Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Willie Mitchell and Earl Gaines

2010 has started badly for the world of music with the deaths of Willie Mitchell and Earl Gaines.
Willie Mitchell, who was 81, was a true giant of Memphis soul, both as a musician (he played trumpet) and producer of the fantastic Hi sounds of Al Green, Syl Johnson, Ann Peebles and her husband Don Bryant. After a string of hits under his own name, including 20-75, Everything Is Gonna Be Alright, Bad Eye and Soul Serenade, he took over as producer at Hi where he produced the most exquisite soul music to emerge in the seventies, backed by the fabulous Hi Rhythm Section. I had the great pleasure to visit the Royal Studios in Memphis with John Howard in 1998 and we were greeted at the entrance by Willie himself as though we were old friends. We were shown around the studio by William Brown, formerly of the Mad Lads, who was setting up a recording session for Otis Clay, who later arrived with Scott Billington of Black Top Records. Here's Willie's obituary in the Memphis Commercial Appeal http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2010/jan/05/musician-music-producer-willie-mitchell-dies-age-8/ and from The Times http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article6979836.ece
Another death, on New Year's Eve, was that of Earl Gaines, who was 74. Earl recorded initially for Excello, where he had his biggest hit It's Love Baby (24 Hours a Day) and although he recorded for a variety of labels including Hollywood, DeLuxe and Seventy Seven he never made it as big again. He continued to perform though and I remember some memorable performances including one at the Blues Estafette as one of the Excello Legends in the nineties.
A further death near the end of 2009 was that of Kenny Dino, who 60s pop lovers may recall as the originator of Your Ma Said You Cried In Your Sleep Last Night.


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