An Ear for Southern Rock
Paul Hornsby On Hourglass, Capricorn Records and A Life in Music
by Michael Buffalo Smith
Paul Hornsby's name is synonymous with Southern Rock, as both musician and producer. The following is a real treat. A nice, casual interview with a man who was a band mate of Duane and Gregg Allman and produced albums by The Marshall Tucker Band and Charlie Daniels - among countless others.
Who influenced you musically?
The earliest, I suppose, would be my dad Ed Hornsby and his cousin, James Tindol. Dad is an old time fiddle and guitar player. My earliest musical memories are of being dragged around and watching him and James play for square dances.
At about 14, I began to play guitar and listen to Chet Atkins and the Ventures. Man, I wish music could sound that good to me again! Everything was brand new! A few years later I branched out and started playing organ and then piano. I listened to a lot of Jimmy Smith, the great organ player. Then it was Booker T. Jones.
It wasn't until several years later that I really tried to be a piano player. And there really is a difference. Much more involved than just having similar keys. Organ playing has more to do with sounds. Working the drawbars and the fast-slow Leslie switch. I'm rambling a bit here. My piano influences were first Ray Charles, then Dr. John.
Speaking of Dr. John - please share your thoughts on Mac - Dr. John.
Well, I think Dr. John is the greatest piano player in the world. That's a lot of territory, I know. I had the pleasure of playing B-3 behind him for a while in the early '70's. That was a paid scholarship in a sense for me. That really lit a fire under me where piano playing was concerned. I'd be sitting behind the B-3 on stage and at the same time looking over his shoulder trying to see what he was doing. I think anyone who hears my playing will notice his influence on me. Chuck Leavell also played with Mac for a while. Mac left his mark on him as well.
Tell us about The 5 Men-its. Elaborate on the late Eddie Hinton a bit.
The "5 Men-its" started as a college band in 1964 in Tuscaloosa. We had put something together to go down and play in Panama City for the summer. The group fell apart at the last minute, just as we had given up our day jobs. Out of desperation, I, along with Fred Styles & Paul Ballenger drove up to Muscle Shoals to look for a drummer and sax player. I was on guitar then, Fred Styles was on bass, and Paul Ballenger was on piano and vocals. We got a lead up there, on a sax player who was down in Decatur, Alabama. named Charlie Campbell. We called him and he was interested in meeting us. So we drove down there (from Muscle Shoals). When we mentioned needing a drummer he told us about Johnny Sandlin, who also lived in Decatur. Anyhow we all got together, "woodshedded" a few days, and struck out for Panama City. We didn't have any gig prospects or anything. The place we were supposed to audition for with the original group had already filled the bill for the summer.
We couldn't find a gig in Panama City so we went over to Pensacola. To make a long story short, we got a job playing at the Pensacola Beach Casino for the summer. That fall-winter-spring we continued back in Tuscaloosa with the same band lineup, playing college fraternities, etc. The following summer, we decided to go back to Pensacola. We added Eddie Hinton on guitar and vocals. I think Paul Ballenger dropped out at that time. After the summer, Charlie Campbell and Johnny Sandlin left. Bill Connell joined us on drums. We were then a 4-piece group, which we continued to be till the end. I guess you'd say we were the 4 "5 Minutes."
The next summer (1966) Bill Connell left to join the Allman Joys, and Johnny Sandlin came back. We played that summer back in Pensacola Beach at the Spanish Village. That fall, Fred Styles left and we hired Mabron McKinney on bass. We took this version of the band on the road. This was the first time we were able to play music full time for a living. Boy, this is where you find out about "paying dues."
The Allman Joys were friends of ours, you might say we were an "extended family." They had gotten us on with their booking agency out of Nashville. We two groups chased each other all over the south and midwest for a few months, playing the same clubs.
In early 1967, Eddie Hinton decided to quit the road and pursue a career as a session guitar player in Muscle Shoals. At about the same time that we were looking for a replacement, The Allman Joys broke up. The remnants of both bands joined up, which I'll talk about later.
As for Eddie Hinton, books could be written about him alone! Eddie was the "blackest white boy" I ever knew. He had a vocal and guitar style I haven't heard since. Other than his music style, Eddie was in a club all by himself. No one else seemed to be invited. On the road, he always drove his own car by himself. The rest of us carpooled. He preferred it that way. It wasn't that we didn't get along. He was just very much a loner. Hinton was one of those guys that just had charisma. In a room full of people, he stood out. That also carried across on stage.
Eddie's career had a lot of ups and downs. He went from being a first call session player to literally sleeping on park benches. Maybe that was a form of success to him. I think being down & out was something Eddie thought you had to do to be authentic in playing R & B. I said he was different. Anyway you look at it, Eddie never was really appreciated during his lifetime. Which is the way it usually is. He left us a few years ago at the age of 51, with some great unfinished demos in the can.
Tell us a little about the formation of Hour Glass, the combined efforts of Allman Joys and you guys, the players, and recordings you guys did.
Now to continue with the Hour Glass portion of the program. As I said, Eddie Hinton left the "Minutes" to be a session player. One bleak day in the middle of starvation, Duane Allman called me up and asked "Paul how would you like to have me and Gregg in your band? Well, it really wasn't "my" band, but I thought it over 30 or 40 seconds and said "Why, hell yes!" So, it seems we immediately started wood shedding in the Sandlin's garage in Decatur, Alabama.
Within two weeks we had our first booking at Pepe's-a-GoGo in St. Louis. That had been a big town for the Allman Joys. We played there for a month. I don't remember if we used the name Allman Joys or not. We had kicked a few names around. We all figured that a new name was in order by now, but hadn't really settled into one as yet.
During that month, Mabron McKinney our bass player, was at the St. Louis airport when he ran into the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. In those days (1967) you naturally noticed a fellow "long hair" and felt a natural kinship. He had never heard of them, as it was before their first hits. They were on a promotion tour for their first LP. In the conversation, he invited them to come by Pepe's to hear us play while they were in town. This they did, accompanied by their manager Bill McEuen. After the first set, McEuen ran to a phone and called someone at Liberty Records in Los Angeles. He told them that he had just discovered the next Rolling Stones. Come to think of it, I guess we were pretty good, at that!
He convinced us to come out to California and promised to get us a record deal. This we did, he did, and the rest is history. We cut one LP for Liberty. Then, Mabron McKinney left the group. He was finally replaced by Pete Carr. Pete was a guitar player friend who just happened to be visiting us when the position came available. He had never played bass before. However, after a little bit of arm-twisting, he jumped right in and continued on bass till the end of the group in 1968. We cut one more LP for Liberty in 1968.
At this time "Beach Music" was the thing on the west coast. Here we were- a band of Southern cats with a Blues oriented sound, like you might expect the predecessor to the Allman Bro. Band, to be. You might say we were the first "Southern Rock" band in the classic sense of the word. The producer and record company didn't have a clue as to what to do with us. Our producer had just come from a few hits with Jan and Dean , Bobby Vee, etc. As we had a "black" or "blues" sound he kept referring to us as a "Motown" band- wrong side of the country. Our first record was filled up with horns and black chick singers, etc. We were just eager to please. Anything they suggested, we went along with. We were just a bunch of country boys, what did we know? We did know how to make music! Most of the stuff they had us play on those records, we never played live. We had a set of mostly blues and R&B, sounding stuff that we had put together during the past year together and inherited from past bands we had all been a part of.
We played all up and down the California coast- the "Fillmore", "Avalon Ballroom", opening act at stadium concerts, etc. The Fillmore was beginning to be noticed in all the rock magazines as the headquarters for the 'Frisco bands like Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother, etc. Bill Graham was the owner of the club and also managed the "Airplane" and several other bands who played there. Bill had not as yet received the "legendary" status that he later acquired after his death. He was just a guy who gave the bands a place to play, and the people what they wanted to hear. He seemed to know what those fans wanted though.
At the time, I never gave much thought to Bill, no more than any other club owner. I do know that he was a personal fan of the Hour Glass. He kept having us back time after time, even though we didn't have a charted record. One thing in particular I remember about Bill was- one night after a weekend at the Fillmore, we were struggling with my Hammond , carrying it down those steep steps out in front of the club. A bunch of stragglers were hanging around after closing time. He yelled out "Give them cowboys some room. They just played their asses off and now they're trying to get their own gear out". I don't know why, but he seemed impressed by that. I've toted it many times since.
We were practically the house band at the Whisky-a-Go-Go. That was a prestigious place to play back then. We sort of started a custom of jam sessions when we worked there. The biggest acts in the country, when in town, would come out to hear us play and sit in. One such unforgettable night, Janis Joplin, Eric Burdon, Steve Stills, Neil Young, Buddy Miles, and Paul Butterfield, joined us on stage there. The club had to pull the power plug to stop us that night, as there was a 2:00 closing curfew. Most of these acts, we had opened up for, and so we had developed a reputation of sorts. This was all without the benefit of a hit record to help us break out of California.
By the middle of the summer in 1968, we had become disillusioned with the whole LA thing. Duane wanted to come back east. We did try it back in the old haunts again for a month or two, but it just didn't work out. The band disbanded in August of 1968.
Is it true Nitty Gritty Dirt Band helped Hourglass get signed?
As I have mentioned, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, accompanied by their manager Bill McEuen, came into the club to see us play in St Louis. After we arrived in L.A., we lived for a couple of weeks with the Dirt Band in their band house in the Hollywood hills.
Let's talk about the band you formed next with Chuck Leavell. Is that right?
Actually I didn't form the next band. After the Hour Glass broke up, I went back to Tuscaloosa, to sort of regroup. That was always a town renowned for its musicians.
There was a little 'ole joint called "The Chef Lounge" across the river in Northport where all the best musicians in town played. It was mostly an old redneck place, but there wasn't that many places to choose from if you wanted to play in that area.
The house band was called "South Camp." I don't know if they ever put it in print or anything, or even cared, but that's what they were called. Each night, the band varied as to the lineup. But, among them were Johnny Townsend (later of Sanford & Townsend), Tippy Armstrong (later session guitarist), Bill Connell (former Allman Joy, 5 Men-its drummer), Lou Mullinax (later drummer for Alex Taylor, Dr. John, who left us far too young), Charlie Hayward (later bass player for Charlie Daniels), and many others of equal & lesser fame.
Well, this was an obvious next stop-off for me. Some of the most magical musical moments of my life were spent at that place. Being a part of those musicians will always be like a family to me. Eventually, I tried to consolidate the group into a more of a stable organization from the jam band that had existed heretofore. Out of this environment, developed a group consisting of myself on organ and guitar, Bill Stewart on drums, Glen Buttes on guitar, Richard Kent on vocals, Charlie Hayward on bass, and a 16 year old high school senior, Chuck Leavell on piano and vocals. I think we kept this lineup longer than any other previous incarnation of the group.
How did you meet Phil Walden and tell us about the Capricorn studio band.
After I had been back in Tuscaloosa for 9 months, Duane Allman called me from Muscle Shoals, where he had been playing sessions during this time. He had come to the attention of some Atlantic people, who had heard his work on the Wilson Pickett cut- "Hey Jude". After finding out who this guitar player was, they -I think it was Jerry Wexler- expressed an interest in forming a band around Duane and had brought Phil Walden aboard as Duane's manager. In the phone conversation with Duane, he asked me if I would come up to Shoals and play on some cuts with him and see what would happen.
I did go up there, and while there over the next few days, Phil Walden came in. Johnny Sandlin and Pete Carr were also called in for the sessions. Duane also brought in Jaimoe and Berry Oakley with whom he had recently been jamming with down in Florida. Out of these sessions came some well known cuts that later appeared on the Duane Allman anthology LP's.
Basically, Phil wanted to put the Hour Glass band back together, in a sense. Well, for me, Sandlin, and Carr, we had been on a virtual roller coaster for the last two years and were in the middle of looking into other musical interests. A rehash of what we had just gotten out of, seemed to be walking backwards.
Walden suggested that if the three of us wouldn't be a part of this group, maybe we would consider coming to work as the rhythm section for a new recording studio he was building in Macon. At that time I had never heard of Macon. I remember asking him what state it was in.
Over the next couple of months, he called a lot and each time the deal got a little sweeter. I think what really clinched it for me though, was that Johnny Sandlin and Pete Carr had decided to accept the offer. We had always sort of stuck together. I was finally convinced though, and July 4, 1969 I moved over to Macon to become a full time studio musician.
Phil Walden had until this time had most of his success with R&B acts like Otis Redding, whom he had managed. Also, he had a booking agency that had booked most of the major R&B acts in the nation, for instance Sam & Dave and countless others. Many of these acts had been recorded at the Stax studio in Memphis. At the core of this studio was the rhythm section which really was Booker T. & the M.G.'s. Having drawn from these experiences, he wanted to put together a recording studio staffed by musicians along the lines of the Stax group.
So, presto- Johnny Sandlin, Pete Carr, and myself, along with Robert Popwell became the staff musicians at the new studio in Macon, called Capricorn Sound Studios. Popwell later went on to play bass with the "Jazz Crusaders," of well known fame. We literally glued acoustical tile, built baffles, and added hands-on construction to this studio.
At this time we recorded behind such acts as Arthur Conley of "Sweet Soul Music" fame- We didn't make that particular recording however; Eddie Floyd, and others.
How did you come to produce all of the great Southern albums of the 70's that you did?
Within the first year, the Allman Bros. Band had sort of taken off. The Capricorn record label was established. The move was made toward signing more rock & roll acts. Livingston Taylor had his first success, recording in the Capricorn studio with the rhythm section. We also began seeing more self-contained groups coming into the studio who didn't need studio musicians on their recordings. Coming to work every day in the studio, was a natural progression to experiment with all the recording gear. I guess what started my producing career was when Phil asked me to produce some sides on a local Macon group called "Boogie Chillun."
Well, for me this was really an experimental project. I could see the handwriting on the wall as far as a limited future as strictly a studio musician. We recorded this group for nearly a year, with the group breaking up and reforming probably five times during that project. Near the end of it, I think we were down to maybe one or two members of the original group. I then called some of my old buddies I had played with in Tuscaloosa.
We had a unique situation here in reverse. Usually, you form a group, play for a while, then cut some demos, then if you are lucky, get signed to a label. Here we had already started the record with no group to finish it off. So, I convinced Chuck Leavell, Lou Mullinax, and Court Pickett to move over and step into a ready made record deal. We did get to finish the project, though piece-meal, with some pretty good stuff thrown in by these new members. Capricorn didn't release it but sold the rights to the short-lived Ampex record label. It came out with the group renamed "Sundown."
That was my first attempt at producing, although I had been doing studio session work for a number of years. A pretty good experiment really. The next project had better results. Not that it was a hit, but that it got good reviews and was noticed. That was a group from Texas called Eric Quincy Tate. They were probably the best "bar band" I ever heard. They played a lot in Macon at a place called Grant's Lounge. There was a tremendous following here for the group as well as in Atlanta, where they re-located. The LP was entitled "Drinking Man's Friend."
Please reflect for us on some of the bands you worked with and include any memorable anecdotes.
Shortly after the Wet Willie Band was signed to Capricorn, they played with a band in South Carolina that really impressed them. They came back and told Walden about them and an audition gig was set up at Grant's Lounge for the Marshall Tucker Band. Phil liked what he heard and a demo session was set up. Actually, Johnny Sandlin did the session. For some reason, he didn't wind up producing the group, so I was asked to take over.
The Marshall Tucker Band had previously cut some demos in Muscle Shoals. Nothing had become of that. Now they had cut more demos at Capricorn with only luke warm results. When you saw them on stage they presented a freight train full of energy and excitement. There had to be some way to get this across on studio tape.
This was my third attempt at producing. The first was a failure, the second was more promising, this one had to be the one! As far as having a scientific approach, I had none. I had very little producing experience to draw from. What we had going for us was some great songs that Toy Caldwell had written and a band who were the easiest to work with I had ever met. They brought their enthusiasm with them and played their asses off like they had been doing for the last few years. Not much thought was given for an "image." We took each song individually, and added whatever we thought fit that particular cut. On "Hillbilly Band" there was a fiddle added. Toy played steel guitar on several cuts. If you read the musician's credits, you'll see that Jaimoe played "gitongas" on "Can't You See." Actually, that was just him beating on the back of an acoustic guitar instead of using congas! Wherever there was a "crack" left, I filled it with a keyboard. Everyone got to explore their ideas and try what they wanted. I don't think we left one spot open for anything.
Well, we spent eight weeks in the studio, there were many 15-hour days. At the end we came out not knowing what we had. I had been so close to the project and spent so much time on it, that I didn't know if it was great or terrible. I don't have any idea of what the band thought.
When we handed the tape over to Capricorn, it wasn't clear what they really thought either at first. The label was brand new, and with the success of the Allman Bros, maybe they thought this project would be cut from the same mold. Well, it wasn't. It had more country influences- steel guitars, fiddles, etc. The term "Southern Rock" was yet to be coined. By the time those two words were used in conjunction, it was perfectly normal to use all of the above ingredients within one band.
Anyhow, Capricorn was somehow convinced to release the LP. It was simply entitled "The Marshall Tucker Band". One of my favorite definitions of "luck" is "being good at the right time." The Marshall Tucker Band was that! At the time of the release of that LP, they were opening act on tour with the Allman Brothers. Band. What a perfect audience to showcase a band like that. It allowed thousands of people to get a taste of what the band had to offer on that record. It was practically a hit right out of the shoot!
Something I might comment on, was the attempt to get a hit single out of the band. Well, they were famous for long extended "jam" songs, sometimes over 6 or 7 minutes. The record label would ultimately come up and ask me to hand them a 3 1/2 minute version that the radio would play. No mean feat! I got a lot of practice with razor blades- cutting tape- trying to get a verse, a chorus, a bit of guitar work, and finishing off with the chorus, then fade, all within the constraints of 3 1/2 minutes.
Well, just before we started the "Carolina Dreams" album, I was in a gig dressing room somewhere with the band. I had not yet heard any of the new material for the upcoming album. I asked Toy if he had anything ready for the next project due to begin in about a month. He said "listen to this and see what you think." He had a practice/ tuning amp in the dressing room. He started to play and sing a new song. Doug and Jerry chimed in on the harmony. I was blown away. I told him right there "That will be your first hit single!" It was "Heard It In a Love Song." From the first day in the studio, we approached that song as being the single. We purposely kept it short, with just the required guitar, flute, piano licks added. This was such a melodic song. I wanted every note, whether played or sung, to stick in every listener's head. From the opening flute lines to the final guitar licks, I think everybody who was around to hear music in the '70's can hum it. And that was indeed the band's biggest selling record. It went to #10 on the pop charts in Billboard magazine. The group and I continued to work successfully together through 1976, with that last LP "Carolina Dreams", which was released in early 1977.
One of the great groups that the Marshall Tucker Band began touring with, was the Charlie Daniels Band. They had become friends, and so now that we were "allowed to put fiddles on rock & roll records," we had Charlie come in as a guest on all the Tucker albums that I had a part in.
Charlie approached me after the first Tucker LP and said he liked what we had done, and asked if I would be interested in working with his group. Up until this time, Charlie had one hit -"Uneasy Rider." I liked Charlie a lot and agreed to go and catch some of his shows and get a feel for what he was doing.
If I had one criticism of his band, it would be that he was doing a lot of stuff that sounded like the Allmans. He did it great, but it wasn't anything new. At the end of a show in Tuscaloosa, I remember that for an encore he brought out his fiddle and did "Orange Blossom Special." After a set of guitar oriented- Allman Brothers- influenced material, that fiddle during his encore made the fans go crazy! I could see an obvious direction taking place here. We did several albums together and that fiddle sound remained prominent on all of them.
I think the easiest and one of the biggest records I ever cut, was the first Charlie Daniels Band we did together called "Fire On the Mountain.". From pre-production rehearsal, to tracking, overdubbing, and final mix took eleven days straight.
Oh yeah! I always remember this- During this album we had sort of a deadline to meet. The band had to get back out on the road for some dates. Also, I think the budget was pretty low, so we didn't have a lot of studio time to waste. We had some pretty good tunes cut as we went along on this project. One was an instrumental which we called "Fiddle Boogie." Well, it was pretty good but I didn't think it was strong enough to stand alone as an instrumental. Charlie assured me he would stick some lyrics into it eventually. Well, "eventually" was limited to eleven days. Every day when we came in to start the session, I'd ask him if he had finished writing any lyrics for that "fiddle thing." He would always reassure me not to worry. I'm a naturally born worrier, and I knew I didn't want that thing on the album like it was. Every day it was the same story- "Have you finished the lyrics"--"Don't worry", etc.
It got right down to the last day for mixes and we had no lyrics for "Fiddle Boogie". I said "Charlie, this is it. We got to have something". He said "Just give me a few minutes. I'm going up here to a quite place in the front office (of the studio). I've got a few ideas. I'll be back shortly". We took a break. He came back in about fifteen minutes and said " I got something I want to run by you fellows". We put the track on and he went out to the microphone and began to sing something about "Dickey Betts playing on that red guitar, and "ol' Lynyrd Skynyrd's playin' down in Jacksonville".
We all fell out. That obviously was "The South's Gonna Do it Again." No more worries here!
Well, again this was in my early days, so to speak, of producing (1974). I thought there were several pretty strong cuts on that album. However, when they informed me that the first single to be pulled would be "The South's Gonna Do It Again," I thought they were crazy. Then then told me to tune in to WLS in Chicago, of all places. They were playing the hell out of it! We followed the jock's lead and that was indeed a hit single.
Today that album "Fire On The Mountain" is one of the musical high points that I'm proudest of. There have been many other moments, but that one is very strong. After 26 years it still hangs right in there and keeps selling. I suppose among all the records I did, the rival to that one would have to be the Tucker's "Where We All Belong". I thought that was really a classy collection of music. Incidentally, both albums were done back- to -back in 1974. I think just as I was finishing the Tucker LP, we overlapped the beginning of Charlie's album.
Another group that I was a real fan of, were my old Alabama compadres Wet Willie. I did two albums with them - "The Wetter the Better" and a live thing called "Left Coast Live." I would have liked to have continued with them, but after "Wetter The Better," the group made a label change to CBS. CBS wanted to take the group into a more of a disco direction. That left me out entirely! So ended that musical relationship.
Grinderswitch were a great bunch of guys. They had been friends of Dickey Betts whom he had persuaded to come up to Macon. Joe Dan Petty had been an ABB roadie off and on. We had become friends and began to jam a little, so back in 1974 I began to go out to their band house in Perry, Georgia., outside Macon, and kick around a few tunes. They at that time, consisted of 2 guitars, bass, and drums. I would throw my Wurlitzer in the trunk of the car and go out there and jam to all hours.
We finally got around to putting some things down in the studio. The record label (Capricorn) liked what we were doing, so we churned out an LP of some of the finest boogie stuff I had every heard. They could play a "shuffle" better than anyone I knew. After several LP's, the group just never took off. I think of Grinderswitch as the "trench soldiers" of the Capricorn roster. They never got the push a lot of other groups got. But they had heart and never slowed down from touring-gigging. Through all of the hard times a group like them endures, they kept the best since of humor of all to keep them going. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of some hilarious line quoted by their bassist the late Joe Dan Petty.
I really liked the Kitty Wells LP you produced that had Toy Caldwell on it. What do you remember about that session?
Capricorn had growing pains around 1974 and made an effort to become more diversified as a label. They decided to open a country division. The first artist they signed was Kitty Wells. She had always been touted as the "Queen of Country Music". This was before the days of female mega-country stars like Shania and Faith Hill, so she seemed like a good first signing.
For some reason, Johnny Sandlin was asked to produce her album. Well, Johnny had never really been a country fan. I expressed an interest in the project, and Johnny offered to co-produce it with me. Anyhow we got started and then Johnny pulled out half way through the project. I think he really didn't realize just exactly how "country" Kitty was. The whole thing was just really a challenge for us. Kitty had not had a hit for some time and we had never produced a truly country artist before. It was sort of like "let's see what we can get away with here", "just how progressive can we take her?" We cut stuff like Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long" (which I think was the best cut on the LP), and Bob Dylan's "Forever Young." You know a good song is just in the interpretation.
Due to her legendary status, practically the whole Capricorn roster was eager to add a note or two on that album. It remains a memorable experience for me.
One of the best LP's ever in my opinion was "Rock Your Socks Off," by Bobby Whitlock. Please reflect on that LP, the folks involved.
I thought the Bobby Whitlock LP "Rock Your Socks Off" deserved more attention than it got. For some reason, the label never got behind it. Bobby is a great songwriter and singer. I also thought Jimmy Nalls did some of his best work on that project. What a great guitar player! Bobby and I were great friends. His daughter and my daughter were born about the same time. Both our families hung out together, our kids sharing parties etc. Unfortunately, we only go to do that one LP. Together, there weren't that many musical memories we could share. He moved back to Memphis shortly after that record.
Besides producing didn't you play piano on some Marshall Tucker tunes?
On all of the Tucker albums that I did, I also played the keyboard parts. As I have said, I only tried to fill in the "cracks". I didn't want the keyboards to be noticed all that much, since they were mostly a guitar band.
I must confess though, a bit guiltily, that we did get Chuck Leavell to play on one cut. I can't remember the particular song right now, but Chuck had always expressed an interest in playing some on their albums. I felt "guiltily", because there was this one song that I just couldn't get a feel for, or any ideas for a keyboard part. I thought this would be a great chance to call in Chuck and see what he could do with it . Well he came by and didn't flinch one bit. He just sat down and played the hell out of it! I should have thought of that sooner.
What did you do after leaving Capricorn?
From 1969 to 1974 I was on staff with Capricorn as first a studio musician, then as engineer, studio manager, and producer. In 1974 I decided to go out on my own as an independent producer. I had had a couple of hits with the Tuckers and started to get a few offers from other artists on other labels. It really didn't change much in regards to where I worked. I continued to live in Macon. Also, I continued to work with Marshall Tucker and other Capricorn groups, using the Capricorn studio as head quarters. But in addition, I had the advantage to work with other people outside the label like Charlie Daniels, etc.
When did you open Muscadine Studios? Tell us about the studio?
By the late '70's Capricorn had gone out of business and there was no studio to work out of. I also took about three years off and rested up. It seems that I had not slowed down for one minute for the past several years. I badly needed a rest and to spend time with my family.
During this time I put together some simple recording equipment at my house just to play around with. One day a friend of mine, Randy Howard called and asked if he could come out one afternoon and lay down a few demos. I thought he meant just an acoustic guitar and vocal. Well, he showed up with his entire group.
Well, we pushed the furniture around a bit, stuck an amp in the closet, put the drums in the spare bedroom and turned on the 8-track recorder. Over the next few days we turned out some surprisingly good stuff. One cut that always got good response at clubs for Randy, was "All American Redneck." Well, we cut that song at the house, then took a recorder to the club and recorded a "two track" version with the mics only on the audience. We brought this back and synced it up to our "studio" version so that it turned out to be a "live" version. That song got us a record deal with Warner/Viva. The "All American Redneck" LP went to #41 in the Billboard country charts.
This was a kick in the ass for me. I had been off for three years and now with a "bedroom" demo we had gotten this success. I began to look around for a building to put my recording gear in. I found a place where it still is located and put my 8-track recorder and 8-track mixer in. Eventually, I knew if I was going to be in the studio business, better gear had to be added. Over the years we have arrived at 24 track digital.
What projects are you involved in at present? Future plans?
As you can imagine, I record a lot of local acts, but as well, people from all over. Some of the recent acts that are well worth mentioning are Chris Hicks, a great blues singer & former Marshall Tucker guitarist. A couple of chicks I worked with this summer are Atlanta based Anne Marie Perry. Her group is called "Jane Ivey.' No "Spice Girl" here, just good stuff. The other lady is E.G. Kight. She's been around here for a while, but has now found her niche in the blues. What a singer!
I guess you could say that every time the doorbell rings, I'm wondering if itís another Marshall Tucker Band with another "Heard It In A Love Song." It's about time we had another one of those!
Any final comments, Paul?
At this time, with the indulgence of the readers, I'd like to add the following personal note:
I feel that I've been extremely fortunate to have been in the company of such a roster of talented players and performers throughout my career. However, there is one important person that some might not be aware of.
Near the beginning of this story, I met a beautiful young lady named Jeanne. She had caught my eye and became my biggest fan. Every time I played on stage, I played directly to her. Not very long after, she became Mrs. Paul Hornsby. We were together for the next 20 years. She remained a fan and through the years never failed in her support for my career and the music I was involved in. I know it was because of her support, that I continued in this difficult business of music. Besides being the mother of my two oldest children, April and Jesse, she added her contribution to all the music I participated in. Though we lived apart for the last several years, she was my constant council and had been the song in my life. We lost her suddenly on November 9, 2000. It is to her memory that I dedicate this interview. Jeanne Lowry Hornsby - 1944-2000.
UPDATE: Paul Hornsby still records great music at his studio in Macon, and has been appearing with his friends in The Capricorn Rhythm Section.