Taking the Long Black Limousine

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Taking the Long Black Limousine


It’s difficult to encapsulate the work of Chips Moman – who died this week – in a short piece.  I thought about just slamming down a list of records he produced, recorded, engineered, wrote or performed on. It really is the only way to fully understand his range. From inventing southern soul as Stax’s first producer, writing ‘Dark End Of The Street’ with Dan Penn to win a bet, to dominating the late 60s pop charts with hit after hit emerging from his tiny and autocratically run American Studio in Memphis, he was the epitome of southern rock and roll cool.

We could spend hours arguing over what was his best production – Pickett, Dusty or something obscure like the gritty gospel imbued soul of Barbara and The Brown’s ‘Big Party’ – but few would argue that the work he did with Elvis at the beginning of 1969 is the best remembered. It has been argued that The American Studios Crew was so cool that Elvis was just another session for them. I’d always doubted this, and it was confirmed to me by backing singer on the session Jeanie Greene. Elvis was special to everyone in Memphis, and listening to "Suspicious Minds", "In The Ghetto", "Kentucky Rain" or any other cut you can tell everyone went the final mile. To do that Chips fought Elvis’ team, with a stubbornness that suggested that if Elvis wouldn’t do it his way, he’d happily give the songs to someone else.

And that single-mindedness was what made him special.

- Written by Dean Rudland, co-compiler of Take Me To The River & Back To The River, both on Ace Records and both bangingly near definitive collections of southern soul.

Have a listen to some highlights of Chips' work as producer, songwriter, and musician:


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