Chancellor of Soul's Chronicles-Journals Dedicated To The
Historical Preservation Of R&B, Pop and It's Artists and Music


       _____________________________________________

  In The Midnight Hour 

          (The Song That Re-Defined the Stax Sound)  

       _______________________________________________

 

    

 

In May 1963, Wilson Pickett sent a demo of ‘If You

Need Me’ to Vice-president Jerry Wexler of Atlantic

Records.  Jerry liked the song and gave it to Solomon

Burke. Pickett was crushed and cried like a baby.

Wilson recorded ‘It’s Too Late’ and after it’s successful

run on the charts, Jerry bought his contract from Lloyd

Price’s Double L Records.

 

Pickett signed with Atlantic Records in 1964 and

recorded two unsuccessful songs ‘I’m Gonna Cry’

and ‘Come Home Baby’ a duet with Tammi Lynn.

Disappointed and searching for new material, Wexler

came up with the brainstorm idea to take Wilson to

Memphis after Pickett heard a song by Otis Redding

and decided he wanted to go in that direction.

 

They headed down to Memphis where Jim Stewart

owner of Stax Records and guitarist Steve Cropper

of Booker T. & the MG’s, picked them up at the

airport and drove them to the Lorraine Motel

(where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated

on April 4, 1968). Jim and Jerry left to go to a meeting

and Steve Cropper stayed.

 

When Jim and Jerry returned back to the hotel, Pickett,

Steve and Wilson’s old singing comrade from the Falcons,

Eddie Floyd (who arrive there afterwards) came up with

4 future classics, ‘Don’t Fight It’  ‘Ninety-Nine and One

Half (Won’t Do)’   ‘634-5789’ and ‘In The Midnight Hour’.

‘Midnight Hour’ was an inspiration from Steve Cropper who

had copped a live1964 Atco LP entitled, ‘Saturday Night at the

Uptown’ (the Apollo Theater in Harlem NY) which included two

of Wilson Pickett’s performances. One of the songs, ‘I’m

Gonna Cry’ towards the end of the fade, Wilson made references to  'the midnight hour'. Steve Cropper thought it was

a great title for a song and collaborated with Pickett who came

up with a rhythm feel.

 

On Wednesday, May 12, 1965 ‘In The Midnight Hour’ was

cut at the Stax studios in Memphis, featuring 3 members of  

Booker T. & the MG’s (the late Al Jackson Jr. on drums,

Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn on bass and Steve Cropper on guitar).

Other personnel include, The Memphis Horns (Wayne Jackson

on trumpet, the late Charles ‘Packy’ Axton and Andrew Love

on tenor sax, Floyd Newman on baritone sax and piano player

Joe Hall. 

 

The musicians tried various changes throughout the session but

couldn’t come up with a right feel, so Jerry Wexler suggested

a rhythm pattern from a popular dance the kids in New York

was doing called the Jerk. He demonstrated by dancing around

the studio and as the session players began to chuckle, they

picked up a new delayed 2/4 backbeat rhythm. Drummer Al

Jackson began to accent on the 2 count on his snare while

delaying the beat. This created a new signature sound for

Stax as they began to use this arrangement for future recordings.

 

In The Midnight Hour’ hit No 1 on Billboard’s R&B Singles

charts, the week ending, Saturday, August 7, 1965.  A self-titled

LP hit No 4 on the R&B LP charts on November 20, 1965.

 

After falling out with Stax label owner, Jim Stewart over a disagreement distribution deal with Atlantic Records, Jerry Wexler and Wilson Pickett found a new home at Rick Hall's 

Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama in 1966 and cut 

outstanding classics as, 'Land Of 1000 Dances', a remake of the 

Falcons' 1959 classic  'You're So Fine' (my personal favorite 

B-side), 'Mustang Sally'  b/w 'Three Time Loser',  'Everybody 

Needs Somebody To Love',  'Soul Dance Number Three'      

'Funky Broadway’  b/w   ‘I’m Sorry About That',  'I'm In Love'

b/w  ‘Stag-O-Lee’, and I'm A Midnight Mover' 

 

 

‘In The Midnight Hour’ is not your average run of the mill

R&B dance song. It redefined the sound of one of the greatest

music labels in American history.   

 

Sadly, Wilson Pickett became ill in 2004 and went to soul

heaven on Thursday, January 19, 2006.

 

Soul fans all over the world can continue to get their groove

not only in the midnight hour but in the morning…in the

afternoon… in the evening…snack time….whenever!

 

Check out the Wicked Pickett anytime!

 

He will always be the Midnight Mover…

 

                         Soulfully Yours,

                            Mike Boone

                      (Chancellor of Soul)

 

 

                          (October 2006)

 

 

 

Materials should not be used or altered without expressed

permission of the author, Mike Boone (Chancellor of Soul)

 

 

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