Interview with Reggie Young - Part One of Two
By Bronson Herrmuth - 04/08/2008 - 12:58 PM EDT
©2007 By Bronson Herrmuth
Part 1 of 2
One of the most recorded guitar players of all time, Reggie Young
has played on hundreds of hit songs in multiple genres. His career
spans over 50 years and between the years 1967 thru 1971 alone
his guitar was on 120 Top 40 pop and R&B hits. He's recorded with
Elvis and opened for The Beatles along with playing guitar on
several hundred different artists recordings, playing rockabilly, R&B,
rock, pop, country and jazz with some of the greatest of all time:
Alabama, Paul Anka, Eddy Arnold, BabyFace, Joan Baez, Bill Black
Combo, Clint Black, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Eddie Bond, Bonnie
Bramlett, Garth Brooks, Buck Owens, Jimmy Buffett, Buffy
Sainte-Marie, JJ Cale, Glen Cambell, Ace Cannon, Johnny Cash,
Rosanne Cash, Ray Charles, Kenny Chesney, Petula Clark, Patsy
Cline, Joe Cocker, Jessie Colter, Earl Tomas Conley, Conway Twitty,
Bing Crosby, Crusaders, Billy Ray Cyrus, Lacy J. Dalton, Neal
Diamond, Bob Dylan, Duane Eddy, Don Everly, Donna Fargo, Janie
Fricke, Lefty Frizzell, Amy Grant, Lee Greenwood, Dobie Grey, Merle
Haggard, Ronnie Hawkins, Highwaymen, Clarence Frogman Henry,
Johnny Horton, Etta James, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Tom
Jones, Doug Kershaw, B.B. King, Al Kooper, Kris Kristopherson,
Jerry Lee Lewis, Dave Loggins, Patty Loveless, Loretta Lynn, Herbie
Mann, Dean Martin, Delbert McClinton, Little Milton, Scotty Moore,
Willie Nelson, Aaron Neville, Mickey Newbury, Danny O'Keefe, Roy
Orbison, Buck Owens, Dolly Parton, Johnny Paycheck, Carl Perkins,
Wilson Pickett, Elvis Presley, Charlie Pride, John Prine, Kenny
Rogers, Earl Scruggs, Dusty Springfield, Cat Stevens, George Strait,
Ernest Tubb, Shania Twain, Dion Warwick, Andy Williams, Don
Williams, and there are many more. Reggie Young is known
internationally and his style of playing is copied by guitar players all
over the world. The following interview is taken from a 30 minute sit
down I had with Reggie on Sept. 28, 2007. Meet Reggie Young.
Listen to this interview:
Part One (4.5 MB) mp3
B: Man I have been looking at your world and you have done so much that it's one of these things like where does a guy even start, but one of the things I saw was that your dad played guitar?
RY: My dad played Hawaiin guitar.
B: Did he play professionally?
RY: No. My uncle, his brother and him, they were on the radio back in the 1930's on KLCN in Blytheville, Arkansas. That's how my mom met him.
B: You were born in Missouri, raised in Arkansas, and then Memphis?
RY: Moved to Memphis in 1950.
B: So you were 15 years old when you played your first gig where you got paid, by 20 you were on the road touring alongside Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison ... tell me about that.
RY: There's a local guy named Eddie Bond in Memphis who later became a disc jockey, and we cut a record in a radio station called "Rockin' Daddy", it was in 1955, '56, and it became a regional hit. Eddie Bond and the Stompers (laughing). Bob Neal who was Johnny Cash's manager back then, booked us on a package tour and we worked the whole year of 1956 with who you just mentioned. Carl Perkins, Cash, some other rockabilly acts, but Eddie Bond and Johnny Horton sometimes and sometimes Elvis.
B: Is that where you met Johnny Horton and got with the Louisiana Hayride?
RY:; Yeah, I went down there in 1958. His guitar player Tommy Tomlinson, I don't know what happened, but anyway I got asked would I like to do that. Horton and Tillman Franks was his manager and bass player, so it was just the 3 of us, kinda like a Johnny Cash thing. So I went down there and played the Hayride and they payed us $13 every Saturday night (laughing).
B:; Wow .. and I'm sure you were glad to get it (laughing).
RY: Oh yeah and here's what's funny because he would go, like we might play a date in Phoenix and you know there wasn't many interstates, if any at that time and it would take 2 days to drive out there, 2 days to come back and you know, play the gig for .. I think I was making $25.
B: So what did you ride in?
RY: Horton had a Cadilac, '56 .. '57 Cadilac. A big ol' long black thing and just the 3 of us traveled in it, bass on top (laughing).
B: So when you landed in Memphis, that's when you started your association with the American recording studio, right?
RY: Yeah actually I started in Memphis ... well I had known Bill Black when I was in high school, Bill was Elvis's bass player and so I knew Bill and Scotty Moore, we go back that far back in the '50s. In 1959 I guess, I was in Shreveport and I got my draft notice, the lady at the draft board said "you better get home because you're probably going to go out on the next draft." ... Okay .. (laughing) so I quit and came home in 1959 and got with Bill, it was a year later before I got drafted, but during that year we formed a little group working at High studio in Memphis, Royal recording. We were recording with just local people but one of the things we did was an instrumental and I was playing guitar ... I tuned my guitar down 2 steps and then played it with a pencil ... like tapping out a rhythm, it was a shuffle (simulating the sound with his voice and slapping his leg in time) you know but not using a pick, and we did this little instrumental called, "Smokey" Pt 1 & Pt 2, and anyway once a month the guy from London Records would come down to hear what we had done and he heard that, we didn't really think anything about it, and he said, "Wow, what is that?!" Well anyway they released it on London Records and it was a Top 10 instrumental. You know instrumentals sold back then and so I toured with Bill Black. In the middle of this I got drafted and had to go to Ethiopia for almost two years and got out, went back with Bill and worked at High Studio.
Reggie Young (far right) with Elvis and The Memphis Boys in 1969
Part Two (4.9 MB) mp3
B: That was when you actually opened up for The Beatles, right? That period that you were working with Bill?
RY: Well we had quit, we all quit the road in '62, after I got out of the army and we toured, then we decided we didn't want to do that anymore. They had 3 Bill Black bands, one on the east coast, one in the midwest and one on the west coast(laughing). The same manager in New York booked all of them and Bill made all the money (laughing). In '64 we got asked, or one of the local road bands, a guy named Bob Tucker had Bill Blacks band, and The Beatles asked for the Bill Black Combo to open their first tour of America, a 30 day tour. Well I wasn't in that band but I bumped the guitar player because I was one of the original players (laughing) the main reason I wanted to do it was to go to Europe. So I did, I bumped the guitar player and we did 30 days and I'll never forget the first night we opened in San Francisco at the Cow Palace, and it was frightening. I mean they had barricades up in front of the stage and thousands and thousands of screaming kids. There was a show, actually an hour we played .... the opening acts ... we went on first then backed up the other acts, which was like Jackie Deshannon, The Righteous Brothers, Frogman Henry (laughing) then we'd take a break and then they'd bring out The Beatles. Well this whole first hour, I remember they started out, the local disc jockeys would say (very animated, raising the volume of his voice as if on stage)... "Okay, is everybody here to see Ringo?" (Reggie imitating crowd) Yeahhhhh! "Paul McCartney?" crowd Yeahhhhh!, you know he went down the list and they got 'em all in a frenzy, and then the last thing he'd say ... "Here's the Bill Black Combo!" ... Boooooo! (laughing) and they were hurling things on stage, they didn't wanna hear anybody you know.
B: How old were you when you did that?
RY: Gosh, well that was in '64, I was born in '36, 20 something.
B: Boy that's some experiences.
RY: But anyway we got them to stop that after the first couple of shows 'cause it was kinda dangerous, but we traveled with them the whole 30 days and became real good friends with them. I got to be friends with Harrison and yeah it was quite an experience.
B: So if I'm not mistaken, between the years of 1960, '61, '62, you played on over 120 hits? Is that the right years?
RY:; No, those years,'60, '61, I was in the service. I got out in '62 and went back to High Studio. Ace Cannon was one of High's artists and we'd play with Ace, we'd be Ace Cannon one night or Bill Black the next night, same band. There's a guy, also R&B, Willie Mitchell, I played on a lot of his stuff. Al Jackson was the drummer who was later with Booker T. and The MG's. Did that up until 1967, worked at High. Then in between that I was going to Muscle Shoals, I'd go to New York work for Atlantic, Jerry Wexler and I was coming over here working for Buddy Killen some. This was with Tommy Cogbil and Chips Moman. We decided we didn't want to travel anymore so Chip said, and Chip's had a studio, he said "Why don't we just stay here and if anybody wants to use us, any of us, then they'll have to come here." I remember my first one, I'd been over here recording with Buddy Killen, we were doin' Joe Tex and there was a record called, "Show Me". I was the only, it was Joe's band and me and Buddy. They wanted to book some more sessions and I said I can't. I'm staying in Memphis, I'm gonna be over at American Studio, I'm just going to work there exclusively, and dang Joe came over and we cut a record called "Skinny Legs And All", with our band. We put together a rythym section in '67 and there's a hundred .... somebody's got a list of 'em. We were there till '72 til we moved here to Nashville. There's 119 some odd Top 40 Pop and R&B records which included Neil Diamond, Elvis ...
B: Man the first song I learned how to play on the guitar was "In The Ghetto", I was 12. (Reggie laughing) I never realized that it was you playing the guitar so when I was researching you to do this interview and I saw that and I thought man, you know? That's wild ain't it? So that and "Suspicious Minds" .. ?
RY: "Suspicious Minds" and "Kentucky Rain" .. you know I'm glad I got to be a little part of that history and he wanted us to go on the road and nobody really wanted us to go. The band was Bobby Wood - piano player, Bobby Emmons - organ, Gene Chrisman - drummer, Tommy Cogbill - bass, Mike Leech - bass & arranger and myself, and then Chips producing. All these artists came through, we had 'em backed up and we cut a tremendous amount of hits on 'em.
The end of Part 1
You can visit Reggie Young online at www.myspace.com/reggieyoungguitar
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