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Friday, March 1, 2013

Soul Serenade - Willie Mitchell

Willie L. Mitchell (March 1, 1928 – January 5, 2010) was an American soul, R&B, rock and roll, pop and funk record producer and arranger, who ran Royal Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. He was best known for his Hi Records label of the 1970s, which released albums by a large stable of popular Memphis soul artists, including Mitchell himself, Al Green, O. V. Wright, Syl Johnson and Ann Peebles. Born and raised in Ashland, Mississippi, Mitchell moved to Memphis when he was in high school. He attended Rust College. At the age of eight, he began to play the trumpet. While in high school, he was a featured player in popular local big bands. He later formed his own combo, which from time to time included musicians such as trumpeter Booker Little, saxophonists Charles Lloyd, and George Coleman, and pianist Phineas Newborn, Jr. Mitchell landed a job with the Home of the Blues record label as a producer, then left to join Hi Records as both a recording artist and a producer. Known at the recording studio as "Papa Willie", Mitchell earned his nickname by taking over the reins of Hi Records in 1970 and guiding it through its most successful period. Mitchell's productions have been much noted for featuring a hard-hitting kick drum sound (usually played by pioneering Memphis drummer Al Jackson, Jr. of Booker T. and the MG's). A trumpeter and bandleader in his own right, Mitchell released a number of popular singles for Hi Records as an artist in the 1960s, including "Soul Serenade." It peaked at #43 in the UK Singles Chart in April 1968. Through the 1980s Mitchell ran his own independent record label, Waylo Records. Acts on the label included Billy Always and Lynn White. He and Al Green revived their successful recording partnership in 2003 when Green recorded I Can't Stop, his first collaboration with Mitchell since 1985's He is the Light. Their 2005 follow-up project was Everything's OK. Mitchell died in Memphis on January 5, 2010 from a cardiac arrest. His final work was producing the final Solomon Burke studio album, Nothing's Impossibile, released in June 2010.
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