This Week’s Theme: Drummer Roger Hawkins
From a completely musical point of view, if I could have lived the life of anyone in history then Roger Hawkins would be on my list. Hawkins was one of the original members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, aka The Swampers, and served as the main drummer for the group through the entirety of their over 20-year existence. Hawkins laid down the groove for over 500 songs. His credits as a session drummer include some of the most well-known and influential songs ever recorded, and he worked on many genre-defining albums by some of the most important artists of the ’60s and ’70s.
There are many important “house bands” whose work defined the sound of the ’60s, but the three most influential are arguably Motown’s Funk Brothers, Booker T.’s Memphis Stax band, and Alabama’s Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Almost every ’60s soul and R&B artist you can name likely recorded with one of these bands on their most famous recordings. All of them are equally as important and they all deserve a special place in our hearts for the work they did, but our theme is Roger Hawkins so let’s focus on the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. This group, affectionately called The Swampers, started recording at FAME studios before breaking off in 1969 to form their own production company. The list of artists, albums, and songs in their credits could fill your record cabinet, CD tower, or computer hard drive with enough music to keep you grooving for weeks on end.
Throughout all of the Muscle Shoals sessions, drummer Roger Hawkins laid down the beat. He was a master of many styles. He could slide over the top of a smooth ballad, dive into the deepest layers of a gut-bucket funk track, and drive a hard rock number straight through your chest. His influence was vast simply because the songs he recorded are the songs that define the sound of almost all popular music that came after. Roger Hawkins died on May 20, 2021 at the age of 75, but the music he made will certainly live on forever. If the metaphorical “best band in heaven” actually exists, he may not be the drummer up on the stage (that is probably Neil Pert or Max Roach) but he is definitely one of the members of heaven’s house band.
Welcome to Radio Faux Show number fourteen.
First things first – click a link to start listening and then come back to read about this week’s songs.
Songs selected for this week’s theme
Bob Seger “Old Time Rock and Roll”
Aretha Franklin “Chain of Fools”
Wilson Pickett “Mustang Sally”
Etta James “Tell Mama”
Julian Lennon “Valotte”
Paul Simon “Kodachrome”
Albert King “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven”
Linda Ronstadt “Rock Me on the Water”
Cat Stevens “(Remember the Days of the) Old Schoolyard”
Willie Nelson “Bloody Mary Morning”
J.J. Cale “Lies”
J.J. Cale “Soulin'”
Herbie Mann “Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty”
Odetta “Take Me to the Pilot”
Wilson Pickett “Hey Jude”
Aretha Franklin “Respect”
Staple Singers “I’ll Take You There”
Percy Sledge “When a Man Loves a Woman”
Aretha Franklin “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)”
Wilson Pickett “Land of 1000 Dances”
Aretha Franklin is one of the two artists most associated with the Muscle Shoals sound. The success of Franklin and the studio are so intertwined that one cannot imagine either of them without the other. Although she recorded there with several drummers, “Chain of Fools,” “Respect,” and “I Never Loved a Man” all feature Roger Hawkins on drums.
Etta James was more than ten years into her career when she decided to change her sound by going into the Muscle Shoals studio in 1967. The artist formerly associated with the beatiful ballad “At Last” suddenly found new success with a more upbeat R&B sound on her album Tell Mama. This propelled her into a successful recording and touring career through the ’70s. Thank you Swampers.
“Kodachrome” was the first single from Paul Simon’s second post-Garfunkel album, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon. Roger Hawkins double tracked the drums that give the song it’s unique sound. Hawkins also recorded the drums on the second single, “Loves Me Like a Rock,” giving Simon his two biggest solo hits up to that point.
In 1966, Percy Sledge recorded “When a Man Loves a Woman” at Muscle Shoals. However, his producers thought that the horns on that recording were out of tune so they re-recorded the horn section at another studio. Then the tapes got mixed up (that happened in the old analog world) and the version released as the single was actually the original Muscle Shoals version. It was the first #1 hit recorded at Muscle Shoals.
Wilson Pickett is the other artist most associated with the Muscle Shoals sound. Pickett’s ’60s recordings were split between Booker T.’s Stax band and the Muscle Shoals band, but “Mustang Sally,” “Land of 1,000 Dances,” and “Hey Jude” are all Muscle Shoals tracks featuring Roger Hawkins on drums.
Odetta is known as the “voice of the civil rights movement” and Martin Luther King called her the “Queen of American folk music.” She had been recording for over fifteen years when she went into the Muscle Shoals studio in 1970 to record the album Odetta Sings. It is an album of mostly cover versions of popular songs, and is one of her only “mainstream” albums.
This iconic movie scene wouldn’t have happened if Bob Seger hadn’t recorded at Muscle Shoals.
The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section
I’d be remiss if I didn’t also give mention to the entirety of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Before the Swampers formed, the original Muscle Shoals session musicians were Norbert Putnam (bass), David Briggs (keyboards/piano), and Jerry Carrigan (drums). These original members left for Nashville in the mid-60s after being lured away be major country labels and big money. Putnam began a decades long career as a Nashville musician, including work with Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, and a variety of other stars of the ’60s and ’70s. Briggs became one of the Nashville session musicians known as “Nashville Cats” and work with many artists, including over ten years of recording and touring with Elvis Presley until his death. Carrigan had a decades-long career in Nashville and is the drummer responsible for developing the R&B-based country music sound called “countrypolitan.” His sessions are a who’s who of ’70s country artists and songs that defined the future of country music.
After the original members left, the Swampers were formed when Barry Beckett (keyboards/piano), David Hood (bass), and Jimmy Johnson (guitar) joined Roger Hawkins. They were originally called “the second FAME gang,” but quickly became known as The Swampers. And the rest, as they say, is music history.
Special Note about Session Musicians
Throughout the history of recorded music, session musicians have been an integral part of the process. From the most popular musicians of any era to the most obscure recordings of outsider artists, session musicians make it all possible. Sometimes all of the music heard on a song is performed by musicians brought in to perform for a singer and sometimes just one small piece of the song is performed by a specialist in order to enhance the sound of the band being recorded. This is not to say that popular music can’t be performed without the use of a studio’s “house band” or other skilled specialists, but the next time you listen to your favorite songs by your favorite artists and hear some strings or an extra horn solo remember that somebody performed that part. Most likely, that somebody was a person whose life depended on payment for their work. They were brought in to record that section of the song and then left, never to be recognized by the people enjoying their work. They don’t achieve fame or fortune, but they make the entire process possible. Thank you to the tens of thousands of musicians who have been recorded over the last hundred years and never recognized for their contribution.
Artist of the Week: J.J. Cale
J. J. Cale is a guitarist from Oklahoma who is one of the most important musicians that no one has ever heard of. Although he never became a major success as a recording artist, he developed a guitar sound called the Tulsa Sound and artists such as Eric Clapton and Neil Young call him one of the most important innovators in the history of rock. Without the Tulsa Sound of J.J. Cale, Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits wouldn’t have had a career.
Cale had one Top 40 hit, “Crazy Mama,” which peaked at #22 in 1972, but he wrote several songs recorded by other artists. These include three Classic Rock standards, “After Midnight” and “Cocaine” by Eric Clapton and “Call Me the Breeze” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Mark Knopfler’s guitar sound is a spot-on Tulsa Sound imitation, and Knopfler credits Cale as a primary influence.
Unsung Heroes of Rock and Roll
Wanda Jackson “Riot In Cell Block Number Nine”: Wanda Jackson began her career as a country artist, but in the late ’50s she shifted her style to the newly popularized rockabilly sound of artists like Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. She is a rockabilly pioneer and the first popular female rockabilly artist. For this reason, she is also one of the first female rock and roll artists. Although she shifted back to a very successful country career in the ’60s, she is one of the true unsung heroes of rock and roll. She was raunchy and didn’t give a shit – she was Joan Jett 25 years before Joan Jett.
Bullmoose Jackson “Why Don’t You Haul Off and Love Me”: Bullmoose Jackson was a wonderful singer of ballads, but he also was one of the original jump blues artists in the late ’40s and early ’50s. He is most famous for his classic “Big Ten Inch Record,” but he recorded dozens of great R&B numbers like this one.
Lloyd Price “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” “Stagger Lee,” and “Personality”: Lloyd Price is one of a handful of artists who invented the rock and roll sound of the ’50s. In 1952 he recorded his first hit, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy.” It features Fats Domino on piano and is one of the first true rock and roll songs. In 1954 he was drafted into the Korean War and when he came back Little Richard had replaced him on his label’s list of artists. Even so, Price got back to it and in the late ’50s he released two of the biggest hits of the period, “Stagger Lee” and “Personality.” Although he didn’t record any more classics, he put out a few more hits in the early ’60s and then continued his success in other ways. He co-founded Double L Records, the label that released Wilson Pickett’s debut album. In the ’70s he formed LPG Records with boxing promoter Don King and helped promote the Rumble in the Jungle match between Ali and Foreman along with the accompanying concert featuring James Brown and B. B. King.
Happy Birthday (June 6)
Levi Stubbs: Levi Stubbs was the lead vocalist of The Four Tops.
Gary U.S. Bonds: Gary U.S. Bonds began his career in 1960 and in 1961 he released “Quarter to Three,” a #1 hit that is considered foundational in the history of rock and roll. He continued to record and tour for the next twenty years, but without any chart success. Then in 1981 he hooked up with Bruce Springsteen who gave him an original composition called “This Little Girl.” The song was an outtake from Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town sessions and was the first of two Springsteen-produced Top 40 hits for Bonds in the early ’80s.
Jimmie Lunceford: Lunceford was an innovative swing bandleader in the ’30s and ’40s.
Steve Vai: Steve Vai never had the success of other guitar gods like Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Alex Lifesong, or Stevie Ray Vaughan, but he could play the hell out of an electric guitar. “The Attitude Song” was the soundsheet for the first edition of Guitar Player magazine in 1984. Vai has had a career filled with his own releases, non-stop session work, and three Grammy Awards.
Carl Barat: Carl Barat is the guitarist for The Libertines. The band’s 2002 debut album, Up the Bracket, was one of the best albums of that year and continues to influence British neo-punk music. Personal problems derailed them almost as soon as they started, but they have since reformed and released a third album in 2015 with follow-up tours in 2016 and 2019.
Robert Englund: Robert Englund is not a musician. He is Freddie Krueger of the Nightmare on Elm St. films. Charles Bernstein’s original score still scares the crap out of me.
Lloyd Price was one of the originators of Rock and Roll. He died on May 6, 2021.
Roger Hawkins is this week’s theme. He died on May 20, 2021.
BJ Thomas scored fourteen Top 40 hits between 1966 and 1977. Among his most successful songs are his #5 hit “Hooked on a Feeling” in 1966 and his two #1 hits, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” (1969, from the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” (1975). He died on May 29, 2021.
Let’s Take a Trip Around the World
Francoise Hardy “Comment te dire adieu (It Hurts to Say Goodbye)”: Francoise Hardy is a French pop icon and one of the originators of Ye-Ye Music in the ’60s. This is one of hundreds of great Hardy recordings. After a 60-year career, Hardy retired this year for health reasons.
Coma_Cose “La Canzone dei Lupi”: This is a new song for a duo who started in 2017.
Arooj Aftab “Suroor”: This is the latest song by Pakistani vocalist Arooj Aftab. Her first release was in 2015.
Too many to list here
Coma_Cose “La Canzone dei Lupi”
Arooj Aftab “Suroor”
2 for “Two”Day
JJ Cale “Lies” and “Soulin'” from the 1972 album Really
Lloyd Price “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” “Stagger Lee,” and “Personality
BJ Thomas “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” “Hooked on a Feeling,” and “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song”
3 Chunks of Punk
X-Ray Spex “I am a Cliché”: X-Ray Spex are a first generation British punk band. They are not only important as an early punk band, but also for the vocals of female singer Poly Styrene. The next time you want to listen to a Clash album, pause, say “Alexa, play X-Ray Spex,” and let a woman show you how to sing punk rock.
The Libertines “Up the Bracket”: This is the title track from the band’s 2002 debut. Ms. Faux and I played the crap out of this record when it came out. Every song on it is a winner.
The Futureheads “Decent Days and Nights”: This song is from the band’s 2004 self-titled debut. Several tracks on the album were produced by Gang of Four’s Andy Gill, and this is as close as any band has come to sounding like Gang of Four since the early ’80s. By the time Ms. Faux and I got tired of the Libertines debut, this record came out and we played the crap out of this one too.
Thanks for listening (and reading)!
|1||Bob Seger||Old Time Rock and Roll|
|2||Wanda Jackson||Riot in Cell Block Number Nine|
|3||Bullmoose Jackson||Why Don’t You Haul Off and Love Me|
|4||Lloyd Price||Lawdy Miss Clawdy|
|5||Lloyd Price||Stagger Lee|
|7||Aretha Franklin||Chain of Fools|
|8||Wilson Pickett||Mustang Sally|
|9||Etta James||Tell Mama|
|10||Four Tops||Ain’t No Woman (Like the One I’ve Got)|
|11||Francoise Hardy||Comment te dire adieu (It Hurts to Say Goodbye)|
|12||Coma_Cose||La Canzone dei Lupi|
|16||Gary US Bonds||This Little Girl|
|17||Jimmie Lunceford||Life is Fine|
|18||Albert King||Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven|
|19||Linda Ronstadt||Rock Me On the Water|
|20||X-Ray Spex||I am a Cliché|
|21||Libertines||Up the Bracket|
|22||Futureheads||Decent Days and Nights|
|23||Charles Bernstein||Prologue (A Nightmare on Elm St.)|
|24||Steve Vai||The Attitude Song|
|25||Cat Stevens||(Remember the Days of the) Old Schoolyard|
|26||BJ Thomas||Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head|
|27||BJ Thomas||Hooked on a Feeling|
|28||BJ Thomas||(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song|
|29||Willie Nelson||Bloody Mary Morning|
|32||Herbie Mann||Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty|
|33||Odetta||Take Me to the Pilot|
|34||Wilson Pickett||Hey Jude|
|36||Staple Singers||I’ll Take You There|
|37||Percy Sledge||When a Man Loves a Woman|
|38||Aretha Franklin||I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)|
|39||Wilson Pickett||Land of 1000 Dances|
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