Monday, May 17, 2010

QUESTION SIX - Did Rick Hall Produce Ben E. King in 1966?

Latest Update: 4/3/14

So Much Love

Alright folks, here's an interesting query for you... in a recent B Side post on Ben E. King, a gentleman named Noel- 23 asked:

"In the liners to [Sequel's Ben E. King Anthology] Volume 4 it states that the song "So Much Love" was produced by none other than Rick Hall, but in New York City, not Muscle Shoals. The liners state that it was Hall producing not Carole King as was long thought. But the Atlantic discography you mention in the post says it was Carole King. I've seen discographies and heard people that list one or the other but I'd love to know definitively: Do you know if it really was Rick Hall? "

I've been asking around in a few places, but so far have been unable to come up with much. Here's what it said in those liner notes, which were written by someone named Peter Burns in 1996:

Hmmm... the song itself (the definitive version of which would be recorded by Dusty Springfield in Memphis a few years later), didn't do much upon its initial release, totally missing the R&B charts, and stalling at #96 on the Hot 100 in May of 1966.

Oddly, it was also cut by Steve Alaimo around the same time, and put out by ABC-Paramount a couple of weeks before King's ATCO version. Alaimo's didn't fare much better, finishing at #92. [check out Chips Moman's early American Sound production on The Gentrys doing Arthur Alexander's 'Everyday I Have To Cry' (a song which Alaimo had taken into the top ten in 1963) at #95!]

I asked the guys over at the Southern Soul Group about the possible Rick Hall connection here, and the incredibly knowledgeable Peter N. had this to say:

"I have checked on the Atlantic discog...
...You can see it is actually headed up "Ben E King with Carole King's orchestra". Carole plays piano and is given a "dir." credit (presumably meaning director). There is no mention here of Rick Hall at all. All the musicians stem from NY...

Hall would have been in Wexler's good books for his part in getting Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman" onto Atlantic around this time (according to Peter Guralnick, Hall made more off the back of the record than Quin Ivy who cut it). However, whether this new 'connection' between Hall and Wexler would have brought Hall up from the South to the Big Apple as early as March 1966 still seems strange as even the Percy Sledge record didn't hit the charts till 9th April that year (Pop) and 16th April (R&B). So neither Hall nor Wexler would have already been celebrating a million-seller anything like as early as March. Indeed Sledge had only cut the side at Norala/Quinvy on 17 February. Once the side hit big, Wexler's regard for Hall caused him to bring Wilson Pickett to Fame in July/Aug that year for Land of 1000 Dances etc.. But, unless Hall was in NY in March to 'hands on' tie up some last minute dealing over Sledge's record, I can't think why else he would have been there and why Wexler (who almost presonally ran the Atco subsidiary at this time) would have let him produce a Carole King-influenced Ben King Atco recording session. Again, I'll be quite happy to be proved wrong but, if so, I would love to know the background to it."

So would I.

I will say that the record is slightly reminiscent of Hall's production on the earliest Jimmy Hughes sides, like I'm Qualified.

What do you think?


Hello there. Maybe you've heard about the exciting deal that Fame Studios has made with Ace Records in the UK that will allow them to sift through the priceless tapes they have in their vaults and at long last release them to the public. This amazing news has become the talk of the 'Soul Community', and I (for one) am just shivering with anticipation... be that as it may, I got this email back in June:

Well, Tony (who's been just like the proverbial 'kid in the candy store' down there) did indeed get to visit O.V.'s grave, and was kind enough to ask Rick Hall our burning question here point blank; "Did You Produce Ben E. King's 'So Much Love' in New York in 1966?"

In a word, the answer was "No," which I think we all kind of expected...

Now, in Tony's original email he said "Benny did, of course, record a session at FAME at the very end of his Atco career, and I think that’s where the confusion lies." Well, according to the Atlantic Session Discography, Ben E. did indeed cut down in Muscle Shoals in 1967, but it wasn't at FAME...
It was at Quin Ivy's Norala Studio, where Atlantic had been having such success with Percy Sledge (if you haven't already, be sure to check out detective Pete Nickols' great article over at Deep Soul Heaven, Quin Ivy And His Norala and Quinvy Studios).

ATCO 6527

She Knows What To Do For Me

Produced by Ivy and his partner Marlin Greene, this is just an awesome record, folks. If it seems to have a little bit of a New Orleans vibe to it, that's because it does. Check out the songwriters - none other than Mac Rebbenack and Jessie Hill, who had formed a team out on the West Coast, working on other ATCO releases by folks like Buffalo Springfield and Sonny & Cher before they busted things wide open with the whole Night Tripper thing the following year. Another name that jumps out at you from the session 'overdub' credits is Melvin Lastie, who had been an original member of the AFO All Stars before making the move to Los Angeles with Harold Battiste to work at Sam Cooke's 'Soul Stations'. As we've mentioned before, Ahmet Ertegun (to his eternal credit) brought the whole bunch of them to his West Coast ATCO operation after Sam was murdered in late 1964. Lastie's fellow horn men on this session include, interestingly, King Curtis and David 'Fathead' Newman - which kind of makes me think that this 45 may have been a bi-coastal affair, with layers of horns added both in L.A. and N.Y.

So, like, where did this whole idea that Rick Hall produced Ben E. King come from in the first place?

Well, Tony Rounce asked Rick Hall about that and had this to say -

Rick definitely didn’t produce “So Much Love” – that’s straight from the horse’s mouth. He remembers Benny coming to Muscle Shoals to record, not long before Wexler stopped using FAME studios on a regular basis and moved to Criteria, but he never went up to New York to produce anything on him.

He did recall cutting “So Much Love” with Maurice & Mac at FAME, though. Maybe that’s where the confusion starts.

Maurice & Mac?

As we all know, Leonard Chess made a deal with Rick Hall shortly after Jerry Wexler left the building in the wake of the Aretha debacle. Rick cut some truly epic recordings down there on Chess artists like Etta James, Irma Thomas and Laura Lee. It's a commonly accepted fact that Lee's Dirty Man, which was released in September of 1967, came from the earliest of these sessions... but I'm thinking Maurice & Mac might have gotten there first. The criminally under-appreciated Soul Duo, who came up out of The Radiants in 1966, had what may be the definitive version of You Left The Water Running released on Checker in early 1968. The version of "So Much Love" that Rick told Tony about appears to have been issued almost a year earlier.

In Nadine Cohoda's excellent Spinning Blues Into Gold she said; "...Hall learned a valuable lesson from Leonard about what a producer should do. When he told Leonard that he didn't have any songs he was excited about for another Chess act, Leonard chided him. 'I thought that's what a producer's job was, finding the songs.' 'No one had ever put it to me that way,' Hall said later, 'I thought he was right. Leonard talked like that- Get off your ass and find the damn song!''

Having Ben E. King in the neighborhood might just have been Rick's inspiration for finding this one:

Checker 1179

So Much Love

Just top shelf Southern Soul my friends, with Rick's 'second rhythm section' just cranking it out. Think that's Eddie Hinton on the guitar? Yet another example of a truly great record that somehow fell through the cracks. If it took this whole crazy convoluted process to find it, then so be it!

Thank You Tony Rounce, Rick Hall and Noel-23 for getting us there!


Ace detective Peter Nickols has gotten back in touch with some further interesting facts about Chess recording at Fame:

The Ben King aspects are clearly now all sorted but I thought I'd add a bit re the Maurice & Mac version of So Much Love...

You were wondering how early the duo cut their track at Fame. Ruppli's Chess discography dates it at June 10th 1967, when the duo also cut what would become the flip of their same Checker 1179 single, namely Why Don't You Try Me, plus You're The One which would be used as one side of the later Checker 1197 single, and the unissued-at-the-time 'See Saw'. Ruppli gives the studio session-men as Bowlegs Miller (tp), Charlie Chalmers and Aaron Varnell (ts), Floyd Newman (bs), Carl Banks (keyboards), Junior Lowe and Jimmy Johnson (g), David Hood (b) and Roger Hawkins (drums). I see you wondered if Eddie Hinton was playing guitar - it's possible and he was certainly around Fame (and Quinvy) at the time but, as you can see, Ruppli doesn't name him.

I thought I'd try and find out when the Maurice & Mac 45 was actually released and 45cat dates it at July 1967. This seems pretty much spot-on as it was advertised in Billboard's 1st July 1967 edition in a very nice Chess/Checker 3-Fame-cut-45s ad, which even featured an alleged quote from Rick Hall:

Checker's very next release (#1180), Bobby Moore's Chained To Your Heart, actually made Billboard's R&B chart and entered on August 12th 1967 which, again, allowing for publicity, airplay etc before selling enough to chart, would also suggest a July release date for this one (and, by default, probably Maurice & Mac's as well - theirs could even have been very late June just before the July 1st Billboard ad). Of course, Rick Hall had good contacts with Chess prior to Leonard actually sending some of his 'troops' down south - with the likes of earlier Fame-cut material finding its way to Chicago such as Billy Young's You Left The Water Running in 1966 and Kip Anderson's wonderful Without A Woman - both demoed earlier at Fame of course by Dan Penn - the former demo now to be found on Dan Penn - The Fame Recordings. According to Ruppli, Irma Thomas' first 8-song Chess session at Fame pre-dated Maurice & Mac's by 4 days (June 6th 1967). This included Cheater Man and her fantastic, never-bettered interpretation of Yours Until Tomorrow.

Thank You, Peter - just fantastic stuff! Etta James usually gets most of the press when it comes to Chess recording on East Avalon Avenue, so it's great to sort out some of these details. I always thought it was Barbara Lynn who cut the first version of You Left The Water Running (which hit the Billboard R&B chart on 10/22/66) - do you think Chess 1961 may have pre-dated Tribe 8319?



Blogger Unknown said...

Yeah, it does seem a bit of a stretch to imagine Rick Hall producing in New York, but stranger things have come to pass.

May 17, 2010 at 2:36 PM  
Anonymous Noel-23 said...

Wow! I never thought that my question would end up as a whole "Burning Questions" post. I agree that it's unlikely but like Robin said above "stranger things have come to pass". I am slightly hesitant to say that it was Carole King based only on the Atlantic discography. I wish there were some other corroboration in a second source for either possibilty. If only there was a personal recollection of Ben E. King or one of the session musicians there that day.
As always THANK YOU Red for everything. This is the best soul blog online.

May 26, 2010 at 5:31 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


August 18, 2010 at 10:11 AM  
Anonymous Noel-23 said...

This is just amazing stuff Red. Thank you so much for all of this. When I was imagining asking someone what really happened I didn't think it would actually be Rick Hall! The way that you always go that extra mile is just awesome man. Again I am just blown away by your blog, THE best blog online hands down.

I really wish someone would issue a nice 2 CD set compilation of all Ben E. King's single A and B sides. I think if more people heard his later singles, the ones that are more "Deep Soul" and less pop it could lead to a reappraisal of him as a serious Soul singer. Actually you've already helped a LOT in that regard by posting all these single sides of his from that prime soulful period, so all the visitors to your site can listen to him at his best. Maybe it'd be overkill to include one more but I've always felt that if Soul fans could hear his "It Ain't Fair" they'd become fans right then and there - probably one of my favorites ever recorded at American.


October 10, 2010 at 9:57 PM  

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