Paul Rodgers


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At a Glance

Birthname: Paul Bernard Rodgers
Nationality: British
Born: Dec 17 1949


Biography

It seems almost too easy to say a record was “a lifetime in the making,” but in the case of Paul Rodgers’ The Royal Sessions, it’s more than poetic metaphor or press hype; it’s a genuine statement of fact.

Before he founded Free or Bad Company, Rodgers was a singer in a teen band in his native Middlesbrough, England. Despite being underage, he was given entrée into local clubs where he made the acquaintance of a DJ who offered gifts that would forever alter the course of his life. The bounty Rodgers received came in the form of vinyl 45s from America: hot new R... Read more

It seems almost too easy to say a record was “a lifetime in the making,” but in the case of Paul Rodgers’ The Royal Sessions, it’s more than poetic metaphor or press hype; it’s a genuine statement of fact.

Before he founded Free or Bad Company, Rodgers was a singer in a teen band in his native Middlesbrough, England. Despite being underage, he was given entrée into local clubs where he made the acquaintance of a DJ who offered gifts that would forever alter the course of his life. The bounty Rodgers received came in the form of vinyl 45s from America: hot new R&B sides from labels like Stax/Volt, Goldwax, and later, Hi Records.

Spinning the records over and over, Rodgers was soon on a first name basis with the artists and singers who made the music: Otis, Albert, Sam & Dave. He would fantasize about these figures, wondering about the places they came from and how they created such momentous music.

Listening to these songs served as a liberating force, and offered a direction for his own life. Until then, Rodgers assumed that his youthful flirtation with music would inevitably give way to a life spent working in steel mills, docks, or rail yards of Teesside, like his father and grandfather before him. But from the moment he heard Otis Redding’s spine tingling pleas, there could be no other fate or future; he had to be a singer.

What Rodgers didn’t know at the time was that most, if not all, of this pivotal music was being written and recorded in a one square mile area of Memphis, Tennessee. There, located just beyond the railroad tracks on the Bluff City’s South Side, a concentration of studios flourished from the late-‘50s into the ‘70s, helping to create, evolve, and perfect the art of soul music.

Flash forward to 2013: Paul Rodgers is at South Memphis’ Royal Studios, recording those familiar old songs with some of the same players who’d graced the original tracks, and many others who’ve helped carry on the traditions of the music.

The way the session came about seemed almost fated. Rodgers had been working on an album of original rock material with his friend and fellow musician Perry A. Margouleff. In December of 2012, Margouleff found himself in Memphis visiting the spot where Stax Records had once stood. The label had famously collapsed amid a farrago of bad deals and bankruptcy in the mid-‘70s. By the late ‘80s, Stax’s iconic movie theatre turned studio had been reduced to rubble.

Happily, in recent years, Stax had been reborn and rebuilt as a museum and music education center. Margouleff had just finished taking the Stax tour, and was lamenting the fact that all the great old soul studios were gone. Museum director Lisa Allen promptly informed him that the nearby Royal Studios, historic home to producer Willie Mitchell and Hi Records, was still operating as it had in its ‘60s and ‘70s heyday.

In the ensuing years, Royal Studios had remained a thriving recording hub where artists from the world over would come take advantage of the vintage gear, old-school wisdom, and sheer magic of the room. They also utilized the talents of the native players, foremost among them the stalwarts of the famed Hi Rhythm Section.

Built around the Hodges Brothers, including organist Charles and bassist Leroy, and keyboardist Archie Turner, the Hi crew was brought up under the tutelage of the lovingly patriarchal Willie “Pops” Mitchell. For over a decade, starting in the late’60s, Hi Rhythm would help define the pleading charms of Syl Johnson's "Take Me To the River," the steamy showers of Ann Peebles' "I Can't Stand the Rain," the gospel ache of O.V. Wright's "A Nickel and A Nail,” and the spiritual seductions of Al Green’s hit records.

Though Mitchell passed away in 2010, Royal Studios has continued to flourish under the guidance of his grandson Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell. The Hodges Brothers and Turner, along with a talented collection of alumni from Stax, Goldwax, and other local R&B houses, are still active and continue to turn out remarkable records and performances. In essence, Royal Studios has become the last great resource for those truly seeking the real thing.

The result of Paul Rodgers’ pilgrimage to this musical Mecca is the lovingly crafted set of songs you now hold. Deeply felt, powerfully sung, and expertly played, it features a cross-section of material handpicked by Rodgers, songs of great historical significance and personal meaning.

Surveying a wide landscape of American R&B, Rodgers and the Royal crew offer fresh takes on the fatback blues of Albert King, the gutbucket balladry of Otis Redding, the sophisticated stirrings of Sam Cooke, and a host of other classics from the Stax and Southern soul canon.

Choosing to work in the old-school style, everything was recorded on analogue tape, with the basic tracks – including Rodgers’ vocals – all cut live on the floor with the band. Unaware of Rodgers’ history or reputation, the veteran session men were initially surprised when he chose to kick off the session with a pass at Redding’s iconic “That’s How Strong My Love Is.” After Rodgers nailed the song in a single scintillating take, Charles Hodges took him aside and said admiringly, “You know, you should consider a career as a singer…you could really do this.” Beaming broadly, Rodgers thought it was the greatest compliment he’d ever received.

The session players quickly bonded with Rodgers, who was embraced as part of their musical family. That convivial atmosphere can be heard on the record, which finds the band and singer in lock soul-step with one another. Moved by their experience in Memphis, Rodgers and Margouleff decided to donate proceeds from the album to local music education programs, as thanks to a city and musical community that’s meant so much to them.

In the end, The Royal Sessions represents the culmination of a long, profound journey for Paul Rodgers. Five decades after first discovering these songs on those old 45s, he’s realized his life’s ambition—creating a record of true heart and feeling.

This is the sound of his R&B fantasy—his soul dream—finally come true.

The Players:
Reverend Charles Hodges Sr. – Hammond B3
A man of the cloth for over 25 years, Charles Hodges has ministered to music fans for far longer than that. Possessed of a singular organ style, he was nicknamed "Do Funny” by producer Willie “Pops” Mitchell for the funny sounds he generated from his Hammond B3. Charles’ elaborate swells, emotional stabs, and unusual chord voicings would color the great hits of O.V. Wright, Al Green, Ann Peebles, and Syl Johnson, and add new melodic dimensions to soul music.

LeRoy Hodges Jr. – Bass Guitar
The rock of Royal Studios, the man who put the rhythm in Hi Rhythm, LeRoy “Flick” Hodges holds a transformative power in his very hands. His languid bass lines and liquid melodies were among the key elements that marked the shift in the sound and feel of soul as it entered the "Me Decade,” moving the music off the dance floor and into the bedroom.

Archie “Hubby” Turner – Wurlitzer
The stepson of Willie Mitchell, Turner began his career playing in a dance band called The Impalas with Charles Hodges. Upon joining the Hi Rhythm section, during the latter half of the house band’s glorious run, Turner would bring another facet to the group’s sound. Adding his swirling Wurlitzer to the mix, he created a synergistic interplay with Hodges' Hammond that lent a further dreamy quality to the music.

Michael Toles – Guitar
Over the course of a nearly five-decade career guitarist Michael Toles has worked with many of the giants of American roots music, from the Kings (B.B. and Albert), to the Thomas family (Rufus and Carla). He’s played with “Black Moses” Isaac Hayes, aided gospel patriarch Pops Staples, and added his signature six-string styling to hundreds of essential recordings and continues to be a go-to session player.

Steve Potts – Drums
Part of a lineage of great Memphis trapsmen, Steve Potts is blood kin to the late lamented lynchpin of both Stax and Hi Records, Al Jackson, Jr. A cousin to Jackson, Potts was tapped to replace him in the revived version of Booker T. and the MGs. He’s also brought his laidback funky feel – the essential heartbeat of the Memphis sound – to records and tours for artists running the gamut from Neil Young to Cat Power.

James E. Robertson Sr. – Drums
Having provided the backbeat as house drummer for Mississippi R&B factory Malaco Records for many years, James Robertson remains one of Southern soul’s steadiest hands. His alternately gritty and graceful work has been featured on records by Johnnie Taylor, Little Milton, and Bobby “Blue” Bland, among scores of others.

Lester Snell – Piano
A veteran of Stax’s glory days and a longtime member of the Isaac Hayes Movement, pianist/keyboardist Lester Snell Jr. is the secret weapon of any session he plays. Beyond his tasteful piano work, he’s an uncommonly intuitive arranger, whose gifts for orchestration have been called upon by everyone from Rod Stewart to John Mayer.

The Royal Singers: Shontelle Norman, Sharisse Norman, Stefanie Bolton
Soothing, pleading, or scolding, the female voices on classic Hi Records were an essential part of the sonic formula that captivated the record buying public. Today, the smoldering backing, complex chorales, and emotive harmonies are provided by a tight knit group of gospel-rooted singers.

The Royal Horns: Marc Franklin – Trumpet, James L. Spake – Baritone Sax, Gary Topper – Tenor Sax, Lannie “The Party” McMillan Jr. – Tenor Sax
One of the great trumpeters in R&B history, the late Willie Mitchell created the template for the Hi Records horn sound. Instantly identifiable, his brass arrangements were about creating a vibe that transcended the notes on the page, elevating the music in the process. The current day edition of the Royal Horns – a multigenerational mix of Memphis’ best blowers – continues that tradition admirably.

The Royal Strings: Jonathan Kirkscey, Michael Barar, Beth Luscombe, Roy C. Brewer, Jessie Munson, Susanna Perry Gilmore, Mark Wallace
There’s an old joke that in Memphis the musicians are so funky, that even the local symphony plays behind he beat. It’s fitting, then, that a crucial element of the Hi aesthetic was the swathes of silky strings often deployed to heighten a song’s mood, or augment the slow-burn funk of the tracks with a sophisticated feel. A contemporary collective of classical and pop players, drawn from the rich local talent pool, continues to conjure those sounds and feelings today.

This biography was provided by the artist or their representative.

It seems almost too easy to say a record was “a lifetime in the making,” but in the case of Paul Rodgers’ The Royal Sessions, it’s more than poetic metaphor or press hype; it’s a genuine statement of fact.

Before he founded Free or Bad Company, Rodgers was a singer in a teen band in his native Middlesbrough, England. Despite being underage, he was given entrée into local clubs where he made the acquaintance of a DJ who offered gifts that would forever alter the course of his life. The bounty Rodgers received came in the form of vinyl 45s from America: hot new R&B sides from labels like Stax/Volt, Goldwax, and later, Hi Records.

Spinning the records over and over, Rodgers was soon on a first name basis with the artists and singers who made the music: Otis, Albert, Sam & Dave. He would fantasize about these figures, wondering about the places they came from and how they created such momentous music.

Listening to these songs served as a liberating force, and offered a direction for his own life. Until then, Rodgers assumed that his youthful flirtation with music would inevitably give way to a life spent working in steel mills, docks, or rail yards of Teesside, like his father and grandfather before him. But from the moment he heard Otis Redding’s spine tingling pleas, there could be no other fate or future; he had to be a singer.

What Rodgers didn’t know at the time was that most, if not all, of this pivotal music was being written and recorded in a one square mile area of Memphis, Tennessee. There, located just beyond the railroad tracks on the Bluff City’s South Side, a concentration of studios flourished from the late-‘50s into the ‘70s, helping to create, evolve, and perfect the art of soul music.

Flash forward to 2013: Paul Rodgers is at South Memphis’ Royal Studios, recording those familiar old songs with some of the same players who’d graced the original tracks, and many others who’ve helped carry on the traditions of the music.

The way the session came about seemed almost fated. Rodgers had been working on an album of original rock material with his friend and fellow musician Perry A. Margouleff. In December of 2012, Margouleff found himself in Memphis visiting the spot where Stax Records had once stood. The label had famously collapsed amid a farrago of bad deals and bankruptcy in the mid-‘70s. By the late ‘80s, Stax’s iconic movie theatre turned studio had been reduced to rubble.

Happily, in recent years, Stax had been reborn and rebuilt as a museum and music education center. Margouleff had just finished taking the Stax tour, and was lamenting the fact that all the great old soul studios were gone. Museum director Lisa Allen promptly informed him that the nearby Royal Studios, historic home to producer Willie Mitchell and Hi Records, was still operating as it had in its ‘60s and ‘70s heyday.

In the ensuing years, Royal Studios had remained a thriving recording hub where artists from the world over would come take advantage of the vintage gear, old-school wisdom, and sheer magic of the room. They also utilized the talents of the native players, foremost among them the stalwarts of the famed Hi Rhythm Section.

Built around the Hodges Brothers, including organist Charles and bassist Leroy, and keyboardist Archie Turner, the Hi crew was brought up under the tutelage of the lovingly patriarchal Willie “Pops” Mitchell. For over a decade, starting in the late’60s, Hi Rhythm would help define the pleading charms of Syl Johnson's "Take Me To the River," the steamy showers of Ann Peebles' "I Can't Stand the Rain," the gospel ache of O.V. Wright's "A Nickel and A Nail,” and the spiritual seductions of Al Green’s hit records.

Though Mitchell passed away in 2010, Royal Studios has continued to flourish under the guidance of his grandson Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell. The Hodges Brothers and Turner, along with a talented collection of alumni from Stax, Goldwax, and other local R&B houses, are still active and continue to turn out remarkable records and performances. In essence, Royal Studios has become the last great resource for those truly seeking the real thing.

The result of Paul Rodgers’ pilgrimage to this musical Mecca is the lovingly crafted set of songs you now hold. Deeply felt, powerfully sung, and expertly played, it features a cross-section of material handpicked by Rodgers, songs of great historical significance and personal meaning.

Surveying a wide landscape of American R&B, Rodgers and the Royal crew offer fresh takes on the fatback blues of Albert King, the gutbucket balladry of Otis Redding, the sophisticated stirrings of Sam Cooke, and a host of other classics from the Stax and Southern soul canon.

Choosing to work in the old-school style, everything was recorded on analogue tape, with the basic tracks – including Rodgers’ vocals – all cut live on the floor with the band. Unaware of Rodgers’ history or reputation, the veteran session men were initially surprised when he chose to kick off the session with a pass at Redding’s iconic “That’s How Strong My Love Is.” After Rodgers nailed the song in a single scintillating take, Charles Hodges took him aside and said admiringly, “You know, you should consider a career as a singer…you could really do this.” Beaming broadly, Rodgers thought it was the greatest compliment he’d ever received.

The session players quickly bonded with Rodgers, who was embraced as part of their musical family. That convivial atmosphere can be heard on the record, which finds the band and singer in lock soul-step with one another. Moved by their experience in Memphis, Rodgers and Margouleff decided to donate proceeds from the album to local music education programs, as thanks to a city and musical community that’s meant so much to them.

In the end, The Royal Sessions represents the culmination of a long, profound journey for Paul Rodgers. Five decades after first discovering these songs on those old 45s, he’s realized his life’s ambition—creating a record of true heart and feeling.

This is the sound of his R&B fantasy—his soul dream—finally come true.

The Players:
Reverend Charles Hodges Sr. – Hammond B3
A man of the cloth for over 25 years, Charles Hodges has ministered to music fans for far longer than that. Possessed of a singular organ style, he was nicknamed "Do Funny” by producer Willie “Pops” Mitchell for the funny sounds he generated from his Hammond B3. Charles’ elaborate swells, emotional stabs, and unusual chord voicings would color the great hits of O.V. Wright, Al Green, Ann Peebles, and Syl Johnson, and add new melodic dimensions to soul music.

LeRoy Hodges Jr. – Bass Guitar
The rock of Royal Studios, the man who put the rhythm in Hi Rhythm, LeRoy “Flick” Hodges holds a transformative power in his very hands. His languid bass lines and liquid melodies were among the key elements that marked the shift in the sound and feel of soul as it entered the "Me Decade,” moving the music off the dance floor and into the bedroom.

Archie “Hubby” Turner – Wurlitzer
The stepson of Willie Mitchell, Turner began his career playing in a dance band called The Impalas with Charles Hodges. Upon joining the Hi Rhythm section, during the latter half of the house band’s glorious run, Turner would bring another facet to the group’s sound. Adding his swirling Wurlitzer to the mix, he created a synergistic interplay with Hodges' Hammond that lent a further dreamy quality to the music.

Michael Toles – Guitar
Over the course of a nearly five-decade career guitarist Michael Toles has worked with many of the giants of American roots music, from the Kings (B.B. and Albert), to the Thomas family (Rufus and Carla). He’s played with “Black Moses” Isaac Hayes, aided gospel patriarch Pops Staples, and added his signature six-string styling to hundreds of essential recordings and continues to be a go-to session player.

Steve Potts – Drums
Part of a lineage of great Memphis trapsmen, Steve Potts is blood kin to the late lamented lynchpin of both Stax and Hi Records, Al Jackson, Jr. A cousin to Jackson, Potts was tapped to replace him in the revived version of Booker T. and the MGs. He’s also brought his laidback funky feel – the essential heartbeat of the Memphis sound – to records and tours for artists running the gamut from Neil Young to Cat Power.

James E. Robertson Sr. – Drums
Having provided the backbeat as house drummer for Mississippi R&B factory Malaco Records for many years, James Robertson remains one of Southern soul’s steadiest hands. His alternately gritty and graceful work has been featured on records by Johnnie Taylor, Little Milton, and Bobby “Blue” Bland, among scores of others.

Lester Snell – Piano
A veteran of Stax’s glory days and a longtime member of the Isaac Hayes Movement, pianist/keyboardist Lester Snell Jr. is the secret weapon of any session he plays. Beyond his tasteful piano work, he’s an uncommonly intuitive arranger, whose gifts for orchestration have been called upon by everyone from Rod Stewart to John Mayer.

The Royal Singers: Shontelle Norman, Sharisse Norman, Stefanie Bolton
Soothing, pleading, or scolding, the female voices on classic Hi Records were an essential part of the sonic formula that captivated the record buying public. Today, the smoldering backing, complex chorales, and emotive harmonies are provided by a tight knit group of gospel-rooted singers.

The Royal Horns: Marc Franklin – Trumpet, James L. Spake – Baritone Sax, Gary Topper – Tenor Sax, Lannie “The Party” McMillan Jr. – Tenor Sax
One of the great trumpeters in R&B history, the late Willie Mitchell created the template for the Hi Records horn sound. Instantly identifiable, his brass arrangements were about creating a vibe that transcended the notes on the page, elevating the music in the process. The current day edition of the Royal Horns – a multigenerational mix of Memphis’ best blowers – continues that tradition admirably.

The Royal Strings: Jonathan Kirkscey, Michael Barar, Beth Luscombe, Roy C. Brewer, Jessie Munson, Susanna Perry Gilmore, Mark Wallace
There’s an old joke that in Memphis the musicians are so funky, that even the local symphony plays behind he beat. It’s fitting, then, that a crucial element of the Hi aesthetic was the swathes of silky strings often deployed to heighten a song’s mood, or augment the slow-burn funk of the tracks with a sophisticated feel. A contemporary collective of classical and pop players, drawn from the rich local talent pool, continues to conjure those sounds and feelings today.

This biography was provided by the artist or their representative.

It seems almost too easy to say a record was “a lifetime in the making,” but in the case of Paul Rodgers’ The Royal Sessions, it’s more than poetic metaphor or press hype; it’s a genuine statement of fact.

Before he founded Free or Bad Company, Rodgers was a singer in a teen band in his native Middlesbrough, England. Despite being underage, he was given entrée into local clubs where he made the acquaintance of a DJ who offered gifts that would forever alter the course of his life. The bounty Rodgers received came in the form of vinyl 45s from America: hot new R&B sides from labels like Stax/Volt, Goldwax, and later, Hi Records.

Spinning the records over and over, Rodgers was soon on a first name basis with the artists and singers who made the music: Otis, Albert, Sam & Dave. He would fantasize about these figures, wondering about the places they came from and how they created such momentous music.

Listening to these songs served as a liberating force, and offered a direction for his own life. Until then, Rodgers assumed that his youthful flirtation with music would inevitably give way to a life spent working in steel mills, docks, or rail yards of Teesside, like his father and grandfather before him. But from the moment he heard Otis Redding’s spine tingling pleas, there could be no other fate or future; he had to be a singer.

What Rodgers didn’t know at the time was that most, if not all, of this pivotal music was being written and recorded in a one square mile area of Memphis, Tennessee. There, located just beyond the railroad tracks on the Bluff City’s South Side, a concentration of studios flourished from the late-‘50s into the ‘70s, helping to create, evolve, and perfect the art of soul music.

Flash forward to 2013: Paul Rodgers is at South Memphis’ Royal Studios, recording those familiar old songs with some of the same players who’d graced the original tracks, and many others who’ve helped carry on the traditions of the music.

The way the session came about seemed almost fated. Rodgers had been working on an album of original rock material with his friend and fellow musician Perry A. Margouleff. In December of 2012, Margouleff found himself in Memphis visiting the spot where Stax Records had once stood. The label had famously collapsed amid a farrago of bad deals and bankruptcy in the mid-‘70s. By the late ‘80s, Stax’s iconic movie theatre turned studio had been reduced to rubble.

Happily, in recent years, Stax had been reborn and rebuilt as a museum and music education center. Margouleff had just finished taking the Stax tour, and was lamenting the fact that all the great old soul studios were gone. Museum director Lisa Allen promptly informed him that the nearby Royal Studios, historic home to producer Willie Mitchell and Hi Records, was still operating as it had in its ‘60s and ‘70s heyday.

In the ensuing years, Royal Studios had remained a thriving recording hub where artists from the world over would come take advantage of the vintage gear, old-school wisdom, and sheer magic of the room. They also utilized the talents of the native players, foremost among them the stalwarts of the famed Hi Rhythm Section.

Built around the Hodges Brothers, including organist Charles and bassist Leroy, and keyboardist Archie Turner, the Hi crew was brought up under the tutelage of the lovingly patriarchal Willie “Pops” Mitchell. For over a decade, starting in the late’60s, Hi Rhythm would help define the pleading charms of Syl Johnson's "Take Me To the River," the steamy showers of Ann Peebles' "I Can't Stand the Rain," the gospel ache of O.V. Wright's "A Nickel and A Nail,” and the spiritual seductions of Al Green’s hit records.

Though Mitchell passed away in 2010, Royal Studios has continued to flourish under the guidance of his grandson Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell. The Hodges Brothers and Turner, along with a talented collection of alumni from Stax, Goldwax, and other local R&B houses, are still active and continue to turn out remarkable records and performances. In essence, Royal Studios has become the last great resource for those truly seeking the real thing.

The result of Paul Rodgers’ pilgrimage to this musical Mecca is the lovingly crafted set of songs you now hold. Deeply felt, powerfully sung, and expertly played, it features a cross-section of material handpicked by Rodgers, songs of great historical significance and personal meaning.

Surveying a wide landscape of American R&B, Rodgers and the Royal crew offer fresh takes on the fatback blues of Albert King, the gutbucket balladry of Otis Redding, the sophisticated stirrings of Sam Cooke, and a host of other classics from the Stax and Southern soul canon.

Choosing to work in the old-school style, everything was recorded on analogue tape, with the basic tracks – including Rodgers’ vocals – all cut live on the floor with the band. Unaware of Rodgers’ history or reputation, the veteran session men were initially surprised when he chose to kick off the session with a pass at Redding’s iconic “That’s How Strong My Love Is.” After Rodgers nailed the song in a single scintillating take, Charles Hodges took him aside and said admiringly, “You know, you should consider a career as a singer…you could really do this.” Beaming broadly, Rodgers thought it was the greatest compliment he’d ever received.

The session players quickly bonded with Rodgers, who was embraced as part of their musical family. That convivial atmosphere can be heard on the record, which finds the band and singer in lock soul-step with one another. Moved by their experience in Memphis, Rodgers and Margouleff decided to donate proceeds from the album to local music education programs, as thanks to a city and musical community that’s meant so much to them.

In the end, The Royal Sessions represents the culmination of a long, profound journey for Paul Rodgers. Five decades after first discovering these songs on those old 45s, he’s realized his life’s ambition—creating a record of true heart and feeling.

This is the sound of his R&B fantasy—his soul dream—finally come true.

The Players:
Reverend Charles Hodges Sr. – Hammond B3
A man of the cloth for over 25 years, Charles Hodges has ministered to music fans for far longer than that. Possessed of a singular organ style, he was nicknamed "Do Funny” by producer Willie “Pops” Mitchell for the funny sounds he generated from his Hammond B3. Charles’ elaborate swells, emotional stabs, and unusual chord voicings would color the great hits of O.V. Wright, Al Green, Ann Peebles, and Syl Johnson, and add new melodic dimensions to soul music.

LeRoy Hodges Jr. – Bass Guitar
The rock of Royal Studios, the man who put the rhythm in Hi Rhythm, LeRoy “Flick” Hodges holds a transformative power in his very hands. His languid bass lines and liquid melodies were among the key elements that marked the shift in the sound and feel of soul as it entered the "Me Decade,” moving the music off the dance floor and into the bedroom.

Archie “Hubby” Turner – Wurlitzer
The stepson of Willie Mitchell, Turner began his career playing in a dance band called The Impalas with Charles Hodges. Upon joining the Hi Rhythm section, during the latter half of the house band’s glorious run, Turner would bring another facet to the group’s sound. Adding his swirling Wurlitzer to the mix, he created a synergistic interplay with Hodges' Hammond that lent a further dreamy quality to the music.

Michael Toles – Guitar
Over the course of a nearly five-decade career guitarist Michael Toles has worked with many of the giants of American roots music, from the Kings (B.B. and Albert), to the Thomas family (Rufus and Carla). He’s played with “Black Moses” Isaac Hayes, aided gospel patriarch Pops Staples, and added his signature six-string styling to hundreds of essential recordings and continues to be a go-to session player.

Steve Potts – Drums
Part of a lineage of great Memphis trapsmen, Steve Potts is blood kin to the late lamented lynchpin of both Stax and Hi Records, Al Jackson, Jr. A cousin to Jackson, Potts was tapped to replace him in the revived version of Booker T. and the MGs. He’s also brought his laidback funky feel – the essential heartbeat of the Memphis sound – to records and tours for artists running the gamut from Neil Young to Cat Power.

James E. Robertson Sr. – Drums
Having provided the backbeat as house drummer for Mississippi R&B factory Malaco Records for many years, James Robertson remains one of Southern soul’s steadiest hands. His alternately gritty and graceful work has been featured on records by Johnnie Taylor, Little Milton, and Bobby “Blue” Bland, among scores of others.

Lester Snell – Piano
A veteran of Stax’s glory days and a longtime member of the Isaac Hayes Movement, pianist/keyboardist Lester Snell Jr. is the secret weapon of any session he plays. Beyond his tasteful piano work, he’s an uncommonly intuitive arranger, whose gifts for orchestration have been called upon by everyone from Rod Stewart to John Mayer.

The Royal Singers: Shontelle Norman, Sharisse Norman, Stefanie Bolton
Soothing, pleading, or scolding, the female voices on classic Hi Records were an essential part of the sonic formula that captivated the record buying public. Today, the smoldering backing, complex chorales, and emotive harmonies are provided by a tight knit group of gospel-rooted singers.

The Royal Horns: Marc Franklin – Trumpet, James L. Spake – Baritone Sax, Gary Topper – Tenor Sax, Lannie “The Party” McMillan Jr. – Tenor Sax
One of the great trumpeters in R&B history, the late Willie Mitchell created the template for the Hi Records horn sound. Instantly identifiable, his brass arrangements were about creating a vibe that transcended the notes on the page, elevating the music in the process. The current day edition of the Royal Horns – a multigenerational mix of Memphis’ best blowers – continues that tradition admirably.

The Royal Strings: Jonathan Kirkscey, Michael Barar, Beth Luscombe, Roy C. Brewer, Jessie Munson, Susanna Perry Gilmore, Mark Wallace
There’s an old joke that in Memphis the musicians are so funky, that even the local symphony plays behind he beat. It’s fitting, then, that a crucial element of the Hi aesthetic was the swathes of silky strings often deployed to heighten a song’s mood, or augment the slow-burn funk of the tracks with a sophisticated feel. A contemporary collective of classical and pop players, drawn from the rich local talent pool, continues to conjure those sounds and feelings today.

This biography was provided by the artist or their representative.

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