Willie Mitchell: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — August 14, 2022

THE GREATEST SONGS OF THE 1960s THAT NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD

551) Willie Mitchell — “Everything Is Gonna Be Alright”

“Alright” is the A-side of one of my favorite double threat R&B singles, hitting #126 in November ’65. I featured its B-side a while back (see #181). No need for a shotgun wedding! “Everything is gonna be alright, alright, alright, alright. Here comes the preacher. There’s gonna be a wedding here tonight, alright, alright, alright, alright.”

As David Nager writes, “[i]f Al Green was the sanctified sex symbol of Memphis Soul, Willie Mitchell was its Hollywood matinee idol. Suave and dapper, impeccably attired and sporting a stiletto‑sharp pencil‑thin moustache, Mitchell was the courtly King of Sophisticated Funk, cutting a striking figure in the Mid‑South music scene from the 1950s [on] . . . . (https://memphismusichalloffame.com/inductee/williemitchell/)

Greg Prato gives some history:

After he was discharged from the Army in 1954, Mitchell moved back to Memphis, where he soon became a popular, local trumpet-playing bandleader — Elvis Presley hired his big band to play several private parties. By 1959, Mitchell had turned his attention to studio work and signed on with Hi Records; he is often credited as being the creator of the oft-copied and instantly recognizable Hi sound (churning organ fills, sturdy horn arrangements, a steady 4/4 drumbeat, etc.). Throughout the ’60s, Mitchell became a popular concert attraction on U.S. college campuses and he scored several moderately successful soul/dance hit singles, issuing a steady stream of solo releases . . . . When the founder of Hi Records . . . died in 1970, Mitchell suddenly found himself in charge of the label. [A] year [earlier], Mitchell had signed an up-and-coming soul singer named Al Green to the label. Under the guidance of Mitchell, Green’s career would soon skyrocket and he became one of the ’70s top soul artists, with Mitchell co-producing and engineering all of [his] albums from 1970 through 1976.

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/willie-mitchell-mn0000684830

David Nager adds that:

Most famous for producing Green’s stunning string of sweet‑and‑funky soul classics, Mitchell had already had several successful musical careers and was a star of the Memphis scene long before their paths met. . . . By . . . his teens [he] was a featured player in local bands . . . . [S]oon after his 1954 discharge Mitchell was leading his group at the Manhattan Club and other area spots. He later took over the house band at the Plantation Inn in West Memphis, one of the area’s top nightclubs and a place where young, white Memphis developed a taste for genuine R&B, paving the way for the music revolutions to come. There, Mitchell honed his leadership skills as well as learning the finer points of showmanship, arranging, management, and more. He was also playing band gigs on Beale, sweetening his sound at cotillions for the old cotton-money crowd and writing lead sheets and arrangements for Sun and other Memphis studios. . . . Observing his crowds from the bandstand every night, he knew what people wanted to hear and exactly what made them dance. . . . For much of the ‘60s, Mitchell kept a hectic schedule as a bandleader in clubs and as a session leader/musician/arranger at Hi. . . . In 1968, Willie Mitchell’s multiple musical personalities – arranger, bandleader and engineer – were in perfect harmony for the crossover hit “Soul Serenade” (#10 R&B, #23 pop). . . . [Later, a]long with Green, Mitchell built a lineup that turned Hi into the premier Southern soul label, with Ann Peebles, O.V. Wright, Otis Clay and Syl Johnson. 

https://memphismusichalloffame.com/inductee/williemitchell/

By the way, there is a great cover of the song, done in French by French rock star Dick Rivers! Jon O’Brien explains:

Dick Rivers is widely regarded as one of the first musicians to introduce France to the sounds of rock & roll. Born Herve Fornieri . . . he developed a love of Johnny Cash, Gene Vincent, and Elvis Presley from a young age, naming himself after the latter’s character in the 1957 film Loving You. After recording over 100 songs with the influential outfit Les Chats Sauvages, he went on to pursue a solo career in the early ’60s, scoring hits with the likes of “Baby John,” “Tu N’es Plus La,” and “Rien Que Toi,” before heading to Alabama in 1967 to work with some of America’s biggest blues musicians . . . .

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/dick-rivers-mn0000516428/biography

“Put up your shotgun, papa. Everything is gonna be alright, alright, alright, alright. Put up your shotgun, papa. Everything is gonna be alright, alright, alright, alright. Here comes the preacher. There’s gonna be a wedding here tonight, alright, alright, alright, alright. I’m not gonna try to run, I know it ain’t no use. So you can tell your brothers to turn me loose. Put up your shotgun, papa. Everything is gonna be alright, alright, alright, alright. Here comes the preacher. There’s gonna be a wedding here tonight, alright, alright, alright, alright. I didn’t want to marry but now let’s tie the knot. ‘Cause something’s made me realize what I really got. Put up your shotgun, daddy. You don’t got to worry bout a thing, no no, no no, no no.”

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Here is Dick Rivers:

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