June 25th in Memphis Music History
He was a bird of prey with other future soul legends. He had to wait for a jet (a big bird) in London that would take him to the funeral of a young superstar who had just died in a plane crash so he wrote a song while thinking of him. After being born just a day’s train ride away, it took him 28 years to make it to Memphis. But when he finally made it, after founding a group in Detroit, after starting a record label in Washington, DC, he made a huge impact as a songwriter during the hottest of times at the hottest of Memphis studios - Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton’s Stax Records. He co-wrote a mega-hit for his Detroit band mate who was brought to Memphis to write and record with the team there. He wrote, as did the other songwriting staff of legend Isaac Hayes and David Porter, for label stars Carla Thomas and Sam Moore and Dave Prater - Sam and Dave, and the young man lost in 1967. Then he starting singing his own songs, this time with Stax’s Memphis Group - Booker T and the MG’s, the greatest backing band in Memphis and soul music history. With that group’s guitarist he wrote a song at their hangout, a motel that later became a place of and symbol for tragic loss. The song compares the emotions of love to the thrill/fear of the thunderstorm that was passing through on the night they wrote it. It topped Billboard’s Hot Soul Singles and spent weeks in Billboard’s Hot 100 but one of its dozens of covers became a huge international hit for a disco singer in 1979. Like the others, he could not fathom how Memphis’ biggest hit maker went under in 1975. Later he toured with the Blues Brothers Band and appeared in ‘Blues Brothers 2000,’ the continuing saga of the group who were mourning their own loss in the script and in real life - John Belushi and his character Jake Blues - and looking for a lost “brother.” In the movie he again teamed up with an old friend from Detroit and Memphis.
He still performs from time to time and today the man who founded The Falcons in Detroit., teaming up with Wilson Pickett and Mack (“Mustang Sally”) Rice, celebrates a birthday. The man who founded the five song tenured Safice Records with Al Bell, later president of Stax, in Washington, takes the cake. The talented songwriter, who with Steve Cropper, MG’s guitar player and producer, wrote Pickett’s “634-5789” which they performed on screen together in ‘Blues Brothers 2000,’ gets to blow out a candle. The man who wrote “Knock on Wood,” (which you may know it as the disco “classic” by Amii Stewart, the version I first knew) also with Cropper, at the Lorraine Motel two years before it became the site of Memphis greatest tragedy - the assassination of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior - a tragedy which contributed to the demise of Stax, turns 70. The man who was heartbroken at the loss of Otis Redding and most of The Bar-kays - ranging from 18 to 26 years of age when they were lost, and wrote about the unfairness of the loss and asked for Redding’s spirit to lift him up, I’m sure reflects on his blessings today, the day he was born In Montgomery Alabama.
Happy Birthday Eddie Floyd!
“So send down your wings
And let 'em bring me to you”