Yet Another 25-Year Old Memphian Produced Grammy-Nominated Work in 2018, Including Album of the Year

A few days ago I posted about 25-year old Memphis producer ThankGod4Cody who worked on several tracks on SZA’s CTRL, which is up for several 2018 Grammy nominationsLater, I published another post with what I hoped was a complete list of Memphis-related nominations for the 60th annual awards.

This morning it was brought to my attention that I missed one, from yet another 25-year old Memphian: Teddy Walton. Teddy is a producer and songwriter on Kendrick Lamar’s “Love.”, a song from the album, DAMN, which is nominated for Album of the Year and Best Rap Album.

In 2016, a Memphis recording, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk”, won Record of the Year, the first Memphis track ever to do so. Will an album with a track from a Memphis producer win Album of the Year in 2018?

To make things even more interesting, Teddy also produced GoldLink’s “Crew”, which is nominated for Best Rap/Sung Performance – meaning a track he produced is up against one produced by his fellow 25-year old Memphian ThankGod4Cody, who produced SZA’s “The Weekend”, in the same category.

I’d like to take the opportunity in this post to note that two of the biggest records in the world in 2017, Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN and SZA’s CTRL, both up for multiple Grammy nominations, featured contributions from two young Memphians I’d never heard of until this week. As I have said on social media recently, I play music professionally in Memphis, I have this blog to try and cover the Memphis recording business, and I’m on the board of the Memphis Chapter of the Recording Academy, yet I’m still woefully ill-equipped to keep up with the new music being made by many young Memphis artists, especially in rap, pop, and contemporary R&B.

From the outset, I have always wanted New Memphis Beat to feature contributions from others. If anyone out there with a writerly bent who is passionate and knowledgeable about contemporary Memphis music would like to help me cover it for this blog, please drop me a line at newmemphisbeat@gmail.com.

 

Memphis-Related 2018 Grammy Nominations – *UPDATED

*UPDATE, 12/5/17: I am updating this post to note that four more Memphis-related nominations have been brought to my attention since I first posted, in Album of the Year (!), Best Rap Album, Best Rap/Sung Performance, and Americana Album of the Year. These added nominations are listed below and noted by asterisk. I also added Steve Potts to the list of Memphis musicians featured on Gregg Allman’s Southern Blood.

Also please note that Grammy rules are a little complicated, and not everyone who works on a Grammy-winning record gets an actual award; it depends on the category. In other words, this is not a list of Memphians up for Grammys, but a list of Memphians who contributed in some way to Grammy-nominated work.

The nominees for the 60th Annual Grammy Awards have been announced by the Recording Academy, and Memphis talent has made a strong showing once again. The following is a list of all the 2018 Grammy nominations for Memphis-related projects.

  • Album of the Year
    • Kendrick Lamar, DAMN (Teddy Walton, producer) *
  • Best R&B Performance:
    • SZA, “The Weekend” (ThankGod4Cody, producer)
  • Best Rap Album:
    • Kendrick Lamar, DAMN (Teddy Walton, producer) *
  • Best Rap/Sung Performance:
    • SZA, “Love Galore” (ThankGod4Cody, producer)
    • Goldlink, “Crew” (Teddy Walton, producer) *
  • Best American Roots Performance:
    • Blind Boys of Alabama, “Let My Mother Live” (Matt Ross-Spang, engineer)
  • Best American Roots Song:
    • Jason Isbell, “If We Were Vampires” (Matt Ross-Spang, engineer)
    • Gregg Allman, “My Only True Friend” (Art Edmaiston and Marc Franklin, horns)
    • The Mavericks, “Wish You Well” (Jeff Powell, vinyl mastering)
  • Best Americana Album:
    • Jason Isbell, The Nashville Sound (Matt Ross-Spang, engineer)
    • Brent Cobb, Shine On Rainy Day (Matt Ross-Spang, engineer) *
    • Gregg Allman, Southern Blood (Art Edmaiston and Marc Franklin, horns; Steve Potts, drums)
    • The Mavericks, Brand New Day (Jeff Powell, vinyl mastering)
  • Best Contemporary Blues Album:
    • Robert Cray, Robert Cray and Hi Rhythm (Royal Studios; Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, engineer. Howard Grimes, Reverend Charles Hodges, Leroy Hodges, Archie “Hubby” Turner, Marc Franklin, Jim Spake, Lester Snell, Lannie McMillan, musicians)
  • Best Traditional Blues Album:
    • R.L. Boyce, Roll and Tumble (Zebra Ranch Studios; Luther Dickinson, producer; Kevin Houston, engineer)
  • Best Music Film:
    • Two Trains Running (feat. North Mississippi All Stars)

Good luck to all the Memphis talent nominated this year (full disclosure: I am a Chapter Governor of the Recording Academy Memphis Chapter). The 60th Annual Grammy Awards will be held January 28th, 2018 in New York City.

25-Year Old Memphis Producer Gets Multiple Grammy Noms for SZA’s “CTRL”

 

Photo by Briana Wade, courtesy of Billboard

25-year old Memphis producer Cody Jordan Fayne, aka ThankGod4Cody, has gotten recognition this week for his work as a producer on SZA’s multiplatinum CTRL, which is up for multiple Grammy awards in 2018In an interview with Billboard, Jordan tells how he went from a Memphis schoolkid performing at school talent shows, to producing the most nominated woman artist at the 2018 Grammy Awards. (SZA is up for Best New Artist, Best R&B Song, Best Urban Contemporary Album, and for two ThankGod4Cody productions, Best R&B Performance for “The Weekend”, and Best Rap/Sung Performance for “Love Galore”).

When asked about his 2018 goals, Jordan said, “I’m focused on becoming a better songwriter, better artist, and I’m also focused on developing some of my own artists I have right now back home in Memphis. I also would love to get on the next Beyoncé album. I already know it’s going to be legendary, so I’m shooting for the sky.”

Sounds Around Town

Welcome to Sounds Around Town, a semi-regular column about who is recording what and where in Memphis. Photo courtesy of Dee Dee Bridgewater via Billboard.com.

  • Grammy and Tony winner Dee Dee Bridgewater recently cut an album at Royal Studios, appropriately titled Memphis. Produced by Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, Kirk Whalum, and Bridgewater’s daughter/manager Tulani Bridgewater, the first release is a cover of the Staples Singers’ classic “Why (Am I Treated So Bad)”. Listen to an exclusive preview at Billboard. Austin, TX singer and guitarist Jackie Venson has also been at Royal recently, working on her next project, The Love Suite. Luther Dickinson is also working at Royal, producing another record for Nashville singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale. The sessions feature Luther on guitar, Cody Dickinson on drums, Leroy Hodges on bass, and Reverend Charles Hodges on organ.
  • At Music + Arts Studio, producer Carl Wise and engineer Daniel Lynn have been working with Canadian artist Crystal Taylor. Young Memphis band Summer Avenue just finished up their debut album there, produced by Kevin Cubbins and engineered by Kevin Houston. Blues artist Dana Fuchs returns to Music + Arts soon, as will my band mates, Amy LaVere and Will Sexton, for an upcoming project featuring guitarist David Cousar and drummer George Sluppick.
  • Memphis favorites Star & Micey are working with Curry Webber at Sun Studio. (In addition, the Matt Stansbury and the Romance album we told you about a while back, which Curry cut at Sun, comes out tomorrow).
  • Memphis’ own Tommy Cathey returned to Ardent Studios to record his debut solo LP with Adam Hill engineering. Tommy’s history with Ardent includes Target, Steve Cropper/Yvonne Elliman, and his bass contributions to Big Star’s Third LP in 1974. 

    Pictured in Ardent’s Studio C L to R: Scott Sudbury (guitar), Mark Ross (keys), Tommy Cathey (Lead vocals, bass) Buddy Nemenz (guitar), Bill Marshall (drums), Adam Hill (engineer). Photo by Michelle Grider

  • At the recently revamped American Studios, Toby Vest is mixing an album from the Echo Friendly, the New York City band with deep Memphis ties. The band features Jake Rabinach, his wife Shannon Esper, Greg Faison, and Jake Vest. Toby cut the tracks at the band’s rehearsal space in Brooklyn back in March.
  • Over at Bruce Watson’s brand new Delta-Sonic Sound, Nashville’s Legendary Shack Shakers frontman J.D. Wilkes has recorded a solo LP, Fire Dream. The album was produced by Watson, engineered by Jeff Powell, and mixed by Clay Jones. Memphis singer/songwriter (and another band mate of mine) Mark Edgar Stuart has also been working with Watson as producer at Delta Sonic. In addition to doing horn and vocal overdubs on Bette Smith’s Jet Lagger, Bruce has been doing archival tape transfers of blues recordings from the Gene Rosenthal archives, as well as syncing audio and video of the 1969 Memphis Country Blues Festival concert film, out on Fat Possum in 2018.
  • Producer Matt Ross-Spang has been cutting more tracks for Lucero’s next record at Sam Phillips Recording, and has been working with Thirty Tigers artist Charley Crockett. Matt also recently cut a record there on Austin’s Dale Watson, with Will Sexton on guitar.

 

Austin’s Ameripolitan Awards Are Coming to Memphis in 2018

Austin, Texas honky tonk institution Dale Watson is bringing his 5th Annual Ameripolitan Music Awards to Memphis. The ceremony will be held February 13th at the new Guest House at Graceland and features awards for categories like Outlaw, Honky Tonk, and Rockabilly.  Austin Music Source has Dale’s explanation for the move:

“Austin has been great to us, but when we first started the awards, the dream was to bring the Ameripolitan Music Awards to different host cities,” Watson said in a statement. “And for the fifth year, moving to Memphis, the epicenter of roots music, seemed like a natural progression.”

Dale also recently purchased a home in Memphis near Graceland, which he plans to run as a 50’s styled bed and breakfast – complete with a period-correct recording studio – when he is away on tour or in Austin. The Commercial-Appeal has the full story. You can purchase your tickets to the Ameripolitan Music Awards here, or follow @Ameripolitan on Instagram for a chance to win a VIP package. Welcome to Memphis, Dale and Celine!

Memphis Business Journal: Nonprofit Arts Industry Drives $197m in Annual Spending

“You would not see the development and resurgence of the economy if it were not for the arts.” – Phil Trenary, Memphis Chamber of Commerce CEO, quoted in this impressive report in the Memphis Business Journal. I just did an interview this weekend with the Nashville daily, The Tennessean, about what an exciting time it is to be making music in Memphis. Word is starting to get out about what a good thing we have.

Royal Studio’s Boo Mitchell: The Tape Op Magazine Interview

Lawrence ‘Boo’ Mitchell. Photo by Larry Crane, Tape Op Magazine

Here’s an epic interview with Royal Studio’s Lawrence ‘Boo’ Mitchell in this month’s issue of Tape Op Magazine. Boo gives a vibrant oral history of Royal Studios, Hi Records, and his father, the late Willie Mitchell, one of the greatest record producers in American musical history. He talks about what it was like to grow up watching his dad work with greats like Al Green, and his own development into one of the country’s hottest producers today – thanks in no small part to Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk”, the first #1 out of Memphis since “Disco Duck”, the first #1 out of Royal since “Let’s Stay Together”, and the first Memphis recording to ever win a Grammy for Record of the Year.

The article also provides an insight into the intersection of race and the recording business in Memphis in the 1950’s and 60’s, when Willie Mitchell was coming into his own as a producer and engineer. Hi Records started out as a white-owned rockabilly label, and engineer Ray Harris wouldn’t allow Mitchell, who was black, to touch the console, or even have his picture on his own record cover.

I think it was sometime around ‘64 that Ray Harris sent somebody to get something out of his car. The guy opens his trunk up, and there’s this fucking KKK outfit in his trunk. One of the black musicians was walking by, saw it, and knew. He was like, “What the fuck?” Pop had a meeting with Joe about Ray, like, “What are we going to do about Ray?” Joe said, “I don’t know.” Pop replied, “Let me buy him out.” So Pop bought Ray out. Pop told him, “Ray, I learned a lot from you.” Ray said, “What’s that?” Pop said, “Never cut a record like you cut it.”

It’s a fascinating interview for anyone interested in Memphis music and history, and anyone interested in the art of making soulful records.

In the interest of full-disclosure, I serve on the board of the Recording Academy Memphis Chapter with Boo, and I also consider him a dear personal friend. Congratulations to Boo and the Mitchell family as they celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Royal, and as they launch new ventures like Royal Records and Royal Radio. Love and happiness!

 

Sounds Around Town, July 2017

Welcome to Sounds Around Town, a semi-regular column about who is recording what and where in Memphis. Pictured, L-R: Ken Coomer, Jeff Powell, Susan Marshall, Richard Alan Ford, McKenna Bray, Dave Smith, Wesley Graham, and David Cousar, at Sam Phillips Recording Service. Photo by Mary Brand.

  • Plenty of activity over at Ardent Studios this month. Boston, MA band The Push Stars recently tracked a new album in Studio A with Adam Hill. The Reputations from Austin, TX recorded a 10 song LP produced by non other than legendary Big Star drummer Jody Stephens. And Los Angeles-based recording artist Fernando Perdomo tracked his latest, The Golden Hour, with Adam Hill in two days. Here’s a great video Fernando made where he talks about the sessions. As he says, Ardent is “one of the Abbey Roads of America.”
  • Over at Sam Phillips Recording Service, producer Susan Marshall has been working with Memphis singer/songwriter McKenna Bray on her full-length debut for Madjack Records. The sessions were engineered by Susan’s husband, Jeff Powell and feature former Wilco drummer Ken Coomer.
  • Speaking of Jeff Powell, he’s been busy cutting lacquers in his vinyl mastering room at Phillips, Take Out Vinyl. In addition to a box set of Al Green’s complete 7″ singles, Jeff has cut lacquers recently for Margo Price, Lukas Nelson, Wage War, Marshall Crenshaw, and two 12″ LP projects for yours truly: my band Motel Mirrors‘ full-length debut, In the Meantime, and my 4th solo LP, Heart Shaped Shadow, both for Little Rock’s Last Chance Records. Jeff also engineered some overdub sessions at Phillips for the forthcoming Titus Andronicus record.
  • Scott Bomar at Electraphonic Recording has been mixing the new record from Memphis singer/songwriter Mark Edgar Stuart.
  • The High/Low Recording crew has been busy at their new digs, the former American East studio (aka Easley/McCain), finishing up the Marcella and Her Lovers full-length debut, and recording Memphis-native Jake Vest (brother of High/Low honcho Toby Vest).
  • Memphis producer/engineer Matt Ross-Spang has been in Nashville engineering the new John Prine record with Dave Cobb producing.

Matt Ross-Spang Explains “Slapback Echo” at Sun Studio

 

Ever wondered how Sam Phillips got that great “slapback” echo sound on all those classic Sun Studio recordings? Memphis-based producer/engineer and Grammy-winner Matt Ross-Spang shows how it was done in this exclusive clip from Rolling Stone.  Elvis Presley – A Boy from Tupelo: The Complete 1953–1955 Recordings comes out July 28th from Sony/Legacy.