Memphis Minute - February 16th
With a thousand songs to his credit and 200 million - and counting - records sold, this artist should be a household name. He started composing songs while working as a pants presser for a cleaner, then started performing those songs in his hometown clubs. Somewhere along the way to rock ‘n roll immortality he decided to focus on songwriting. On that journey, the African-American man at times used a more white-sounding pen name, and by contract he had to share writing credit with a young singer. Oddly enough he never met that singer. He wrote a song for an R&B artist which became a hit for another singer (with some added lyrics) just months later. One of his songs got solo treatment by a "folk" singer. Another became a minor hit for some New Jersey boys. But his blockbusters, truly groundbreaking, earth-shattering, hip-shaking, watch-out-world-here-we-come masterpieces were recorded by Memphis artists in Memphis, specifically of course, at Sun Studio. That young singer heard the writer’s demos and loved them-one of them fit his style and stage presence. He learned and recorded them quickly-the first sold over 3 million copies. A wild piano player came to Memphis and made it big. One of the writer’s songs became part of early rock pyrotechnics - and sold over 5 million records - the other was the piano wild man's last top ten rock hit.
The songwriter never worked or lived in Memphis. He worked from his hometown until moving to Nashville later in life, where he died in 2002.
On this day, we remember the man who wrote Peggy Lee’s “Fever” under pseudonym John Davenport, penned “Handy Man” for Jimmy Jones (later by James Taylor), gave “The Apple of My Eye” to the Four Lovers/Four Seasons as a consolation prize for being told to pull another song from them for a young truck driver from Tupelo. Today we celebrate the birth date of the man responsible for four of the greatest of the great Memphis hits - Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel and “All Shook Up” (for which he was obligated to share writing credit with Elvis) - and Jerry Lee Lewis’ piano-flaming “Great Balls of Fire” and his last Memphis hit, “Breathless”.
Born on this day in 1931 in Brooklyn New York - Otis Blackwell!
‘Girl you ain't a seen nothin' 'til I come along’ - “Daddy Rolling Stone” - Otis Blackwell