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Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 11:35 am

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"What a funky, funky studio."
- Elvis Presley, entering American Sound Studios on Monday, January 13, 1969


A few years back I picked up a wonderful book on the musicians who made up the house band at American Sound Studio in Memphis. These creative, talented gentlemen recorded more than 100 chart hits between 1967 and 1972, supporting artists like Joe Tex, B.J. Thomas, Bobby Womack, Dusty Springfield, the Box Tops and Neil Diamond. Christened Memphis Boys: The Story of American Studios, author Roben Jones's study remains a superb read for anyone partial to their work, and of course especially for all Elvis fans who absolutely adore the music he created back in 1969. Today, most acknowledge these are the final, truly great sessions of Presley's career, produced by American Sound owner, Lincoln "Chips" Moman.


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With Chips Moman - American Sound, Monday, January 13, 1969
Photographer: Dan Penn, using his Polaroid camera


Revisiting the book for the tasty Elvis bits, I was again reminded of how Chips' forthright production style and broad vision, coupled with Presley's zeal and sheer talent, delivered some of the greatest numbers of his career, from "Suspicious Minds" to "Kentucky Rain," "In The Ghetto," "Don't Cry Daddy," "You'll Think of Me," "Stranger In My Own Home Town," "Any Day Now," "Long Black Limousine," "Only The Strong Survive," and so many more.


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With Roy Hamilton - American Sound Studios, Monday, January 13, 1969
Photographer: Dan Penn, using his Polaroid camera
Source: blog.graceland.com



A compelling aspect of these Memphis recordings that Roben draws attention to are the recurring themes of pain, death, sorrow, and loneliness, and how they elicit some of Elvis' most emotional vocals ever. Certainly, the unexpected loss of his mother in 1958 is deeply felt in at least three stunning numbers. The regret over the abandonment of his artistry, starting during his army exile and growing far worse upon his release, when he attached his star to cheap Hollywood musicals, colors several other songs. Taking the author's idea further, Presley had recently watched people who'd touched his life pass away, from cousin Bobby Smith to Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips, actor Nick Adams, and RCA executive Steve Sholes. For example, Sholes was the one who signed him to the label when he was just a twenty year-old indie sensation. And of course he'd become a father only eleven months earlier. All of these events, on some level, went into the remarkable, caring studio recordings of 1969, and certainly influenced a good deal of the material selected for recording in January and February.


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Billboard ad, circa April 1969


Below is an all-too-brief, poor-quality clip of home movie footage taken by bass player, writer and producer Tommy Cogbill on the first evening at American Sound. Look for for R&B singer Roy Hamilton, who was recording during the day, and house drummer Gene Chrisman. Where is the original Super8 footage today? And how much was filmed? Someone must know.


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Below is a peek at Jones' wonderful research into these Presley sessions, in a terrific chapter called "From a Jack to a King." In particular, her prose not only reinforces that it was a crazy, magical time but also confirms Presley friend Marty Lacker convinced the singer to shun a scheduled Nashville date and try Memphis instead. We learn the core musicians like Cogbill, Reggie Young, Bobby Emmons, Mike Leech and even arranger Glen Spreen were blasé when learning of the booking, then thrilled to meet Elvis when he made his entrance, resplendent in a exceptional blue leather jacket, on the first night. On the other hand, most of the Presley entourage tagging along failed to impress any of them. The "Memphis Boys" also make no bones about who was in charge despite the presence of RCA executives, a subject that has strangely been a source of recent debate on this forum.


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With Bobby Wood, Mike Leech, Tommy Cogbill, Gene Chrisman, Bobby Emmons, Reggie Young - American Sound, Monday, January 13, 1969
Photographer: (possibly) Marty Lacker, using Dan Penn's Polaroid camera.


Reggie Young … knew Felton [Jarvis] to be a cheerful type … "I just sensed that whatever Elvis wanted, Felton would see that he got it," Reggie observed. "He didn't want any waves at all."


"From a distance he [Jarvis] hit me as just the typical staff producer of a big record company, he was just there to do his job," said Bobby Emmons. "He was a reinforcement," said Glen Spreen.



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"I remember Felton sitting there and carrying on insane conversations with people who did not matter, and that inhibits your creativity," Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns noted sourly.


"Moman had more, what would it be, constructive criticism," mused Reggie Young. "He'd say, 'You were a little flat there.' I don't believe Felton would ever have said that … I remember Moman told [Elvis] he could resing a certain phrase because his pitch was off."



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"If the take was good then Felton would say 'That's great, Elvis. Come on in and listen,' "If the take was not acceptable then Felton would say 'That's good, Elvis. Come on in and listen,' observed Glen Spreen.


"[Felton] about freaked when Chips told Elvis that he was a little pitchy. He seemed afraid to say anything to Elvis that might bring him down. That was not the way we worked" … said Bobby Wood.



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Pick up a copy, it's just as good all the way through, not just the parts on Elvis:

http://upress-test.hpc.msstate.edu/books/1429
http://www.amazon.com/Memphis-Boys-Story-American-Studios/dp/1604734019


Prior to the book, Chips gave a 2001 interview to Allen, a Georgia music blogger, where he recalled Elvis' desire to take these gifted men on the road with him that year, something they had never agreed to with any act but were ready to make an exception for Presley. But it was an idea that must have made Presley management just about swallow their cigar. Moman details the low bid given him and the American house band, clearly meant to brush them off instead of fulfilling Presley's wishes. What a shame.

Plus, Chips makes clear he and Elvis got along just fine:


You guys were supposed to be the touring band behind Elvis when he did his Las Vegas tour?

People talked about it but that never came about because we couldn't afford the cut in pay! None of us could go for what they paid.

It was interesting on those [American] sessions that Elvis wasn't used to people telling him that he could do better. He was used to having the whole thing done and he just sings over it.

Well, he and I didn't have any problem recording. More of the problems came from the entourage around him. Whenever I got ready to talk to him about how he was singing a song or something I would turn all the monitors off and I would walk out into the room and go into the booth with him personally and just stand there and talk with him. And it was no problem. I think it would have been a problem had you been on a talkback trying to tell him things or help him because it would be an embarrassment to him with that entourage around you know. So it was handled a little bit differently than I did other sessions but not very much different.

GeorgiaMusic
A blog about Georgia music and all things Georgia
http://www.georgiamusic.info/2008/11/lagrange-native-chips-moman-talks-about.html




Below is a super-cool, full-page ad that Chips placed in Billboard in May 1971. The studio was still going strong, and the Thomas Street Band (love that name) right there with him. A second studio was getting up to speed on the east side of town, and Tommy Cogbill had set up a new subsidiary label, Trump Records, along with Chip's new Entrance Records. Note, too, that Elvis friend Marty Lacker was still part of the management team, listed as a VP and general manager.


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Billboard - May 22, 1971


If only Presley had done a session at American Sound back then, perhaps the next few years would have been different. As it is, the American Sound experience would wrap up within a year's time, for a number of reasons. Nothing lasts forever.

For those who really haven't fully heard what happened with Chips, Elvis and this damn fine band, in 2012 and 2013 the Follow That Dream collector's label released what may be warmly referred to as "the Memphis American Trilogy," three gorgeous collections of everything of value that Presley taped, and then some, in deluxe, "classic album" editions. Sporting stunning audio, insightful notes and many carefully-considered outtakes, these double CD sets are now the gold standard for this landmark moment in Elvis' career, and highly recommended.


December 2012

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http://home.online.no/~ov-egela/backinmemphisftd.html


April 2013

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http://home.online.no/~ov-egela/fromelvisinmemphisftd.html


November 2013

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http://home.online.no/~ov-egela/fromelvisatamericansoundstudios.html


In fact, I listened to all three of them today, about seven and a half hours of Elvis Presley at the pinnacle of his return to relevance as a serious artist. It felt good, man. Real good. Besides having every Memphis master in impeccable quality, the unissued stereo outtakes are filled with surprises, good humor, energy, camaraderie, and alternate performances so fine they could easily have been pressed on vinyl back in 1969. And through it all you hear the voice of Chips Moman, directing the team, from the quarterback (Elvis) to the front line (Reggie Young, Mike Leech, Tommy Cogbill, Bobby Wood, Gene Chrisman). Moman sometimes halts seemingly pristine rundowns without a word, and no one complains. Everyone knows he has a plan, a vision, to deliver the finest hit recordings possible. There are plenty of examples heard throughout the "Memphis American Trilogy" which makes everything so compelling for a serious fan. Just pop in CD2 of the fabulous Back In Memphis FTD, and listen to between-take repartee from both producer and singer:

Chips: Take it from the top. And Bobby, uh, don't, don't play real busy like that on the piano, I don't think that's gonna work out.

- after a stunning rehearsal of "A Little Bit of Green"



Chips: You have one more in you?
Elvis: Yeah!

- after a superb, passionate take 7 of "Suspicious Minds," which followed a kick-ass take 6 ... in fact, take 8 turned out better than both, and became the #1 single release ... this is how you make a CLASSIC recording



Elvis sings: Listen easy ... (band pauses) … you can hear Chips calling.
Chips: Still rolling.

- before the elegant master take 6 of "And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind"



BONUS MOMAN TRACKS

(1) Enjoy this excellent piece on Chips from the Memphis Commercial Appeal. It recounts his beginnings, why he left Memphis in the early 1970s, and projects he was involved in after that.

Chips Moman: the missing man of Memphis music
Bob Mehr, Memphis Commercial Appeal - Sunday, July 13, 2008
http://www.commercialappeal.com/entertainment/unsung-chips-moman


(2) This blog posting shines a bright light on an early single B-side Moman wrote, played guitar on and produced for the Triumphs. It's called "Raw Dough," and reveals a lot about how Chips helped found the Stax label (and don't pass up parts two and three):

the "B" side: The Triumphs - Raw Dough (Volt 100)
http://redkelly.blogspot.com/2008/01/triumphs-raw-dough-volt-100.html


(3) Chips and his crew were finally honored in Memphis for their achievement this past August:

Hitmaker Chips Moman, 'Memphis Boys' recognized with historical marker
Bob Mehr, Memphis Commercial Appeal - Wednesday, August 13, 2014
http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/local-news/hitmaker-chips-moman-memphis-boys-recognized-with-historical-marker_33805703



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Photo: Andrew Parsons


Thank you always, Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman.
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Last edited by drjohncarpenter on Mon Feb 27, 2017 10:15 am, edited 9 times in total.

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 11:57 am

This topic is tight!
That restored Elvis on bass photo is awesome!
Thanks Doc for another enjoyable topic. :smt023
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Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 12:06 pm

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Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 12:18 pm

Thanks, Doc. Oh, my God! Elvis with Chips Moman, 2 giants! What a great and refreshing topic after Goldman's book, Kissin' Cousins and so on.

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 12:18 pm

Excellent and informative article, thank you, John: I also devoured that book and found it illuminating.

The band picture is the best I've seen from those sessions, thank you.

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 12:20 pm

Right, this picture is absolutely terrific.

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 12:42 pm

drjohncarpenter wrote:In fact, I listened to all three of them today, about seven and a half hours of Elvis Presley.........

I bet your neighbours love you.



jurasic1968 wrote:What a great and refreshing topic after Goldman's book........

Bit harsh. I've got feelings, you know.

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 1:13 pm

Many thanks for a wonderful topic, as always well-researched. I have never seen that picture of Elvis and the American houseband in such high quality. I will play those FTD's tonight, you have really whet my appetite! Elvis in 1969, an unbeatable force.

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 4:12 pm

Absolutely loved your post doc. The sessions are my favourites and love the FTDs CD releases, and it must be said the excellent FTD vinyl releases, a great way to listen to them too.

Thanks for putting the effort in doc - I know it takes time.

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 4:37 pm

Fabulous topic Doc from my favourite sessions…..and a true highlight from my trip last year to Memphis being at the ceremony for the Marker unveiling

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 4:50 pm

Fantastic stuff Doc,I never need an excuse to praise Chips,the band,the songs and of course Elvis for delivering these momentous recordings.
Well done Marty Lacker in having the courage of his convictions and persuading Elvis to record at American Studios.Would we have such a rich legacy had Marty not been able to do so ?


norrie

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 5:08 pm

Thanks Doc...wonderful post and it is never a miss when someone takes the time to set the record straight.
These sessions belong to the best Elvis ever did and if only Chips himself or more producers like Chips had been present in Elvis' musical life.
Last edited by Fish on Sun Jul 12, 2015 10:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 5:29 pm

Another post that raises the level of excellence on this site. Wouldn't expect anything less from the Doc.
Thank you for taking the time and making the effort of putting this together. ::rocks

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 7:12 pm

Great topic filled with facts and dates...John..a mixture I like.... :wink:

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 7:30 pm

Fish wrote:Thanks Doc...wonderful post and it is never a miss when someone takes the time to set the record straight.

The record has always been straight. Chips Moman was an excellent producer and was great for Elvis. A perfect time for EVERYONE involved. Especially Elvis Presley.

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 8:15 pm

Nice post Doc. I'm sure it was a project, putting it together and I enjoyed it a lot.

To be fair, there may have been a couple too many negative, if truthful, references to Felton, that you wouldn't normally have harped on if not for some other discussions these last weeks. Most of us know the score here.

Anyway, thanks so much for the topic. Great!

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 8:58 pm

Stunning post and topic. Deep appreciation for the time and effort. I marvel at the care and candor of your comments and content. Thank you Doc!

JosephC

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 10:20 pm

Superb Doc! And yes - the best photo of Elvis and the American Sound band I've seen.

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 10:44 pm

The jan-feb. 1969 session is one of the best recording sessions in Elvis' career; perhaps the best of all?.



colonel snow

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 10:48 pm

colonel snow wrote:The jan-feb. 1969 session is one of the best recording sessions in Elvis' career; perhaps the best of all?.

colonel snow


Probably only to equal with March/April 1960 which also had fantastic output.

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 10:56 pm

Juan Luis wrote:
Fish wrote:Thanks Doc...wonderful post and it is never a miss when someone takes the time to set the record straight.

The record has always been straight. Chips Moman was an excellent producer and was great for Elvis. A perfect time for EVERYONE involved. Especially Elvis Presley.


Not to some of the members here, it hasn't. Hence the Felton references in the Doc's post.

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Sun Jul 12, 2015 10:56 pm

Ciscoking wrote:
colonel snow wrote:The jan-feb. 1969 session is one of the best recording sessions in Elvis' career; perhaps the best of all?.

colonel snow


Probably only to equal with March/April 1960 which also had fantastic output.


Don't forget June '58 and Sept '56!

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Mon Jul 13, 2015 1:40 am

Ciscoking wrote:Great topic filled with facts and dates...John..a mixture I like.... :wink:


Facts and dates, huh.

Elvis refered to "Tiger Man" as his second record seven times in August 1970, and two more times in September 1972.

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Mon Jul 13, 2015 2:04 am

Fish wrote:
Juan Luis wrote:
Fish wrote:Thanks Doc...wonderful post and it is never a miss when someone takes the time to set the record straight.

The record has always been straight. Chips Moman was an excellent producer and was great for Elvis. A perfect time for EVERYONE involved. Especially Elvis Presley.


Not to some of the members here, it hasn't. Hence the Felton references in the Doc's post.

Not really. Just observations that did not allow to give SECONDARY (due to stubbornness) importance when provided with facts, interviews, comments from even a person that was an integral & MUSICAL part of those sessions and more. So I stand by" The record has always been straight. Chips Moman was an excellent producer and was great for Elvis. A perfect time for EVERYONE involved. Especially Elvis Presley."
Last edited by Juan Luis on Mon Jul 13, 2015 2:17 am, edited 2 times in total.

Re: Let Us Now Praise Lincoln Wayne "Chips" Moman

Mon Jul 13, 2015 2:04 am

Great post and insights Doc as usual. Of course the Felton Jarvis produced and made the magic at American truthers will be out in full force before you know it. After that they will tell us that Felton's spirit cloud hovered over Sun studios in 1954 so Sam Phillips should rightly share the credit with Felton as well. But he was strangely absent at any studio recordings from 71 until Elvis' death as it was recently discovered that it was the bizarro Felton who made that magic.

Doc just keep bringing the truth-deniers gonna deny.