Memphis Underground  

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Memphis Underground is a 1969 album by jazz flautist Herbie Mann, that attempts to fuse the genres of Jazz and Rhythm & Blues (R&B). While Mann and the other principal soloists (Roy Ayers, Larry Coryell and Sonny Sharrock) were leading jazz musicians, the album was recorded in Chips Moman's American Studios in Memphis, a studio used by many well-known R&B and pop artists. The rhythm section was the house band at American Studios. The recording was engineered and produced by Tom Dowd.

Three of the five songs on the album were covers of songs originally released by Soul music artists. "Hold On, I'm Comin'" (by Sam & Dave), who recorded at Stax records (with the Stax rhythm section), and "Chain of Fools" (by Aretha Franklin) who recorded that song with the classic Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section at Atlantic Studios in New York.

Two members of the rhythm section on Franklin's recording (Gene Christman and Tommy Cogbill) perform on Memphis Underground.

A third song, "New Orleans", was also released by R&B artist (Gary U.S. Bonds), who recorded in Virginia.

So though the only one song was certifiably of Memphis vintage, the conglomeration of young New York jazz musicians with one of the most storied Southern rhythm sections proved to be the catalyst for creating strong, fresh music that sounds like neither Memphis Soul nor New York Jazz.

This unique sound appealed to a large audience. The record is one of the best-selling Jazz albums of all time.

Memphis Underground was a favorite album of writer Hunter S. Thompson, who mentions it positively in several chapters of his book Fear And Loathing on the Campaign Trail. In the article The Battle of Aspen, Thompson states that his "Freak Power" campaign used Mann's recording of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" as the background music for their commercials.

Track listing

  1. "Memphis Underground" (Herbie Mann) — 7:07
  2. "New Orleans" (Frank Guida, Joseph Royster) — 2:07
  3. "Hold On, I'm Comin'" (Isaac Hayes, David Porter) — 8:52
  4. "Chain of Fools" (Don Covay) — 10:42
  5. "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (Traditional, arranged by Herbie Mann) — 7:12


"The Memphis rhythm section"

Note: The "Fender bass" mentioned on the album's credits is a slang term for "bass guitar", commonly used by musicians, arrangers and producers in the 1950s and 60's. It was used to specify that an electric bass (as opposed to an acoustic instrument) was desired for a session. The word "Fender" refers to the creator of the first mass-produced instrument, Leo Fender, but does not necessarily mean that an instrument manufactured by the Fender company was used on the session.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Memphis Underground" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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