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|CHIPS MOMAN - AN APPRECIATION
June 26, 2016 - Examiner / Elvis Express Radio
|He lacked the overall name recognition of Sun Records/Studios founder Sam Phillips, but producer Chips Moman, who died June 13 at 79, was at least as significant in Memphis, if
not more so.
Moman was hugely responsible for the early 1960s Memphis soul hits emanating out of the historic Stax Records, a plethora of pop hits cut at his own American Sound Studios, and
later, Nashville country music classics.
“Without Chips there would be no Stax,” says Memphis music historian David Less, also at various times himself a music label owner and publisher. “He’s the one who got [Stax co-
founder] Jim Stewart to move into the old Capitol movie theater on East McLemore Avenue. He got him to buy professional recording equipment and taught him how to record.”
Also a musician (he played with legendary rockabilly brothers Dorsey and Johnny Burnette), sound engineer, and songwriter, Moman produced the first Stax-related hits (The Mar-
Keys’ “Last Night,” Carla Thomas’s “Gee Whiz” and William Bell’s “You Don’t Miss Your Water”), and after starting his own Memphis studio American Sound Studio in 1964,
produced hits including Merrilee Rush’s “Angel of the Morning” (1968) and Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” (1969). The Memphis Music Hall of Fame inductee also recorded the
likes of the Box Tops, The Gentrys, Bobby Womack, Jackie DeShannon, Mark Lindsay, Sandy Posey, B.J. Thomas, Neil Diamond, Joe Tex and Wilson Pickett, and with Dan Penn
co-wrote Aretha Franklin’s hit “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and James Carr’s “The Dark End of the Street” (both hits in 1967).
In the 1970s and ‘80s Moman produced such Nashville country standards as Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson’s “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” (1978),
Nelson and Merle Haggard’s “Pancho and Lefty” (1983) and Nelson’s “You Were Always On My Mind” (1982). He also co-wrote Jennings’ “Luckenbach, Texas” (1976) and B.J.
Thomas’s 1976 hit “Hey Won’t You Play Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” and produced other artists including Townes Van Zandt, Jessi Colter, Johnny Cash,
Tommy Roe, Kris Kristofferson, Petula Clark and Billy Joe Royal, and the 1985 Highwayman album starring Cash, Nelson, Jennings, and Kristofferson.
“He became the most successful hit-making producer Memphis has ever seen,” says Less. “People came here to make hits, and he’s the guy who did it for them. There was Sam
Phillips and people like that, but in terms of hit records, no one really touched Chips.”
Less adds that while many Stax records—and Sun’s—were regional hits, American’s were more proportionately national. “Also, Sam’s producing career was relatively short, but
Chips’ goes on and on. Look at his discography: It’s incredible!”
“He was the greatest, most successful record producer Memphis ever produced in terms of hits, and I think his impact on Stax can’t be overlooked,” Less adds. “His fingerprints are
all over it.”
“He was the guy,” Less concludes.