By James L. Dickerson
The Record Producer Whose Genius Changed American Music
Lincoln “Chips” Moman was known as the “Steve McQueen of the music business,” perhaps because he liked fast cars and beautiful women, and flew his own plane. But also because he had the charisma and good looks of a Frank Sinatra. You never heard much about him because he was reclusive, probably only averaging one or two interviews per decade.
One of the most successful record producers in American history, he rescued Elvis Presley’s career with hits such as “Suspicious Minds, “In the Ghetto,” and “Kentucky Rain.” He produced music icons such as Petula Clark and Dionne Warwick. In rock and pop he is associated with the Gentrys (“Keep on Dancing”), the Box Tops (“The Letter”), Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” Sandy Posey (“Born a Woman” and “Single Girl” ), Paul Revere & The Raiders (“Goin’ to Memphis”), Dusty Springfield (“Son of a Preacher Man” (not produced by Chips, but recorded in his studio with his band), Ringo Starr (an unreleased album which the author listened to and considers among Ringo’s best; the album ended up in a celebrated court case); B. J. Thomas (“Hooked on a Feeling,” “The Eyes of a New York Woman,” and “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done somebody Wrong Song.”
“I really would have loved to have worked with Chips again.”
– Petula Clark
“He’s a madman . . . but it was wonderful.”
– Dionne Warwick
Chips Moman was a renegade, mysterious record producer yet his fingerprints are all over some of his era’s top songs: Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds,” “In the Ghetto” and “Kentucky Rain;” The Box Tops’ “The Letter;” Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man.” Moman also worked with The Highwaymen (Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson) and the Class of ’55, a project that brought together Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, and Carl Perkins.
With years of experience writing about and acting as a confidante, author James L. Dickerson’s perspective on Moman is a unique one. Chips Moman: The Record Producer Whose Genius Change American Music is the success story of a man armed with an eighth-grade education. Moman’s charisma, talent, guile and drive ultimately led to the formation of his American Sound Studio in Memphis, Tennessee. The studio’s house musicians, the 827 Thomas Street Band rivaled the much-better known Wrecking Crew. As a top-flight producer, Moman applied their talents like paint on a canvas.
Dickerson traces Moman’s career move to Nashville then back to Memphis where a project for a new studio intended to return that city to its musical glory days went sour. It was the beginning of the end. With a view from the inside, the author compassionately assesses Moman’s mercurial mood swings as an undiagnosed bipolar disorder that self-medication only made worse. As history shows, Moman’s track record speaks for itself and it never hurts to have a biographer who can tell the story.
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