Local music legends talk interracial collaboration in 1960s
FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) — They’ve played music with the biggest names in the business and for the panel of local legendary music makers at the Florence-Lauderdale Tourism Visitor Center on Feb. 16, interracial collaboration during the Civil Rights era came as naturally as the music they created.
“Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Clarence Carter — man, those guys were my heroes and to have the honor of backing up so many of them, it was like a dream for me. My favorite music was R&B and they were putting it out. We were a bunch of white guys but they liked what was going on here and it just worked,” said Muscle Shoals bassist David Hood, a member of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and co-founder of Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.
Hood, along with Muscle Shoals Horns member Harvey Thompson Sr. and Mickey Buckins of the FAME Gang (rhythm section), were panelists discussing their experiences in the 1960s and how their interracial collaborations were largely responsible for what’s often been acknowledged as America’s greatest musical era.
“We had one of only three integrated rhythm sections in the country,” Buckins said. “I was proud of that — those guys were my brothers. No, they were closer than brothers. We weren’t just in the studio together we hung together. Whenever we went out somewhere, if some couldn’t get into a place, none of us went in. We stayed together.”
Thompson, who has worked with greats including Jimmy Hendrix and Elton John, recalled his early start as a horn player as, “having the right skills at the right time.”
“Artists were coming here from Nashville to record and horn players had been coming from Memphis,” he said, adding that the scenario changed when artists began recognizing the talents of the group who later came to be known as the Muscle Shoals Horns.
“There were two of us black guys and two white guys making up the horns and we didn’t have problems in that (Civil Rights era) time at all because people just wanted to hear the music and we delivered,” Thompson said.
In the studio, Hood said his first sessions were integrated and, “I just didn’t expect any different, didn’t want any different.”
The gospel sound in Muscle Shoals was also booming during the 1960s and ’70s as well, and a panel made up of studio engineer Jerry Masters and musicians Harvey Thompson Jr. and Will McFarlane said the area birthed what even today are some of the most recognizable gospel records like, “I’ll Take You There,” by the Staple Singers. It was Masters’ first platinum record.
Masters, who is credited with more than 500 gospel projects in his career, recalls collaborations with some of the greats in gospel music including Mavis Staples, who recorded at Muscle Shoals Sound in the early 1970s.
McFarlane, who like Masters is a professing Christian, told the audience he doesn’t think in terms of musical divides between the secular and sacred music genres, saying that music has power and delivering a positive message through his music is important regardless of the setting.
“Music is a healing thing and I find that an encouraging word has an impact in a secular setting,” he said.
Thompson Jr. says he grew up in the church playing music and it forever shaped who is as a musician.
“I guess I’m just all over the place with my musical style because I like jazz, R&B and country and I mix them all together,” he said. “I play that way all the time wherever I am.”
McFarlane said collaboration truly is the key to the success of Muscle Shoals music.
“Some of the greatest R&B music ever was a black-white collaboration with blending of cultural styles,” he said.
Also last Saturday, there was a panel discussion of Percy Sledge Memories and Music featuring his son, Howell, David Johnson and Hood, who recorded with Sledge.
“Working with those guys, like Percy, you just knew it was an honor,” Hood said.
Information from: TimesDaily, http://www.timesdaily.com/