Record producer, songwriter and session player Lincoln “Chips” Moman died yesterday, a day after his 79th birthday.
After cutting his teeth as a session and tour player with Johnny Burnette (“You’re Sixteen”) and later as a producer with Stax Records, Moman would start American Sound Studio in Memphis in 1967. Over the next five years, Moman would produce everyone from Neil Diamond, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, B.J. Thomas, Joe Tex, The Box Tops and, most notably, Elvis Presley. While at American Sound Studio, Elvis recorded songs like “Suspicious Minds”, “Kentucky Rain” and the Mac Davis penned “In The Ghetto”.
Moman would later move to Nashville and co-write several outstanding songs such as B.J. Thomas’ “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” (with Larry Butler), Waylon Jennings’ “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to The Basics of Love)”(with Bobby Emmons) and carved out a niche in country music. During his Nashville years, Moman produced records for Tammy Wynette, Petula Clark, Ronnie Milsap and Willie Nelson most notably “You Were Always On My Mind”.
Moman’s last notable production was with The Highwaymen, a country supergroup consisting of Nelson, Jennings as well as Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson. He would produce their first two albums in 1985 and 1990, respectively.
One of the earliest songs, Moman also co-wrote “The Dark End of the Street” with Dan Penn. Originally recorded in 1966 by James Carr, this is one of those songs that comes out right regardless of who records it. Over the years, it has been covered by the likes of Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, Aretha Franklin, Linda Ronstadt and Elvis Costello as well as Richard and Linda Thompson. But my favorite version was recorded by The Flying Burrito Brothers featuring Gram Parsons on lead vocals.
The best tribute you could make to Chips Moman is that you could drive from Memphis to Nashville and spend the entire trip to listening to records he produced or had a hand in writing and there wouldn’t be clunker among them.