was going a long time and the horn players were having to wait, you know,
the rhythm section was getting the stuff together and so everybody was
getting a little bored and so Ken started drinking. And, ah, I think he made
some remarks and I think that set the whole thing off.
Well I heard he pinched her on the rear end.
I'm not sure he did that but I do that he made some
The thing that, ah, see, this was the first time
he had ever played here and he wasn't a part of the normal horn section and
so, you know, I don't even think that most of us knew anything was going on
at all. And but of course the next day was when I really found out about it
when, when the session was called off the next day.
Well actually we were in New York doing the King
Curtis session, that, that Jerry had asked us to come up and play. It was
our first time to play in New York and at the end of the session, ah, it
just so happened the Aretha single "Never Loved a Man" was just breaking
very, very big around the nation. And he asked us would we stay an extra two
or three days and finish off her first album, which we did.
Needless to say Ken and the rest of the horn section,
including me, was not there for that.
I think the real blow up probably came, well, we
did "I Never Loved A Man" and "Do Right Woman", didn't have much of "Do
Right Woman" because we were tired, the day was long, there was a new song.
She hadn't even had a chance to learn it even so we got ... then like David
said he saw some things going on in the horn section but I think afterwards
at the hotel and all. And then well what … about … which is 20 miles from
here. And Aretha Franklin sessions were on the counter for a week, album.
See, after one day feeling real good about this recording, I come back at 10
o'clock, I walked in the lobby here at Fame and I think the house cleaner
was the only one here. And I said, well, where is everyone, on a 10 o'clock
start, right? And, and so all I know they say, it's cancelled. I say,
I think we learned basically what happened from
Peter Garelnick's books, "We Sell Music" is when I, when I really learned
Yeah, Rick would never tell us.
I think the, ah, the sound of the horns in between
Stax and Muscle Shoals were similar in the fact that they used a certain
blend of horns, they had like a, usually a trumpet, a couple of tenors and a
baritone. And then later on I think a trombone was added but when you used
that same type of horn blend and they would, they would always play the same
type of riffs in, in both areas and it was something that was different.
Motown had a more of a sophisticated slick, more of a pop sound with the
strings and stuff, yeah, very orchestrated. And our were, usually hit
arrangements right on, right on the session. And it, it really came out as a
little more down home sound sort of like, you know, what you hear on the Al
Green sessions, you know.
The horns were a punctuation.
Ahm hm, yeah, they were never ridden whereas in, on
the Motown stuff they probably were ridden, they, they sound like they were
Very impressive though like you said
But they were done on the, you know, on the spot,
just from off the top of their heads they would fill in around the lyrics of
the song and/or around guitar licks or something. They were like
punctuations like you said.
This group of players for some odd reason were just
used to and great at creating their own music within rhythm track, they
would hit arrangement like you said. And I'm sure a lot of horn arrangements
are written out and maybe rehearsed beforehand in a lot of cases except, you
know, in other cities, except Muscle Shoals and Memphis they had a chance to
do their own thing on the spot.
In the early days you know we, the horns played
loud with us and I think over-dubbing was an after a fact thing, you know,
later on as the more, more tracks became available with the multi-track
machines but very early days especially when we were mono I mean a lot of
times the horns were cut live with us.