Rick Hall, the record producer and executive who, as the founder of Fame studios, almost single-handedly established the small Alabama town of Muscle Shoals as a crucible of some of the greatest soul music to be produced in America in the 1960s and 1970s has died aged 85.
As a hands-on producer at his Fame studio, Hall supervised classic recordings by Etta James, Wilson Pickett, Candi Staton and of course Bobbie. A fellow Southerner, Hall was born in Forest Grove, Mississippi, and brought up in Franklin County, Alabama. In 1970 he produced the Fancy album, including the title track which remains one of Bobbie’s best story songs; a musical cross between country, blues and pop that could define modern Americana. Years later in 1978, he would also produce Bobbie’s last recordings for the Curb division of Warner Bros. Hall remembered his time working with Bobbie fondly:
“I loved Bobbie. My God, she was a beautiful woman. She had a great mind! She had all kinds of talent. The first time I heard Ode to Billie Joe, I was driving past the studio, and I almost ran my car into a telephone pole! I was so amazed! Her story was my story. That’s how I grew up. “Bale the hay. Pass the biscuits,” you know? There were so many Southern things that she did. I felt in my heart that if I ever met her, we’d hit it off. I offered to produce her. We had dinner together, and we did hit it off. We had a great time together. She was one of my very favorites.”
Jim Nabors the singer and actor best known for his role as Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show, died on 30/11/2017. Known for his ability to combine the charm of a sophisticated modern country gentleman with the ingenuousness of a traditional country cousin made him one of America’s most popular TV personalities of the 60’s and 70’s.
Bobbie first met Jim in 1967, and the pair appeared together on The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour in March 1969, also attending the Paint your Wagon film premier together later that year in July. In December Bobbie appeared on The Jim Nabors Hour and appeared again the following year in May 1970. Jim Nabors was also a guest on The Bobbie GentryHappiness Hour in June 1974.
Glen Campbell has died at the age of 81 after a long and courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease. A self-taught prodigy, he rose from a poor rural childhood to release over 70 albums and sell 45 million records. Campbell had a distinctive country pop sound on hits like Gentle On My Mind, By the Time I Get to Phoenix and Wichita Lineman. In 1968 he recorded a duets album with Bobbie, and their easy camaraderie and obvious chemistry made the partnership a great success, resulting in a gold album, and several hit singles including Let It Be Me and All I Have To Do Is Dream. He carried on making music, releasing acclaimed new albums with younger musicians until his health gave out. In 2005 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
NPR: ‘Ode To Billie Joe’ The Hit That Prompted Dozens Of Jazz Versions
U.S. radio station NPR have broadcast an 8 minute audio story marking the 50 year anniversary of Bobbie’s Ode to Billie Joe single . The programme Fresh Air with Terry Gross takes an unusual angle and focuses on the many instrumental jazz covers of the song. Bobbie’s Southern Gothic saga might seem an unlikely choice, but jazz musicians really took to it. Fans can listen to the programme online here.
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